Archive for February 25th, 2011

Thinking about legitimacy

25 February 2011

By Christina Morin

With the 2nd Pue’s Occurrences symposium only a week away, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme we’ve chosen to focus on: ‘Web Legitimacy’. This was an issue that popped up again and again at our first symposium last year and one that we, like many of last year’s participants, felt important enough to concentrate on this year. We’ll be focusing on issues of legitimacy particular to blogging – whether academic or not – but much of what we’ll be discussing also pertains to other web-based publications and, indeed, Digital Humanities as a whole. Several participants in last year’s symposium voiced the concern that online publishing – specifically that without a corresponding print publication – simply isn’t weighted as heavily as more traditional print formats. I know myself that in constructing my CV, there’s a certain hierarchy of publications to be followed in order suitably to impress the reader. Online publications always go last, irrespective of my perception of their ‘worth’ or ‘value’.

This hierarchical attitude towards online publications in the academic community has been reified in recent years by various large scale research assessment programs, chief among them, the RAE and now, the REF. While attempting scientifically to categorize and quantify the research outputs of both individuals and the schools/departments/universities to which they contribute, such exercises suggest that digital outputs – be they in the form of a blog, contributions to a web-based academic journal or encyclopedia, or myriad other such outputs – are a negligible, at the very least, less worthy, asset of academic life in comparison to traditional, printed monographs, journal articles, and editions. Ironically, however, in sciences and maths, the monograph – the seeming end all and be all for academics in the humanities – is relegated to a lowly position, while digital outputs receive a far higher ranking, a situation that highlights the inconsistencies inherent to the weighting of outputs across the disciplines.  Read more