As part of my ongoing work on the Disco project I’ve been interviewing various ‘digital scholars’ (i.e. people who use quite a lot of new technologies in their work) from across the OU. In one of the more recent interviews with David Robinson I asked him to tell me what he thought digital scholarship might mean, and filmed the results.
Essentially he thought that as scholars will always use new technologies (when it helps their research) then perhaps digital scholarship isn’t anything new or different. This got me thinking about a provacative chapter by Brad Wheeler in The Tower and the Cloud called E-Research Is a Fad: Scholarship 2.0, Cyberinfrastructure, and IT Governance. I’ll give a condensed version of the introduction here:
When I was an assistant professor of information systems in the business school, the mid to late 1990s seemingly declared that all things that could be digital would be digital. “E-commerce” was the rage, and I taught my first MBA e-commerce course in 1995. It was soon supplanted by a more proper e-business moniker a few years later, and companies everywhere started e-business projects or “e” divisions.
Astute observers of commerce at the time, however, had it right in seeing e-business more clearly. E-business was best understood and pronounced as “business,” where the “e” is silent.
E-science, e-research, and e-scholarship can expect the same. They are best understood as “e-research,” where the “e” will eventually be silent. Scholars in the sciences, humanities, and arts will identify those digital tools that advance their endeavors, that maintain and even enhance rigor and quality, and embed those tools and practices in their daily work.
So the question I’m now asking is, should digital scholarship be considered as anything new or should the ‘digital’ be silent? I’ve been thinking these issues through in relation to a paper I’m writing, as to whether new technologies will lead to more open scholarship, which is a related issue I think (this would suggest that digital scholarship is different from what came before).
I would welcome any comments!