Digital scholarship – introduction

[This is for the Change 11 MOOC]

Digital Scholarship – Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my week of the Change MOOC. This week is concerned with the theme of digital scholarship. If you’re not sure what that means, then don’t worry, we’ll explore that in the next section, but a rough definition might be ‘changes in academic practice as a result of new technology’.
Here is a short video introduction from me:


As I mention in the video, the week is largely based around a book I’ve just published, called The Digital Scholar. This was published by Bloomsbury, but is available as a free open access book, under a Creative Commons license here:

So the book itself is an example of digital scholarship, and one aspect we might like to consider is the change in the nature of publishing and knowledge dissemination.
As you go through the week, I’d like you to bear in mind the four themes I mention in the video, which I feel are the interesting areas for discussion around digital scholarship. These are:
  • Alternatives – often people on both sides of the digital scholarship argument portray it as an either/or scenario, so you may hear detractors saying ‘I don’t want everything to be reduced to a tweet, I think books are still important’, or evangelists proclaiming that ‘publishing is dead, video is king now.’. I would suggest that what digital scholarship provides us with is a richer set of alternatives, where previously we may have had no choice.
  • Impact – this is the real argument in favour of digital scholarship. What academics, universities and research funders really want is for their work to have impact. Arguably many of the new forms of media, and particularly when mediated through an extensive social network, allow for greater impact than traditional scholarly practices. Questions we might ask include: How might we measure these reliably? What skills do they require to foster? Are they as reliable and robust as other methods?
  • Openness – in the next section, I suggest that ‘digital scholarship’ is really a shorthand for digital, networked and open. Arguably it is the last component that is most significant. Openness in practice – whether it is sharing ideas via blogs, open courses, open educational resources, open access publishing or open data – is becoming a default approach for many academics (and this course is an example). This has profound implications on practice, business models, identity and the role of sectors, which we are only beginning to appreciate.
  • Tension – there exists a tension currently between the undoubted potential of many digital scholarship approaches and the context which it resides within. So we simultaneously have pockets of marvellous innovation, and at the same time, a markedly conservative, resistant attitude from many institutions, which is often manifest in the how digital scholarship is recognised or encouraged.
So those represent the main themes of the week. The structure is as follows:

What is digital scholarship – an initial look at the field and the term
Research or teaching – You can then choose to look at how digital scholarship is affecting research or teaching (or both if you have the time).
Synchronous session – this is scheduled for Wednesday 28th at 5pm UK time. The intention is for this to be an open session to discuss any of the issues, but there will be some prompts also.
Criticisms of digital scholarship – we will then look at some of the areas of concern around digital scholarship

Output – at the end of the week I would like you to produce a very brief digital artefact, in the form of a blog post, YouTube video, Slideshare presentation, etc. It should address the following question: “what impact has digital scholarship had on your practice and what difficulties have you encountered?”
Please upload it to your own account (using whichever service you prefer) and tag it with #change11digschol. We will aggregate these together so that we collectively gather a picture of digital scholarship at the current time. It is my hope that this is a useful resource for all of us.

I hope you enjoy the week, and I look forward to some interesting discussions.


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