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[edit] Readings

Cohen, The Ivory Tower and the Open Web

Dan Cohen opens his lecture with a discussion of the 'Web Way' versus the 'Academic Way'. Using the example of the Burrito Bracket Website, Cohen discusses the potential of the Vernacular web. From here he looks at the potential of the web as a form of scholarship, examining the concept of blogs and Twitter as forums for peer review. He questions the point of scholarly work and scholarly presses, pushing the issues of authority and permission to publish, as well as the development of discourse. Cohen's final section was a discussion of 'Aggregation and Curation'. Using examples of websites such as Techmeme, Cohen shows the value of creating spaces that gather and organize large volumes of information on a common topic for both scholars and the everyday web user. Cohen notes that the web scrambles established signals of quality that the average person employs to distinguish and evaluate useful sources.

Cohen, For Bentham and Others...

In her article, Patricia Cohen examines the concept of crowd sourcing. Looking at projects such as the Jeremy Bentham Project and the unpublished documents from the US Early War Department, Cohen notes the strengths and weakness of such an endeavour. Sharon Leon, an historian at George Mason University, argues that crowd sourcing allows public access to documents without the hold up of the editing process. Leon also acknowledges that this kind of work creates a new source of tension between experts and amateurs in the field. Daniel Stowell, a participant in the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project, is skeptical that this technique will save time. Stowell states that when non-academic transcribers were hired, they spent more time and money fixing their errors than actually working on the papers themselves. Cohen notes that the goals of this work are different from those people who are looking to create something for a letter-press edition, because they are not looking for perfection but rather for progressive improvement.

Gee, Society and Higher Education, Part 2 and Part 3

The larger focus of Gee's blog posts on Society and Higher Education is the importance of asking, investigating, and understanding big questions. Gee encourages the reader to ask what the role and purpose of education is in today's society. According to Gee, schools and education in general are failing to reach their original goals, which calls for a reassessment of the point of education. Currently, the 'big questions' are divided between University departments and discussed in isolation from one another. These separate parts are never reconnected for the students, which inhibits the larger understanding of the questions. In Gee's opinion, this problem is exacerbated by universities' more recent goals of short term money and prestige over long term knowledge. Gee critiques not only the structure of universities, but also the methods of teaching. He juxtaposes out of school learning against e-learning to point out the inherent flaws of electronic teaching. Gee offers disciplined observation as an alternative to traditional understandings of 'truth', and as a pathway to answering big questions.

Wyman et al.,

In this article, Wyman explains how web access for museum collections has not provided a true accessibility for the public. is a tool developed for museums using the concepts of social tagging applications (such as flickr and del.ici.ous) to create a personal and shareable experience with museum collections. Wyman explores the resulting folksonomic terminology, and how this effects understandings of museum cataloguing. He explores how to make tagging useful as well as fun, questioning how the experience of the interface should impact the user.

Simon, Discourse in the Blogosphere

Simon discusses how Web 2.0 applications allow users to generate, share, and curate content. Simon explains that Web 1.0 is a passive way to interact with the web, situating the user as a viewer and consumer only, while Web 2.0 allows the user to be an active participant in working with the content (which places them in a position of authority). Web 2.0 promotes peer to peer interaction and user participation, which is now transforming the way in which people navigate the web. Applying this specifically to museum websites, Web 2.0 allows the sites to become venues for larger discourse through personal interaction with museum content.

[edit] Points To Ponder...

[edit] Question 1

In his lecture, Dan Cohen asks 'what is the purpose of scholarly work?'. What do you feel the point of scholarly work is? How are traditional understandings changing, and how does the web fit into this evolution?

[edit] Question 2

Gee questions what the role of education is in today's society, stating that it is currently failing students. Do you feel its purpose needs to be reassessed? If so, how do you think the digital humanities can contribute to this reassessment?

[edit] Question 3

In her article, Patricia Cohen looks at the concept of crowd sourcing and collaboration between experts and amateurs. Do you think crowd sourcing is a useful technique? Does it problematize understandings of authority?

[edit] Question 4

Wyman and Simon's articles on tagging question whether or not folksonomic terminology adds value to museum content. Do you agree or disagree? Do you feel that these terms can add anything valuable to our understanding of the content?

