Demonstrating the Scholarship of: A New Blog Series from the CIT

Much virtual ink has been spilt about the need for standards for the evaluation of digital scholarship in the humanities. Case studies have been studied, organizational proclamations ratified; journal articles have been written, singly and in series like PMLA’s open access set in 2011 and JDH’s special issue in 2012. Some individual departments have shared their own guidelines (including Texas A&M, UNL, and UVA). The CIT’s own Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media, originally composed in 2000 and revised in 2012, establishes guidelines regarding the value of non-traditional scholarly outputs, the selection of reviewers, the ubiquity of collaboration, the issue of accessibility, and the need for documentation.

These standards are intended to render visible the labor of digital humanities, particularly to committees for tenure and promotion and to administrators. In the process of justifying digital scholarly work, such guidelines recognize the intellectual import of the digital humanities by identifying the multiplication of the activities that qualify as scholarship and the platforms that qualify as publication. They also hint at the structures of peer review, revision, and theorization already at work in the digital humanities community. To summarize, they demonstrate that the traditional ends of scholarship can be met through non-traditional means, which can affirm these traditional ends while also revising or expanding them.

As such guidelines proliferate, they are becoming more comprehensive, universal, and stable to ensure neutrality, yet open to adaptation by particular communities and tenure/promotion cases. But, due to their primary audience (reviewers, editors, grant committees, and personnel committees) and scope (their attempt to be universal), they cannot provide detailed arguments for the academic value of various digital humanities activities. Generating such arguments are therefore still the responsibility of the individual scholar. To address this issue, the CIT announces a new blog series, “Demonstrating the Scholarship of…,” in which we provide arguments and strategies for individual scholars to link their own particular suite of non-traditional means to these traditional ends.

The first post in the series, “Evaluating the Scholarship of Pedagogy,” will reflect on the mutual interdependence of teaching and research, share ideas for making this feedback loop more rewarding and efficient, and offer arguments for the significance of digital pedagogy as a rigorous and productive form of scholarship. Future posts will engage in similar arguments for activities such as coding, encoding, blogging, engaging with metadata, building digital tools, and constructing digital editions. Each post will synthesize current scholarship on the topic to distill the best arguments for establishing the scholarly value of these activities. Although posts will discuss strategies for transforming these labors into different outputs—many of them traditional scholarly forms—they will focus on helping scholars construct arguments to communicate the inherent scholarly value of these digital labors.

To make these strategies and arguments more easily accessible, each post will follow the same structure. A literature review will summarize existing arguments and alert readers to substantiating evidence outside of the CIT blog. The “Non-Traditional Means, Traditional Ends” will reveal how this particular digital activity meets traditional standards of scholarship, including depth, rigor, peer review, metadisciplinary reflection or theorization, and participation in ongoing scholarly debates. A section on impact will show how to make these efforts yield evaluation-friendly nuggets, whether by transforming them into a different output (grants, publications, presentations) or by translating them using analytics or shifts in your terminology. “Combating Counterarguments” will review potential lines of resistance against these arguments and provide rebuttals against them. The final section, “Verbs and Phrases,” will provide a quick reference resource for speaking and writing about the scholarly value of these digital activities.

As a part of MLA Commons, this blog is intended to stimulate conversations this important topic of evaluating digital work in the humanities. Please comment below to share any thoughts you have about content you would like to see in this series of blog posts.

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