Producing, Publishing

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 During our last class, much of the discussion—about Google Books, funding for projects, the potential need for advertising—gravitated towards questions of producing and publishing scholarship in the contemporary digital environment. This prompted me to think more about the difference between “producing” and “publishing” and how the digital humanities can illuminate and maybe even change it. In this context, “producing” refers to a scholar’s, or a group of scholars’, presentation of research in written, visual, or some other computational form, while “publishing” refers to larger project of designing, distributing, and monetizing these presentations. Ultimately, though, the emphases on method and openness central to the digital humanities might collapse this difference and introduce some simpler, more transparent production and publishing processes.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Both producing and publishing rely on a multitude of proprietary software products to accomplish their respective tasks. For example, a scholar might use Word to write an article; a publisher might then use InDesign to typeset that article and place it within a journal. And, while Microsoft and Adobe try to make these products seem as transparent and usable as possible, “what you see is not what you get,” as Dennis Tenen and Grant Wythoff argue in “Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text using Pandoc and Markdown” (Tenen and Wythoff). Underlying the seemingly simple graphical user interfaces of these products exist “complicated layer[s] of code understandable only to machines” that encode the actual scholarship in convoluted markup languages difficult and time-consuming to clean and decode for human readers (Tenen and Wythoff). Proprietary software, in other words, inhibits the open exchange of scholarship between its producers and publishers.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 How, though, can the digital humanities address this problem? Emphasis on method seems like a good start. Tom Scheinfeldt, confronting the argument that the digital humanities (in 2012) might not argue anything, articulates a case for a tools-oriented approach—“one of the things digital humanities shares with the sciences is a heavy reliance on instruments, on tools”—that turns “scholarly attention” onto the “tools themselves and the whiz-bang effects they produce” (Scheinfeldt). While Scheinfeldt suggests that digital humanists should build and study their own tools in this passage, we should expand the scope of his call to “scholarly attention” to the tools we use so commonly when producing and publishing scholarship. What are the whiz-bang effects of proprietary software like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Adobe InDesign? Do they articulate or contradict the values of the digital humanities?

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 One of the values that seems consistent across the multiple areas of inquiry that comprise the digital humanities is openness. Lisa Spiro, in fact, lists openness as the first proposed value in her 2012 essay “‘This Is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”: “Openness operates on several levels in the digital humanities, describing a commitment to the open exchange of ideas, the development of open content and software, and transparency” (Spiro). By connecting openness to “exchange of ideas,” “content,” and “software,” Spiro suggests the if the digital humanities can adopt central values, they might influence not only scholarly ideas but the infrastructure that supports the exchange, production, and publication of those ideas. As digital humanists have promoted, and continue to promote, greater inclusiveness in the years since 2012, they have preserved and solidified the value of openness. Consider, for example, the following conditions for apps from “QueerOS: A User’s Manual” in the 2016 edition of Debates in the Digital Humanities:

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Promiscuity: the ability to move and interact across platforms, devices, users, and geographical regions unrestricted.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Commons: contra the “app store” ethos driven by finance and conservative social investments, QueerOS apps exist in a space of free exchange, sharing, and open development. (Barnett et al.)

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Here, the authors emphasize unrestricted movement and “free exchange.” Though the focus of digital humanities seems to have changed from 2012 to 2016 from definition to the inclusion of cultural criticism and historically marginalized voices, openness remains a prominent value.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 If we think of the difference between producing and publishing in the context of Scheinfeldt’s tools-based and methodological approach and the integral digital humanities value of openness it seems that we need to rethink some of the infrastructure that supports scholarship. A simple markup language, like Markdown, could eliminate the complicated encodings of Word or Google documents, for example (Tenen and Wythoff). Authors, editors, and publishers could exchange files without the need to waste hours reformatting work. Meanwhile software like Pandoc or LaTeX could reduce the effort required to convert documents from one format to another and allow for the simpler creation of well-designed publications (Tenen and Wythoff). Authors, editors, and publishers could run straightforward commands, instead of labyrinthine scripts, to transform and style scholarship for readers. While such work requires some technical know-how, it relies on simple encoding and open-source tools that do not divide producing and publishing labor as sharply as proprietary software does. By blurring the difference between producing and publishing with these open-source tools, we might develop an infrastructure more hospitable to the digital humanities values of openness and transparency.

Works Cited

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Barnett, Fiona et al. “QueerOS: A User’s Manual.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/56.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Scheinfeldt, Tom. “Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, University of Minnesota Press, 2012, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/13.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Spiro, Lisa. “‘This Is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, University of Minnesota Press, 2012, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/13.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Tenen, Dennis and Grant Wythoff. “Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text using Pandoc and Markdown.” The Programming Historian, 19 March 2014, http://programminghistorian.org/lessons/sustainable-authorship-in-plain-text-using-pandoc-and-markdown.

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  • Welcome to Digital Praxis 2016-2017

    Encouraging students think about the impact advancements in digital technology have on the future of scholarship from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, the Digital Praxis Seminar is a year-long sequence of two three-credit courses that familiarize students with a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures offered by high-profile scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies in their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work. The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students.

    The syllabus for the course can be found at cuny.is/dps17.

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