[edit] Question 5

Simon suggests that museums are unchanging designed spaces that are launched in a completed state. How do we reconcile this understanding of what a museum is with the ever changing nature of the web?

[edit] And as a general end of term question...

How has the digital humanities changed/shaped your outlook on research? Education? The web? Your role in academia? etc...

[edit] DISCUSS!!!

[edit] Grant

Well, I guess I will get things started. I'm feeling this will turn into a two or three part rant about the readings, since I really enjoyed them this week. To answer your third question... I do and don't believe that crowd sourcing is a useful technique. It's a bit of a complicated situation, where there are both pros and cons to the method. I think it is a useful technique based on the notion that it involves the general public. As mentioned in Cohen's article, crowd sourcing makes available certain texts to the general public that were before off limits or for the eyes of a select few. As seen with the Bentham Project, members of the general public can now help transcribe the vast amount of writings written by Jeremy Bentham. If they have an interest in that philosopher, they now have the opportunity to interact with and view manuscripts written by him. This project is now opening historical topics to a wider audience, not just scholars. This issue of making history more public friendly is a problem that historical scholars are contending with, and I think collaborative projects such as the Bentham one are an interesting solution to it. However, as mentioned with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, mistakes in the transcribing of such historical documents could be numerous and time costly. Any John Doe off the street with a computer can transcribe these documents, and the editors will then have to go over these mistakes and correct them. Is it really a public oriented project if scholars still have a huge influence in the finished, published version? Although yes, these once hidden manuscripts may be published online quicker with the help of the public, time will still be significantly slowed down if editors have to correct an unsurmountable amount of mistakes. In turn, this addresses your other question about amateurs and experts taking part. These crowd sourcing techniques blur the lines between those two labels. Amateurs are taking part, but their mistakes are being corrected by experts. Are they then really contributing to the publication of the finalized version if what they contributed is erased or corrected?

[edit] Grant

Alright, I'm going to tackle your fourth question now. In regards to whether tags can add anything valuable to our understanding of museum content... I say yes. As mentioned in their article, tagging helps fill in the gaps in museum documentation and allows objects to be found more readily by a larger audience. That is one benefit of the tags. Users can now easily find objects in museums by going off of the tags they made. It makes navigating the museums' archives online much more easier. Plus, the tags given by the public do fill in some context information and descriptive markings that the museum's description may leave out. For example, looking at the figure of Diana and the Stag, the Metropolitan Museum's description states that Cupid is with Diana and that there are two frogs and four beetles below the stag. The museum's description is well done, but it leaves out such information such as that Diana is holding arrows and she is representing a huntress, while also being a mythological figure. These pieces of descriptive and contextual information is brought forth in the tags. Thus, the words contributed by viewers is adding to our understanding of the piece of art. We learn from one description that Diana wears a crescent set, while from the tags we learn that there is a saddle on the stag and that it acts almost like a horse ("horse" appears in the tags). With the two descriptions combined, we gain a greater understanding of the object at hand.

Lastly... I'm going to answer your general end of term question. Digital humanities has really changed my outlook on research and education. I have learned over the past semester that there are many different windows to open and many doorways to walk through in terms of historical research. I had no idea that thousands of manuscripts have been scanned and made available for public viewing. Tapping into twitter and blogs has helped me discover multiple articles on topics that I am interested in. Instead of just relying on printed books and articles, I now have a vast quantity of sources to call upon. Also, such programs as nGrams and Zotero have made research much easier. I had never heard of GIS before this class, but I am now aware of its usefullness in my own studies. I can use simulations to recreate medieval cities and battles or religious events. Digital Humanities has opened my possibilities of research greatly. I can also use games and simulations for teaching, implementing new education techniques in the classroom. There is a wealth of programs that I have access to, and I can bring these programs to teaching, introducing them to other scholars and students. I think in the future I will be using what I have learned in this class for my own research for my pHD and in my classrooms when I eventually start teaching. The future looks bright for DH and Grant!

