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DOING THE DIGITAL:
HOW SCHOLARS LEARNED TO
STOP WORRYING AND TO LOVE
THE COMPUTER
Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow
A...
The computer laboratory at Westfield College, University of London,
c. 1980. This laboratory was a pioneering centre of co...
Uncertain engagements with the
computer
✤ Special issue of Journal of Higher Education, Feb. 1965
✤ Franklin J. Pegues: un...
Uncertain engagements with the
computer
✤ Alan Markman: ‘one day we shall surely have the literature of the world stored, ...
Indictments taken by a commission in West Kent relating to
the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381: The National Archives, KB 9/43.
Trespass prosecution by
John of Gaunt relating to
the destruction of the
Savoy Palace during the
Peasants’ Revolt of 1381:...
Recorda file from the Court of King’s Bench, containing copies of
charges and evidence for trials in that court, 1382-3
My typewritten thesis: now freely
available as a searchable pdf from
ethos.bl.uk, even though I never
published it
Not an approach to be recommended: I have published six books
as editor or author, but I have never published a convention...
Experimental image of badly burnt fragment of Old English Life of
St Mary of Egypt in British Library, Cotton MS. Otho B x...
Imaging of the Beowulf manuscript using fibre optic backlighting to
reveal letters and words concealed by nineteenth-centu...
Two sets of eighteenth-
century transcripts of Beowulf
made for the Danish
antiquary Thorkelin, now in
the Royal Library
C...
Restoration of the first World Wide Web page (1989) as
it would have appeared in a line-mode browser, the first
readily ac...
Portico, the British Library’s first website, as it appeared
in April 1995: webarchive.org.uk
The simplest possible illustration of what can be done: Kevin Kiernan uses images of
the Beowulf manuscript to examine whe...
But too often the ‘digital revolution’ is limited
to expensively acquired pdfs of journal articles.
Convenient, but hardly...
✤ Since about 2007, all UK university libraries have spent more on electronic resources
than books and printed journals
✤ ...
REF 2014 outputs by type: although REF welcomes outputs in virtually any form,
the overwhelming preponderance of journal a...
✤ How did this happen?
✤ Development by libraries, followed by archives and museums, of online
catalogues and databases fr...
✤ But everything is far from rosy:
✤ There remain huge issues around funding and sustainability of digital
resources: diff...
Drivers Behind New Forms of Scholarly
Communication in the Arts and Humanities
✤ Need to develop a critical digital humani...
A Critical Digital Humanities
✤ What selectivities are at work with Google Books and how does it affect
the way we use it ...
The Changing Nature of the Primary
Materials of Humanities Research
✤ The papers of the British prime minister William Ewa...
Thomson and Craighead, Flat Earth (2007)
http://animateprojects.org/films/by_date/2007/flat_earth
https://medium.com/genres-of-scholarly-knowledge-pro
duction/digitising-the-historical-record-8a6ff90e3fec
Presentation using the fourteen screens in Humlab, Umeå University,
December 2014
REF definition: ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy,
society, culture, public policy or services, health, the ...
The impact agenda encourages new forms of co
-creation and working with communities which
can result in very imaginative r...
tangible-memories.com
✤ Preoccupation of universities with impact will mean that they take an increasing
interest in how research is promoted an...
Ruth Ewan, The Liberties of the Savoy (2012)
www.bookworks.org.uk
Liberties of the Savoy video: https://vimeo.com/54517074
Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer
Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer
Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer
Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer
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Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 1 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 2 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 3 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 4 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 5 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 6 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 7 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 8 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 9 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 10 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 11 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 12 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 13 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 14 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 15 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 16 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 17 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 18 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 19 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 20 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 21 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 22 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 23 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 24 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 25 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 26 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 27 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 28 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 29 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 30 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 31 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 32 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 33 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 34 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 35 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 36 Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer Slide 37
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Slides from keynote presentation to Social Media Knowledge Exchange meeting on Scholarly Communication in the 21st Century, University of Cambridge, 4 June 2015. Examines my changing relationship to scholarly communication, current pressures and drivers, and likely future trends.

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Doing the Digital: How Scholars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer

  1. 1. DOING THE DIGITAL: HOW SCHOLARS LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND TO LOVE THE COMPUTER Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow AHRC Digital Transformations Fellow Social Media Knowledge Exchange, University of Cambridge, 4 June 2015
  2. 2. The computer laboratory at Westfield College, University of London, c. 1980. This laboratory was a pioneering centre of computing in the humanities. There is a long-standing interest of many humanities scholars in the use of computers, dating back to the 1940s experiments of Roberto Busa with the text of Thomas Aquinas.
  3. 3. Uncertain engagements with the computer ✤ Special issue of Journal of Higher Education, Feb. 1965 ✤ Franklin J. Pegues: uncertainty but cautious optimism: much work in humanities not susceptible to treatment by computers. ‘It will be a sad day for the humanities if scholars seek to undertake only that work which can be computer- oriented’. ‘The machine must serve to free the humanist from time-consuming labor and enlarge his horizons for greater and more important accomplishments. In short, the machine can help the scholar be a better humanist’. ✤ Alan Markman: Many critics ‘fear an impersonal machine, or they do not wish to alienate themselves, their feelings and intuitions, from even the most arduous first labors of research. How do I know a thing is worth counting unless I examine it, they ask, or what principle of selection could possibly obtain where all items, regardless of worth, are bundled together in one category?’
