On Digital Disciplinarity

The enrolled graduate students in FSU’s Digital Scholars recently met for our inaugural discussion of the semester, focusing on the topic of “Digital Disciplinarity.” We read a cluster of perspectives — some considered classic, others foundational, and still others calling into question fundamental assertions about what does or does not constitute humanistic inquiry — and constructed a matrix of concerns, putting our readings into conversation on the following themes:

  • principles that (should) define digital epistemology
  • principles that (should) constitute digital scholarship
  • requirements for a digital discipline (beyond the addendum of “digital” to a particular disciplinary area)
  • similarities and differences between digital disciplinary models and “big-tent” digital humanities (or the Digital Humanities writ-large).

In extracting responses from our readings, we discovered a new set of realizations to observe throughout the semester, a small sampling of which I offer below:

Attitudes toward — and operational models of — “open” scholarship may benefit from smaller tents, trading zones, and meeting spaces, where disciplinary ideals need not be undermined in order to be pursued, troubled, or changed.

As archives re-envision born-digital preservation beyond a paradigm of containment, they are modeling a way for other disciplines to become self-conscious of the things and objects on which their theories rest.

Intersections between digital scholarship, digital pedagogy, and digital humanities are nuanced and under-studied. Yet there is much to be gained from situating DH inquiry specifically in liminal spaces, as this Digital Pedagogy Genealogy project — recently created by Jesse Stommel and shared at the 2015 meeting of the Modern Language Association — demonstrates.

Real tensions continue to exist between DH goals that are motivated by academic questions, and digital scholarship funding models that are influenced by public concerns; this in turn reflects other challenges of undertaking digital work, and of moving disciplinary programs through technological transformations. One challenge is that funding sources require a project’s output to conform to the output paradigm of a different discipline. Another challenge is that funding sources motivated by one discipline cannot recognize certain forms of digital scholarship as “research” because they too closely emulate the data-gathering methods of another discipline. Or, the multidisciplinary funding source may require the results of the work to be more immediately marketable, replicable, or implementable — criteria we now see echoed in articulation of digital scholarship grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others.

As the session concluded, we noted the need to become aware of the institutional seams where DH projects can still be built and thrive — resulting in the production of non-scalable digital tools, as well as the dissemination of new categories for digital and humanistic work. We further noted “digital disciplinarity” as a viable intellectual space for inventing a classification of what digital scholarship involves — everything from collaborating to teaching. Such an axis of inquiry involves a spectrum of practices, as opposed to favoring one intellectual marketplace model over another, or treating one practice as the critical apex to which all others strive.

Our readings for the day included the following critical essays:

as well as the following blog posts and digital projects:

-TSG

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One thought on “On Digital Disciplinarity

  1. Pingback: Funding the Digital Humanities | FSU Digital Scholars

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