[edit] Ryan

Well Grant, I'm going to disagree with you. Mostly because I wanted to counter your rhyming response heading with a little bit of alliteration and not for any fundamental difference of opinion. I'll address the negative aspects of crowd sourcing you pointed out... Of course there are going to be mistakes. There are mistakes when professionals transcribe. But you have to realize that transcribing isn't exactly an easy task. The people who choose to voluntarily transcribe these documents are going to be the ones who are invested in some way. Either this is a topic they love or they are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge in general. Either way, it's a task they take on willingly. And, as Ms. Leon says, "we're not looking for perfect..." Even if the editors do have a ton of work to do in the editing process (editing is a ton of work no matter what) they are still getting the material to edit much more rapidly. They also have the option of completely throwing out the garbage and they are no further behind than they would have been otherwise. They can simply put that section back out into the community and hope that someone more able picks up on the task. This is not to say that the professionals should stop with their transcriptions but they can be helped along by the public. This will greatly speed up the process, which in turn will allow for more editing time anyway. The amateurs augment the professionals. I would never advocate that the professionals should be replaced. Especially in the case of transcription... it's a task that virtually any literate person with a love of the material can excel at.

[edit] Ryan

Tagging... I understand. I understand creating more access paths. I understand deeper engagement. I understand a personal experience. But I don't think it's the greatest idea. Here's why. I'm a dick. Other people are dicks. Simon mentioned the Uncivil We in her article but she didn't do the topic justice. She essentially said not to worry about it. How could we not? It's a real problem. And I know that in traditional museum settings the disruptive behaviors were minimal. The web 2.0 however saw the proliferation of the troll. There's something about the very design of web 2.0 that turns nice innocent people into rage inducing trolls. It seems a bit naive to think that this wouldn't be a problem with web 2.0 structures and principles applied to museums. Offensive and irrelevant tags on things in the Holocaust museum ... uhm. That's going to be a problem! Metadata is too important to trust in the hands of jerks.

And then there's the problem of the well intentioned but, to put it bluntly, dumb people. The tag brown on everything in the museum they come in contact with doesn't help the access path problem. Instead it could very well have the opposite impact. Where you had few but highly relevant returns on your searches before you now have hundreds of hits to sift through. That's a piss off. But, you might say, the muesum staff will clean that up. It won't be a problem. But to clean that up means that you're alienating those well intentioned patrons who thought they were doing something good. They have that momentary thought of 'oh, I wasn't good enough.' We've done more harm to this patron than if they hadn't participated at all. The deeper engagement has directly led to a harder let down. I just hope they weren't suicidal! So, for all the good there is still the negative that shouldn't be ignored.

[edit] Dave

Oh, I could have gone for alliteration, but I chose a simple rhyming structure, so sue me. Ryan, while I heartily endorse your thesis "people are the worst thing about the internet" (I paraphrase), but isn't it the purpose of the interactive living structures of the interwebs that then pre-supposes that we are going to have these unfortunate contributions in addition to otherwise well intentioned participation from the proletariate? (translation: people will foul things up). I am by no means a believer in the concept that the majority must be right since they all strongly feel a particular way, and an overwhelming majority of people can't be wrong, can they? (Weapons of mass destruction, the "Red Menace" of the 1950's, "Shakespeare in Love" beating BOTH "Saving Private Ryan" and "Pulp Fiction" in 1999). The very nature of the interactivity of these platforms, as in Wyman's article on tagging artifacts in a museum or Simon's meditations regarding the web 2.0, allows that we messy humans will get in there and muck things up. It's what we do; we can't help ourselves. This is the glory and disaster of the web - it's an anarchic space that will allow for brilliance and foolishness, often on the same site. Just read some of the commentary that follows any blog post, and you will see my point.

I spent an hour watching Dan Cohen's speech and I can say that it was a nice overview of the material that we have talked about in class this term. Many of his points were pretty evident to me, and I wondered if I would have viewed them in that way prior to taking this course. I don't have an answer to that, but if forced, I would most likely say no. I was also impressed with his championing of blogs as new forms of scholarly discourse, open and free of the time and oversight constraints that traditional print journals still have. His example of the legal blog receiving over one hundred thousand hits a week was very impressive. As Cohen summed up, how many journals will get that many readers in a year (or ever)? The interdisciplinary aspect of the blogosphere was also well highlighted, with authors and writers interacting with the bloggers to answer criticisms or to correct mistakes. Will it encourage me to blog after this course? Hard to say, but I'll end here since I owe a blog FOR this course and it's next on my to-do list. Pats play (lose) at 8:30 after all, and I've got miles to go before I sleep....