  4. 4. Uncertain engagements with the computer ✤ Alan Markman: ‘one day we shall surely have the literature of the world stored, in a machine format, on magnetic tape. And as we know now, once it is there, it will be available for searching, for retrieval, for any manipulation whatsoever which an intelligent, perhaps ingenious, program can effect’. ✤ ‘Our future scholar might not even have to leave his own office. It is conceivable that such a bibliography could, in a matter of minutes, be projected on a television screen right in his own comfortable office. As a matter of fact, the actual pages he might want to read could probably be projected on the same screen. At least one of the consequences of all this is dreadful. There will be no excuse for ignorance in the future, since knowledge, for which there is no substitute, will be ready to everybody's hand’. ✤ Alan Markman: ‘In no way do I see the computer as a threat to literary scholarship or as a machine to be feared because it might dehumanize research. Far from it, it is humanistic in the best sense of the word. Man made the machine, and men will use it as a tool. By itself it is nothing’.
  5. 5. Indictments taken by a commission in West Kent relating to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381: The National Archives, KB 9/43.
  6. 6. Trespass prosecution by John of Gaunt relating to the destruction of the Savoy Palace during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381: The National Archives, CP 40/490, m.252
  7. 7. Recorda file from the Court of King’s Bench, containing copies of charges and evidence for trials in that court, 1382-3
  8. 8. My typewritten thesis: now freely available as a searchable pdf from ethos.bl.uk, even though I never published it
  9. 9. Not an approach to be recommended: I have published six books as editor or author, but I have never published a conventional academic monograph - how far is this a viable position in career terms?
  10. 10. Experimental image of badly burnt fragment of Old English Life of St Mary of Egypt in British Library, Cotton MS. Otho B x, f. 54v, taken with a Roche Kontron digital camera under ultra-violet light in 1993. Transmitted by phone wire from the British Library in London to the University of Kentucky.
  11. 11. Imaging of the Beowulf manuscript using fibre optic backlighting to reveal letters and words concealed by nineteenth-century conservation work
  12. 12. Two sets of eighteenth- century transcripts of Beowulf made for the Danish antiquary Thorkelin, now in the Royal Library Copenhagen, compared with the original manuscript
  13. 13. Restoration of the first World Wide Web page (1989) as it would have appeared in a line-mode browser, the first readily accessible software for the web: http://info.cern.ch
  14. 14. Portico, the British Library’s first website, as it appeared in April 1995: webarchive.org.uk
  15. 15. The simplest possible illustration of what can be done: Kevin Kiernan uses images of the Beowulf manuscript to examine whether a proposed reading fits the space in the manuscript: ‘The nathwylc Scribe and the nathwylc Text of Beowulf’ in Poetry, Place, and Gender: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honor of Helen Damico, edited by Catherine E. Karkov. Medieval Institute Publications (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 2009), pp. 98-131.
  16. 16. But too often the ‘digital revolution’ is limited to expensively acquired pdfs of journal articles. Convenient, but hardly reshaping scholarship.
  17. 17. ✤ Since about 2007, all UK university libraries have spent more on electronic resources than books and printed journals ✤ All universities have research repositories which are important in research assessment exercises ✤ 2009 survey of 426 humanities scholars: 83% enthusiasts or advocates for digitisation; 98% consider digital collections useful; 76% consider new questions will emerge from digital resources. Only 3% critics or sceptics (Meyer and Schroeder 2015, p. 148). ✤ More enthusiasm in humanities than in social sciences: in 2008 survey of 526 social scientists, only 33% enthusiasts or advocates of digitisation; 60% considered digital tools useful, and 59% considered that new questions will emerge from digital resources (Meyer and Schroeder 2015, p. 148). ✤ A survey of four US Campuses (Brown, Columbia, Indiana, Wisconsin) by Ithaka S&R in 2014 found that 45% of humanities faculty were engaged in the creation of digital sources, most intended for public use ✤ Much of focus in Ithaca S&R survey on source collections and editions of different types, but social media activity significant
  18. 18. REF 2014 outputs by type: although REF welcomes outputs in virtually any form, the overwhelming preponderance of journal articles and books is evident: 28628 books or chapters; 157021 articles; 757 physical artefacts; 1746 exhibitions and performances; 1684 other documents; 761 digital artefacts However, almost all the non book and article outputs in REF 2014 came from Panel D, which covered most of the arts and humanities. Panel D returned 731 physical artefacts; 1707 exhibitions and performances; 674 digital artefacts Nevertheless, the REF confirms the dominance of books and peer-reviewed articles as the gold standard for scholarly output (19527 books; 15339 journal articles for Panel D), and young scholars will be under pressure to produce conventional forms of publication. Same pressures evident in tenure reviews in North America
  19. 19. ✤ How did this happen? ✤ Development by libraries, followed by archives and museums, of online catalogues and databases from 1960s onwards. As these were linked, they grew into international resources. ✤ Major online cataloguing projects such as English Short Title Catalogue became basis for microfilming projects which could easily be converted to digital resources ✤ Large-scale editing projects eg Hartlib Papers project, Old Bailey Proceedings, supported by subject portals such as British History Online ✤ Use of e-mail lists by academic communities eg Humanist, ANSAX-NET, H-NET ✤ Increasing use of online journals through resources like J-Stor ✤ Rise of personal computer - Steve Jobs: ‘It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing’.
