As a complement our discussions about new forms of scholarship and scholarly publication, I’d like to propose a session about how digital tools are already transforming the academic production of knowledge. Despite recent transformations, I think most scholars in the humanities still follow a research and writing model that goes back at least a hundred years:
1.) Collect information
2.) Organize information
3.) Write scholarship
As a history graduate student knee-deep in dissertation research, I’ve been surprised how little my advisors and my peers’ reflect upon their method. I suspect that their approaches to steps two and three have changed very little in the past twenty years. For most, Microsoft Word and notecards still seem to be the “tools of the trade,” with perhaps a nod to citation software (Zotero/EndNote) and data backups (DropBox).
In this session, I’d like to discuss how 21st century scholars should approach both the organizing process and (on good days) the writing process as well. Everyone has their own system I’m sure; this would be an opportunity to share our tips and tricks. How do people fit their messy data –archival photos, interview transcripts, and odd notes– into searchable databases? Or do they? Have people ditched Word for plain-text files or Scrivener? Do people hide their data away on their personal drives, or publish it online? When are digital tools helpful, and when are they just, well, fiddling? Hopefully our conversation will generate some useful guides and blog posts.