[edit] Val

When I first read the title of this week’s seminar, I assumed we would be discussing the idea of collaboration among academics, and so far, when collaboration has been brought up in class this is largely how we’ve talked about it. Mostly, we’ve looked at how the digital humanities have opened up spaces for collaborations between different fields and have talked about the digital humanities as particularly conducive to collaboration. In Patricia Cohen’s article however, she’s looking at collaboration between academics and non-academics through several current projects making use of crowd sourcing. And this of course, in response to question number three, does problematize our understanding of “authority” because it takes the responsibility for a work from an “authoritative” figure, and places it in the hands of a wide range of non-specialized people. Obviously, as Cohen illustrates crowd sourcing projects like the Bentham Project, “underscore how the digital humanities have become a new source of tension between experts and amateurs.” In other words, digital academic projects that involve the input of a general public lack the validity that most academics find necessary for scholarly work, and the digital humanities, are at the root of this problem. Thus, the digital world makes it all too easy for “regular” people to become involved in a “scholarly world” for a long time reserved for academics. Now I can certainly understand how projects like crowd sourcing can be a problem. It certainly leaves room for mistakes and bad work, and I’m not sure if I would ever choose a document I knew had been edited by a large number of non-academics over one that had been worked on by an individual specialist. But I think debates over whether crowd sourcing is useful or not is not as important of a question as the question of authority Melanie and Hiedi bring up. What’s interesting is that James Gee, in his article, makes an argument for the importance of maintaining authorities in the academy and for collaboration between academics in an effort to answer those “big questions” and help non-academics to participate in a public space that brings people together in a collaborative way. But ultimately, he suggests that authorities are necessary for the public good, and I think he makes a good point (although I don't necessarily agree with his overall argument about it being for a public good). As Grant mentioned, even in the Cohen article, experts were still responsible for fixing the mistakes of non-experts. That being said, I think that the web will and probably already has changed what it means to be an authority and maybe instead of seeking to maintain traditional definitions of “authority” we need to start redefining what it means to be one.

[edit] Sean

After some delay, I’m able to dive in on some of these questions and debates. At the outset however, I have to stop and comment on the eloquence of Grant’s ideas and arguments. Online, much like in class, the way he summarizes and re-frames the topic at hand often make me stop and really consider the material from another perspective - it really helps to get a handle on these articles.

In terms of the first question regarding what is scholarly work, I’d argue that it is the individual or collaborative engagement with material in an original way which takes on a specific problem, utilizes a certain methodology, and which seeks to find an appropriate consideration or resolution to that question. I think that with the advent of digital humanities and online collaboration that there has been a shift in the amount and type of resources used, the degree of collaboration, an increase in the amount of amateur consideration and input into discussions, and a subsequent increase in the type of dynamic and creative thinking which transcends traditional education and the professional frameworks for inquiry. The results of this process have been two fold, as Grant, Ryan, and Dave have pointed out. First they allow us to reconsider and re-conceive questions and traditional scholarly approaches, while on the other hand they also serve to introduce a great deal of minutia and un-critical opinion (at best) into the discussion. The key of course, is finding the proper balance between these two extremes.

To this end, certainly the digitization of texts (in all their forms) and the incorporation of museum collections (Ex -Artstor) is an important step towards bringing not only scholarly information and resources to the public, but also in allowing the public to engage and critique the academic forum itself. However, while the open sourcing of resources is good, it also highlights the problem of what the role of education is. Certainly there is a great deal to be said about the inappropriate division academic investigation and the problems of disciplinary boundaries as limiting real inquiry. However, the difficulty isn’t so much, as Patricia Cohen argues, the “problematization of understandings of authority” so much as it is a failure to teach students transferable critical skills and the ability to assess resources rather than focusing on marketable disciplinary facts and ideas. The ability to garner and produce strong and authoritative ideas, necessarily follows from the ability to critically engage material and critically consider it. To this end, I think that Gee does raise a good point and important debate regarding whether or not our education has failed students.

