Whither Academic Publishing?

It seems to me that most DH-ers are suspicious of — if not completely hostile to — traditional academic publishing structures and requirements. So am I. Unlike some of you, I no longer have to worry about postponing the real projects I want to do in favor of the monograph that will get me through the tenure and promotion process. But even this bastion of what counts for credible, peer-reviewed, and in other ways vetted scholarship is showing significant signs of decay. Given my position and interests, I think I have a responsibility to hasten the fall of the academic monograph — or at least promote alternatives that count for as much as a book in the T&P system. But how to do this? How can I convince my doubting colleagues that peer-review can be something other than two or three senior manuscript reviewers? Or that a well-written, well-argued, often read and cited blog posting has real impact outside of the closed world of peer-reviewed journals, and that reflection on such a post by others in one’s field has significant scholarly impact? Or that collaborative work is a good thing?

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, you know the drill. I am proposing a session — a workshop really — in which we brainstorm the many possible ways of publishing and peer-reviewing academic work that accounts for the digital, the blogged, the tweeted, the whatever-many-forms-that-scholarship-might-take. This has many resonances with the sessions already proposed that seek a common ground between journalism and academic writing. I assume, too, that there are many multiple viable models for writing and publishing and peer-review. The session I am proposing would consider as many of these as possible, and discuss what works, what doesn’t, and maybe stuff we haven’t even tried.

Digital Journalism and Digital Humanities, United

As I blogged a few months ago, it has become increasingly clear that digital humanities has a kindred spirit in digital journalism—perhaps a stronger potential relationship than humanities computing and computer science. We have discovered the same needs in terms of tools and infrastructure, and find ourselves engaging the public with similar genres of online writing and communication.

Just some of the products of digital journalism we could discuss or adopt at THATCamp: the 20 open source Knight Apps, which include DocumentCloud; what’s coming out of Mozilla OpenNews; and the developer challenges and tool reviews from Duke’s Reporters’ Lab.

One more–methods, workflows, and general productivity hacking

Having recently retooled my DevonThink setup yet again, I’m finding that I’m still dissatisfied. My regular everyday worktools include:

I’m happy to talk about what I love and hate about each of these, for example, I love Bookends’ integration with Mellel and hate how clunky it is. I love almost everything aout WordPress except actually composing posts. I want DevonThink and Omnifocus to TALK to each other. And more… I’d love for other folks to talk about how they do their workflows.  And to tell me why using Oxygen is such an uphill battle? In addition, I just upgraded my OSX to Lion and am curious if anyone has found awesome things that Lion can do that they want to share.

P.S. Other things I’d love to talk about include Islandora, teaching oneself to code, learning to work with the command-line after being a GUI person forever, and and and… they go on. Okay, calling this post “one more” might have been misleading…

Technology and International Scholarly Partnerships Across the Digital Divide

As a THATCamp newbie, rather than propose a session I would like to discuss with other participants some questions and issues related to content produced online by international networks of scholars and practitioners. I have some experience in this area as an academic involved in various Africa-related digital projects, including the Africa Past and Present podcast (see my recent journal article here), the Overcoming Apartheid web curriculum, and the Football Scholars Forum. Generally, I am interested in knowledge production and circulation; costs and accessibility; and the challenges posed by “digital imperialism.” A bit more specifically, how can technology generate and enhance international scholarly collaborations in the humanities and social sciences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Skype, Zotero, WordPress and other tools to create and disseminate knowledge in and about the Global South? What are the principles and/or models more likely to bring about long-term sustainable access to information resources in mutually beneficial ways across the digital divide?



A Better Blogging Assignment

phdstudent. Circle of Life. 2006. 11 Jun. 2012. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/phdstudent/141434759/>.I’ve got a pedagogical problem and I want you to help me.

I’m sick of student blogging.

This confession probably sounds strange coming from me, a vocal advocate for using blogs in the classroom, and for public writing more generally. But after two dozen blogs for two dozen classes, I’m looking for ways to reinvigorate my blogging assignments.

Some background: a key component of almost every one of my classes is the collaborative class blog. The pedagogical advantages of blogging are many: it’s a public space that requires students to consider questions of accountability and audience; students begin to see themselves as participating in an ongoing conversation about culture; and participation jump-starts class discussion so that I already have an idea of what’s on my students’ minds before I even enter the classroom.

My blogging guidelines typically look something like this:

Each student will contribute to the weekly class blog, posting an approximately 200-300 word response to the week’s readings. There are a number of ways to approach these open-ended posts: consider the reading in relation to its historical or theoretical context; write about an aspect of the day’s reading that you don’t understand, or something that jars you; formulate an insightful question or two about the reading and then attempt to answer your own questions; or respond to another student’s post, building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it.

I’ve tweaked the blogging assignment over the years, in particular experimenting with the overall structure of the blog, the rhythm of postings, and my use of roles.

I’ve tried two overall structures:

  • A hub-and-spoke model, in which every student sets up his or her own blog, and I aggregate their postings on the main class blog.
  • A centralized class blog, in which all the students have accounts on the same blog, and their posts and comments all show up in the same place.

I’ve experimented with different rhythms:

  • The free-for-all model, in which students simply must post 10 (or some other number) of blog posts by the end of the semester.
  • The checkpoint model, in which students must post a specified number of posts by particular checkpoints spread throughout the semester.
  • The weekly model, in which all students (or, if using roles, a subset of students) must post every week.

Finally, I’ve increasingly relied on assigned roles, so that not every student is posting at the same time, and furthermore, so that each group of students has a specific task for that week. For example, most recently I divided a class of 25 students into four groups, rotating week-to-week from one role to the next:

  • First Readers: These students are responsible for posting initial questions and insights about the day’s material to the class blog the day before class meets.
  • Respondents: Students in this group build upon, disagree with, or clarify the first readers’ posts by the next class meeting.
  • Searchers: Students in this group find and share at least one relevant online resource. In addition to linking to the resource, the searchers provide a short evaluation of the resource, highlighting what makes it worthwhile, unusual, or, if appropriate, problematic.
  • The fourth group has the week off in terms of blogging.

I have thought a lot about student blogging. I’m fully committed to this form of student work.

And yet.

I’m tired of reading blog posts week after week, tired of evaluating blog posts week after week, tired of commenting on blog posts week after week. I don’t want off this merry-go-round, but I do want to reignite my sense of discovery and excitement about student blogging. And I want you to help me.

I propose a session in which we design a new model of student blogging—or at least, new to me. Maybe it incorporates elements of the structure, rhythm, and roles that I’ve used before, maybe it doesn’t. I’d like to learn from other teachers who’ve had success with student blogging, and from students too, about their experiences with blogging. My goal for this THATCamp session is that by the end we’d have a fully developed assignment, module, or course component, which any of us could plunk down into a syllabus and be ready to use when classes begin in the fall.

Let’s have students blog, and make it worth their while and ours too.

UPDATE: The collaborative notes for this session are online.

Circle of Life photograph courtesy of Flickr user phdstudent / Creative Commons Licensed