This is the motion, I hope we have some fun exploring it
Though I’m still disappointed George rejected my proposal for a wrestling style smackdown. (those are our torsos)
Before moving onto my argument I want to look at a couple of elements of the motion. Firstly the term ‘digital scholarship’ which is contested and we don’t have a clear definition for, but my take is that it is a shorthand for these three factors: digital content shared via a global and social network, mediated through open practice.
So, here is a working definition – all aspects of scholarly practice (not just research say) and crucially it is the associated practices, not just the technology
When it says achieve the same status I take that to mean that it will be recognised by peers as valid scholarly activity and by official mechanisms such as tenure and promotion
So onto my argument – I’m going to suggest that there are 7 converging pressures that will lead to digital scholarship being recognised
The first of these is Impact – everyone is interested in impact: research funders, individuals, universities
So, there is quite a bit of research that suggest articles in open access journals get cited more – this study found it to be 3 times as much But we also have other outputs – for example my blog views outweigh most journal article downloads in my uni, and there are bloggers with a higher profile than me. Similarly, there are other forms of media which generate good traffic, such as slideshare. Now, it’s not entirely sure what views mean, they probably aren’t the same as citations in terms of impact, but equally, they aren’t negligible either and interpreting these kinds of metrics is part of the challenge for digital scholarship.
The next pressure comes from it being an efficient way of working
For example, having a strong identity in an online network means you form research collaborations, which previously would have required you to be travelling the world to maintain face to face networks. Some of you may know Jim Groom’s DS106, which is a good example of delivering a course in the open. By being open and networked he got great ideas for assignments, resources, and his students got access to a wide range of expertise. I’ve been writing a book recently and the digital scholar approach is a very efficient way of working. I can put a call out on twitter for examples, I can find resources online, I can browse the collections of others in delicious or mendeley, and I can blog parts of my book as I go along and get feedback
Not only is an efficient way of working, but it’s effective also – this drug does work
My colleague Doug Clow recounts how a tweet from Stephen Fry sent 50K views to an OU site whereas (for a different site) an appearance on Radio4 generated 10K. So these new networks have some reach. Similarly, our philosophy lecturer Nigel Warburton has millions of downloads of his podcast on iTunes U. This is a lot cheaper than creating TV programmes And we know the open distributed approach works in software development, and this is spreading to other aspects too. Having worked in both open and closed projects I know that an open approach generally gets better results.
Perhaps the most immediate pressure is that digital scholarship is not in competition, but is complementary to traditional practices
For example, we have a repository for journals at my university, and every month we get a top downloads chart. I’m never in this, but this month I might be because I tweeted and blogged this paper, and it got retweeted and passed around. So the social network and identity will lead to greater views and citation of traditional outputs and is therefore worth developing. Also, you can get invites to do things like this – quite often if I need a speaker or someone to collaborate on a project I will think of people in my online network who talk about these subjects.
These are all mainly individual pressures, but what will be key is the growing realisation from institutions that digital scholarship is useful
So for example, universities know that students don’t bother with the glossy prospectus now – having an identity in online networks is important and often this is established through individual academics Universities know that a voice needs to have credibility, and they are beginning to appreciate the power of this online network And even just on a day to day basis I’m sure many of you have experienced people asking you to blog or tweet an event, or a job advert, or a project, because they know this reaches a particular audience, but you can only do that if you have established yourself online
Another pressure comes from the availability of alternatives. Previously we were limited to lectures and articles to convey ideas, but now we have many more options
So for example, my book is available online, but there are also videos, slideshare presentations, blog posts and a course I’m doing with George. There’s even a DJ set with music if you want. Each of these media allow academics to do different things and reach different audiences, and so to only recognise one of them begins to seem odd
The conference archive is another example – it used to be just the papers, now it will icnlude twitter conversations, shared photos on flickr, live blog and reflective blog posts, a social network, videos of the presentations, etc It’s a much richer archive now, and so you want to encourage effective use of all these elements
My last pressure is one which should not be underestimated and that is the human factors. Academics are competitive and so if they see digital scholarship being a succesful means of working, they will adopt it. The flip side of this is exclusion, or at least fear of exclusion, if people are collaborating online, or the main debates are taking place across blogs, then you could be missing out. And lastly, digital scholarship is cooler than a dog in sunglasses and everyone wants to be cool.
So, these 7 pressures create a digital scholarship sandwich. We have the top down pressure of institutions seeing the benefit and pushing for it, and the bottom up pressure of an increasing number of academics adopting these practices. The messy stuff in the middle is the process and administration, things like tenure and recognising quality. This stuff isn’t easy but once we have the top and the bottom slice, the sandwich inevitably follows
With these debates it is tempting to paint it as a very binary decision. I appreciate that digital scholarship is no road to utopia, that there are issues to be resolved, but many of these are already being dealt with, and the motion does give us ten years
So, it’s more right than wrong. This quite from Clifford Stoll in 1995 dismissed online shopping because of the lack of salespeople. I don’t think we would see that as the crucial element today. And so if we reject the motion we are in danger of making the same kind of mistake. After all, would we really want to be sitting at EdMedia in 10 years time saying ‘scholars still aren’t convinced about this digital networked stuff.’ Now that is a scary thought
Digital scholarship debate
This house believes that in the next decade, digital scholarship (in open journals, blogs, and social media) will achieve the same status in academic settings as traditional scholarship
<ul><li>Creates top-down and bottom-up pressure </li></ul>http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/4155618337/ Creates a top-down & bottom-up pressure
<ul><li>Argument is rarely either/or – overall direction of travel that is important </li></ul>http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/5253726754/ Digital scholarship isn’t a
<ul><li>“ Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. .. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.” </li></ul><ul><li>( http://www.newsweek.com/1995/02/26/the-internet-bah.html ) </li></ul>But it’s more right than wrong…