Ideas while travelling on the way….

Digital Scholarship

Setup for the Live Presentation

One of the most frustrating elements of this MOOC is the difficulty with making good connections for online presentations.  This session started late and there were problems with the uploading of the slides.  Some participants could see them, but others could not.  This is annoying for all concerned, but it must be especially exasperating for moderators and presenters.  Doing this kind of work without a huge investment in hardware and leasing of software services is clearly a challenge.  Such is life when pioneering….


Weller defines Digital Scholarship as “Changes in all aspects of scholarly practice as a result of the application of digital, networked and open technologies and associated practices.”  One of the most interesting  to me was the reluctance to use some of the new technological tools.  He cites Proctor, William and Stewart saying, “frequent or intensive use is rare, and some researchers regard blogs, wikis and other novel forms of communication as a waste of time or even dangerous.”  While this is not surprising in the case of older, established scholars, he cites Harvey, et al, this way: “We found no evidence to suggest that ‘tech-savvy’ young graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors are bucking traditional publishing practices.”

On the other hand, the one of the important outcomes of research is sharing.  Unfortunately, traditional publication methods can make this process very slow.  There may be several years that pass between the time of writing and the time of publication.

Weller observed that scholars are often judged, not primarily by members of their own institutions, but by “waiting for the presses to decide” (citing Waters).  Ideas grow best in community and the online world can be an ideal place for sharing.
In order for digital scholarship to keep on growing, it will need to find digital equivalents for traditional methods, essentially translating current practices.  But there are also opportunities for the emergence of entirely new assessments including analytic metrics (how much a resource is used), micro-credits (some scale of achievements for small contributions) and non-traditional conferences (where the emphasis was not on presentations, but interaction).

Weller certainly has practiced what he advocates.  He is a regular producer of blog posts and pod-casts (not to mention participating in this MOOC).  His latest book, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Academic Practice, it available in print form, as well as online.  This is not open digital scholarship, but open digital scholarhip.


The reaction to digital scholarship seems like an example of Everett Roger’s Bell curve of the adoption of innovation (2003, p. 281).

So far digital scholarship seems to be in the Innovator’s/Early Adopters phase.  It will certainly grow, but the question is when and if it will became widespread for the majority of practitioners in various fields.  It will be interesting to see which fields adopt digital scholarship quickly and which ones will lag behind.

An interesting example comes from a field not always thought to be technologically innovative—Biblical scholarship.  In a recent gathering of the Society of Biblical Literature, innovator/early adopter Mark Goodacre reflected on his experience in blogging and pod-casting:

Back in the early days of doing scholarship on the internet, I remember being asked by another scholar about the value of this sort of work, not, at that point, blogging, but e-lists, websites and the like.  I was working in the UK at the time where we had a thing called the “Research Assessment Exercise”.  I wouldn’t be able to submit any of my internet stuff to that, would I?  I was a little take[n] aback by the question.  It had never even occurred to me that the internet stuff might be taking me away from proper scholarship, the kind of stuff that one could submit to the RAE.  Perhaps he was right; perhaps this is not the way for a true scholar to behave….

I suppose that what I am saying to the graduate students is that it really is a waste of time to blog, to podcast, even to tweet, if you are doing it for its own sake, to gain recognition or something like that.  But if it’s something you’d enjoy, it does have its rewards.  I sometimes think, “That’s bloggable!” even if I don’t get around to blogging it.  Or “I could do a podcast on that!” even when I never find the time to sit down and record.  And that’s something that can keep you sane, which can’t be a bad thing (Goodacre, 2011).

Goodacre, M. (2011, November 17). Pods, blogs and other time-wasters. NT Blog. Retrieved November 21, 2011, from

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


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