My use of the question mark in the above heading is deliberate, for "the jury's still out" when it comes to assessing the value of electronic scholarship in the academy. I'll begin my (un)conclusion, then, by offering several views from one side of the courtroom:
[S]cholarship is defined by taking calculated risks and exploring prototypic situations and ideas -- and such explorations are our responsibility as scholars. If the academy is unable to overcome its deep-seated ties to the system of values associated [with] print [what Taylor and Erben define as "the romanticization of individual expression in the form of the monograph; the institutionalization of intellectual capital in the form of the copyright; and the modernist obsession with unity, symmetry, order, and closure" (107)], if it is unable to see past monographs and journal articles as defining the nature of research, particularly in the humanities, then scholars will unfortunately be increasingly constructed as workers who manufacture cultural artifacts known as texts instead of being defined as we should: as generators of thought and innovation. (Taylor and Erben 113).
If a young scholar invests herself in setting up a World Wide Web home page for rhetorical studies, for example, and maintains that page, perhaps moderating a usenet discussion, what value will that have in her promotion or tenure hearings? The activity may be as complex and valuable to her field as beginning and editing a high quality journal. Some departments are already trying to formulate policy for evaluating faculty-developed software or multimedia materials. (LeBlanc 121)
This last statement by LeBlanc points to what I see as the academy's beginning realization that the issue of electronic scholarship is one that must be dealt with. Computers have become an integral component of academic work, both in the classroom and in the graduate student or faculty office -- a component that can enrich traditional notions of such work. My sense, then, is that electronic scholarship -- a scholarship that includes dialogic/collaborative work as well as pedagogical efforts -- is coming to be seen as a viable addition to traditional print-bound publishing, especially given the "ADE Statement of Good Practice: Teaching, Evaluation, and Scholarship," which includes the following points:
- Scholarship should be defined broadly and not be limited to the academic book or article. Local definitions of scholarly activity will vary and may include the presentation of papers, the development of instructional materials, reviews of others' scholarly work, and other forms of writing. These activities should be evaluated according to well-thought-out standards.
- Scholarship on teaching -- its methods, assessment procedures, and ways to improve it -- should be valued on a par with traditional forms of scholarship. (45)
The Modern Language Association has also recently published guidelines for "Evaluating Computer-Related Work in the Modern Languages" and the "Modern Language Association of America Statement on Computer Support."
The National Library of Australia, too, has published electronically "A National Strategy for Provision of Access to Australian Electronic Publications."
Given that these organizations have published such policies, I'm prompted to say that, although not replacing traditional forms of scholarship, electronic scholarship -- of both a theoretical and pedagogical, print-convention-constrained and prototypical -- is increasingly coming to be seen as an academically/professionally viable alternative to traditional paper publishing, a view that not only hiring and promotion & tenure committees but also all involved in academic work can't ignore. In so doing, we'll stop limiting ourselves by basing decisions on prior models/precedent and instead look ahead to new possibilities, create new "rules" for new "language games," thereby becoming what Lyotard, in Just Gaming, calls "artists":
[I]t is the artists that always establish the rules of the language game that did not exist before. That is how there is paganism. A sign that people are not pagan as they should be is that they believe in the signified of what they are saying, that they stick to this signified, and that they think they are in the true. This is where paganism stops and where something like doctrine let us say, gets back in. (62)
If we in the academy wish to be artists -- creative scholars who move the field forward -- then what Lyotard suggests is we "loosen up" a bit by moving from one game to another, figuring out new moves, by inventing new rules (and ultimately new games). Prototypical electronic scholarship is one such new game.
Opening | Prototypes Exploring Possibilities | Prototypes Illustrating Writing Process |
Prototypes Illustrating Social Construction | Prototypes Illustrating Praxis | Conclusion (?) | Works Cited
Last updated: February 1997