The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

3 How might digital scholarship look?

Bryan Alexander is an educator with a particular interest in how education and technology intersect.

Watch the following video of Bryan talking about a digital scholarship scenario.

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Transcript: Bryan Alexander: a digital scholarship scenario

Bryan Alexander
So imagine, for example, a scholar in French literature who runs a blog and tweets where they talk about their interest. They're working on nineteenth century French fiction, and so of they read a book, a scholarly book, and they review it as a blog post. They come with a beautiful quote from Mallarme and they tweet it and so on.
So they built a reputation through social media for their current interest in a project. And this eventually helps grow into their book. So they might publish an outline, they may publish a book proposal on their blog. They'll get feedback. They'll be able to kind of think out loud about this.
So over time, they've really built the kind of, if you will, a nimbus of social around their scholarly impetus. And then when they publish, say, a journal article it may be that it appears behind closed doors through Elsevier and JSTOR. Maybe it appears in open access journal issue. Either way, readers will approach these through different venues than they used to and different paths.
And maybe they make a monograph. In the monograph they could have, say, film footage of an early dramatisation of a play from the 1920s. It could be that they have an animation of Paris in the 1880s, a three-dimensional animation that they want to work through. And this would be part of the monograph that you can read online. So overall you'll have something new.
Each of these has a special promise. The material promise is that we can do more scholarship. We can ask and answer more questions. So in the case, the hypothetical case I just mentioned, imagine a nineteenth century Paris visualisation, a three-dimensional model where you query the model and pull up data about settlement, about where people lived, about sewage, about the rollout of streets over time.
And then the promise, and maybe learn more than when you once knew. And the promise of the communication, well, in part is greater efficiency but also greater conversation. Through open access, a larger audience but also through connecting it to social media, a wider audience as well.
So overall, taken together, in a sense this is revolutionary. We are really taking scholarly publication and transforming it into something new. Looking at it another way, this is what the digital world is like. There's something that's not really that remarkable. Nothing that I've described is futuristic. It's simply a case of just implementing and doing it.
End transcript: Bryan Alexander: a digital scholarship scenario
Bryan Alexander: a digital scholarship scenario
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Some of the points Bryan makes might be described as amplification: the way in which digital technologies enable scholars to ‘do more scholarship’. One aspect of this could be the way in which digital methods of working allow the construction of richer, more detailed models of an area of study. This would be made available to a wider audience and might also attract contributions that help to develop the work further.

Activity 2 Consider your own practice

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Think about how digital, networked and open technology has influenced one area of your own practice. It could be a small change, or a large one. How do you see it developing in the near future? How significant is this change for how you operate?

(If you do not have an example from your own practice, then consider how writing and disseminating research findings has changed.) Make some notes. You could share this reflection on your blog using the hashtag #dscholar.

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