Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
The aim of this paper is to discuss how the new scholarly publishing models proposed by the Digital Humanities, if properly executed, may also serve to increase geopolitical diversity in the field. If not, they may well replicate vicissitudes of the traditional scholarly system and perpetuate the current deficiencies. The scholarly communication and publishing system currently in place is a highly complex and international structure that has over the past few decades come under increasing criticism as scholars debate its effectiveness, in particular in relation to new possibilities enabled by digital technologies. At the centre of these debates is the fact that scholarly publishing is both a communicative and collaborative practice that is vital for knowledge construction, as well as being an integral part of the academic reward system and therefore a essential part of both power and prestige within academia. It is directly linked to activities such as hiring, tenure, assignment of grant money, to name a few.
Researchers from periphery countries are sorely underrepresented in the global scholarly publishing system. They have relatively little participation in “international journals” where we find a dominance of publications from researchers in developed nations. Scientific production is measured in a number of ‘core journals’ that are determined by indexing services that tend to favour publications from certain regions of the world and published in English. This leads to the invisibility of research produced in periphery countries as “structural obstacles and subtle prejudices that prevent researchers in poor nations from sharing their discoveries with the industrial world and with each other” (Gibbs, 1995). The work being done in periphery countries does not participate on the global stage. Fiormonte (2015) analyzed Digital Humanities literature and found a strong predominance of citations to publications in English and articles about English speaking institutions and projects. In terms of knowledge construction it is important to note: “how the values of the Western intellect traditions are reflected in the conventions and practices of academic communities and their communications; how mainstream journals and their publishing practices are congenial to the interests of center knowledge while proving recalcitrant to periphery discourses; and how academic writing/publishing functions are an important means of legitimating and reproducing center knowledge” (Canagarajah 2002). As such we find that there is a marginalization of peripheries in the production of knowledge and the impact of the research.
The predominance of knowledge production from a handful of countries has important consequences, in particular the Humanities that require multilingual, multicultural heterogeneous environments if they are to fully represent the wide spectrum of human diversity. The Digital Humanities is a community that not only represents itself as collaborative and open (Spiro, 2012) but also sees itself as potentially transformative of the Humanities: “The tension between the digital humanities and the academic establishment is multifaceted and involves institutional hurdles to doing interdisciplinary and collaborative work, need for space and technological infrastructure, tenure systems not adapted to digital production and publications, and the need for non-faculty experts and corresponding career paths (Svensson, 2012). In this sense Digital Humanities in on the periphery of academia, seeking validation of the types of digital scholarship it is developing against established power structures and recognized and suitable forms of what is deemed ‘valid scholarship’.
DH scholarship is produced in a variety of formats that are not necessarily monographs or journal articles that make up the traditional scholarly publishing system. Datasets, web pages, digital scholarly edition, textual markup and visualizations, to name a few, are part of DH production and the community has focused on how to certify them as valid outputs and forms of communicating knowledge. New forms of publishing, peer review and career paths are part of DH literature as it challenges the traditional ways of producing, disseminating, validating and certifying knowledge through the types of scholarly output it is producing.
For the Digital Humanities the possibility of new modes of communication and publishing have been fundamental in its construction. Initial work concentrated on digitizing and publishing texts online, what Davidson (2012) refers to as Humanities 1.0. The first attraction of online publishing is making available material that is of difficult access and/or dispersed geographically (Priani, 2015). For others an important feature, with the relative low cost compared to publication on paper, was the possibility of making lesser-known materials available, such as non-canonical texts (Earhart 2012). From the periphery the possibility of electronic publishing offered a way of getting information published and noticed. Many Open Access projects, which focus on journal publishing, have worked towards this (Alperin, Fischman and Willinsky, 2008).
Since then however, it has become clear that the Internet provides the opportunity to change the way we think about publishing and what types of outputs can be considered valid forms of communicating knowledge. This in turn has led to discussion on how we can validate and certify this production. In order to change the system however, it requires “substantative rethinking (…) of the ways those faculty do their work, how they communicate that work, and how that work is read both inside and outside the academy” (Fitzpatrick, 2011). If we consider that the traditional scholarly publishing system has systematically excluded research from periphery countries, there is an opportunity, as we work towards new types of publishing and communication systems, to find ways of being deliberately inclusive. Although not referring specifically to periphery research Davidson (2012) idea of Humanities 2.0 which is “distinguished from monumental, first generation data-based projects not just by interactivity but also by an openness about participation grounded in a different set of theoretical premises, which decenter authority and knowledge”, can be applied.
Many (Fiormonte, 2012; Liu, 2012; Rodríguez, 2012; Clavert, 2013; Dacos, 2013; Risam, 2015) have argued that DH must reflect more on the nature of the digital medium and the technologies that are being employed as well as addressing issues related to geo-linguistic diversity in the community. At the same time Digital Humanities is also a community about building and creating (Ramsay, 2011). If DH is indeed a transformative motor of academia, then reflecting from a critical perspective on the new types of digital scholarship that we are proposing is indispensable. We could propose new models that adequately incorporate digital scholarly output from countries on the periphery that are left out of the global publishing system within the traditional scholarly publishing model. If DH is proposing and fighting for new types of scholarly publishing, then should we not seek to build a model that takes this into consideration?
It is not possible of course to resolve this in a single conference presentation. The aim of this paper is to bring this subject to the table and to initiate a discussion in the different ways that this can be addressed. It is important to invest more in understanding the effects of the new types of publishing that we are advocating for as well as the digital infrastructures, primarily publishing platforms that we are developing and/or using. Discussing the implications of what we are building, the methods and structures we are using for communicating and publishing as well as the languages and materials we are prioritizing as part of the necessary self-reflection on what we are and what we do. As we advocate for new types of scholarship and we discuss new forms of peer review, certification, validation, publication and dissemination of these new types of publications we must make sure we do not incorporate tacit assumptions about the role and validity of periphery scholarship if not we shall inevitably continue to replication long-held prejudices and marginalization.
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