  20. 20. ✤ But everything is far from rosy: ✤ There remain huge issues around funding and sustainability of digital resources: difficult to get started with digital projects ✤ The development of digital resources frequently driven by commercial and institutional imperatives of libraries and companies outside HE ✤ The institutional position of digital humanities units and staff working within digital humanities remains unresolved ✤ There is big pressure for technically knowledgeable and oriented workers to fit into a procrustean bed of publication patterns for promotion, REF and other purposes ✤ Meyer and Schroeder (2015) describe how ’digital is a dirty word’. Humanities scholars work with digital resources but give impression they have consulted original sources ✤ Many resources (eg Google Books, NGram viewer) are used uncritically ✤ Use is conservative: no consensus as to how social media fit in
  21. 21. Drivers Behind New Forms of Scholarly Communication in the Arts and Humanities ✤ Need to develop a critical digital humanities ✤ Increasing quantities of ‘born digital’ material: avoiding the digitisation overhead ✤ The impact agenda ✤ Increasingly high costs of journal publication v. lower entry barrier in social media ✤ And (above all?) new friendships and connections
  22. 22. A Critical Digital Humanities ✤ What selectivities are at work with Google Books and how does it affect the way we use it as scholars? How can books disappear on the web? ✤ What difference does it make if Google changes it’s algorithms? We need to understand the black boxes we are using. ✤ Huggett (2014): Data are not 'out there', waiting to be discovered; if anything, data are waiting to be created. Information about the past is situated, contingent, and incomplete; data are theory-laden, and relationships are constantly changing depending on context. ✤ Dalton and Thatcher, Need for Critical Data Studies (Society and Space 2014): illustrate the ways in which data are never raw; expose the fallacy that data can speak for themselves.
  23. 23. The Changing Nature of the Primary Materials of Humanities Research ✤ The papers of the British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898): approx. 160,000 documents in 762 volumes. ✤ Margaret Thatcher archive: 1 million documents in 3,000 boxes occupying 300 metres of shelving ✤ Enron Corporation Corpus, acquired by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during enquiry into corporation’s collapse. Approx. 600,000 e-mails generated by 158 employees; about 423MB (zipped). ✤ Electronic records from the Executive Office of the President during the second presidency of George W. Bush: 82 TB of data; 200+ million e-mail messages; 3+ million digital photographs; 30+ million other electronic records
  24. 24. Thomson and Craighead, Flat Earth (2007) http://animateprojects.org/films/by_date/2007/flat_earth
  25. 25. https://medium.com/genres-of-scholarly-knowledge-pro duction/digitising-the-historical-record-8a6ff90e3fec
  26. 26. Presentation using the fourteen screens in Humlab, Umeå University, December 2014
  27. 27. REF definition: ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’. Assessment of impact accounted for 20% of funding in REF2014; anticipated to be 25% in REF2020 Impact plans integral part of research grant applications for many funding bodies
  28. 28. The impact agenda encourages new forms of co -creation and working with communities which can result in very imaginative research outputs
  29. 29. tangible-memories.com
  30. 30. ✤ Preoccupation of universities with impact will mean that they take an increasing interest in how research is promoted and disseminated through social media ✤ But there isn’t any consensus on how we can most effectively use social media in promoting our research: it tends to be ad hoc self-promotion and community building ✤ Blogs pose dilemmas: can generate big audiences quickly but: - can we announce things too quickly? - are blogs appropriate for extended argument (is something else like Medium or McGuffin better?) - Version control? - The discussion in blogs can be very important but how do we capture and use it? ✤ Use of Twitter increasingly essential to promote research, but does that restrict its value in building a community? ✤ How do we structure and project a social media presence? Shawn Graham, ‘Mapping the Structure of the Archaeological Web’, Internet Archaeology, 39 has useful comments on projecting web presence: intarch.ac.uk ✤ Role of research portals like Researchgate: researchgate.net. These are starting to influence hiring and firing ✤ And where do we fit new media in, like Periscope? Or Slack?
  31. 31. Ruth Ewan, The Liberties of the Savoy (2012)
  32. 32. www.bookworks.org.uk
  33. 33. Liberties of the Savoy video: https://vimeo.com/54517074

Slides from keynote presentation to Social Media Knowledge Exchange meeting on Scholarly Communication in the 21st Century, University of Cambridge, 4 June 2015. Examines my changing relationship to scholarly communication, current pressures and drivers, and likely future trends.

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