Finally, while I am not one to necessarily want to “open the flood gates” to amateur critique / uninformed opinion, one question which did arise for me in reading Cohen’s article was why we seemingly have a tacit assumption that those individuals not in academia are more prone to error or bias in their ability to critique and transcribe materials? As Ryan rightfully points out, this isn’t an easy task and any large scale venture is bound to contain a great number of problems regardless of who is designing, creating, or re-typing it out. Sorry to ramble...

[edit] Terry

OK. Have I been duped? In reading, Gee’s Society and Higher Education I am at a loss for words. This brilliant scholar has been published, quoted and written about throughout the universe. Yet, I find it hard to read this article as I have been trained by the academics in the same universities that Gee purports have gone completely astray, to respond to broad sweeping statements in a negative way.

For example: “Faced with significant problems, we need reasoned and open debate between authentic conservative and liberal positions. We need this debate in order to understand our problems, to discover novel solutions to them, and to implement meaningful change.” Is he running for office? Can anyone in God’s green earth define an authentic conservative or liberal position? I could go on… but perhaps, I am not in the right ballpark?

In considering question #2, I think that these types of questions are always being asked and always being discussed, especially in educational institutions in North America. Reading Gee’s article (Blog?) creates a déjà vu moment as the same rhetoric has paraded as academic discourse for the last fifty years. Every so often Chicken Little says the sky is falling and we need to discuss creative solutions in order to save it. I, for one, am tired of talking and extremely tired of listening.

“The big question, “What is the purpose of schooling in a society?” Is a sub-question of the yet bigger question, “What is the role of knowledge in a human life?” (remember Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living,” Apology 38). Please remember your own words…Dr. Gee. “These are the sorts of questions that have been at the heart of debate in society for centuries. Proposed answers to them have evolved over time and they have sedimented into our social institutions and practices. As times change, different proposed answers come to fore and sometimes change institutions and history.” And sometimes they do not. “What happens to a society that stops asking such big questions?” Maybe they quit talking and they change... in small baby steps... one idea... one person... one song at a time.”

Solutions? I have not one that has not been placed front and center on a previous table. Yet, I can see collaboration working. Small projects melding together into larger ones and then morphing into spectacular solutions to the problems we face in academia.

At four years of age, I remember my dad threatening to spank me if I did not be quiet and eat my dinner. He was a strict disciplinarian and kids should be seen and not heard… especially at the dinner table! He went on and on (my mother tells me) about how he was going to spank me every time I said a single word.

I remember jumping out of my chair and the phone book that I was sitting on so that I might reach the table hit the floor making a loud thud! Putting my hand on my hip I looked at my father defiantly and said, “well, I wish you would just do it and quit talking about it!” Needless to say, the spanking took place and yes; I am still talking too much!

Dr. Gee, I read your CV all 37 pages. You have done so much with your life, show us how to accomplish the changes needed instead of asking us to talk about them!

[edit] Amen Sister!


[edit] Spencer

While I'd never call myself a Gee apologist, I would like to point out that the two articles we read were part of a larger collection of 5 articles. They can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. If you are interested in (or outraged at) what Gee writes, I recommend reading the entire collection, in which he offers further thought on many themes (including conservatives and liberals).

In response to Grant on crowdsourcing, I align myself with Ryan, agreeing that the benefits of crowdsourced transcription (and for me, tagging) outweigh the potential downsides, such as griefing or simply bad tagging. Interestingly, Ryan agrees with Grant on one but not the other. As far as tagging artefacts with "brown", well, if the object is brown, it deserves that tag, and if you are searching for brown objects, then you will find them. If a tag seems useless, don't search for it.

One of my favourite examples of crowdsourcing can be found here. If possible, I hope to use this and other collections in my PhD work down in the U.S., so I clearly have the crowd to thank for making my work much more feasible. If you have a moment to check out some of the finished transcripts, you'll see that they aren't perfect, but they have a very high standard. In less than a year, this project has managed to transcribe thousands of pages, a task that would have previously taken years. Without these types of projects, many new directions in research would remain closed to scholars.

In my mind, scholarship serves to explore topics through research to develop new understandings and ask new questions, creating a self-perpetuating activity that can involve participants of various levels of expertise in different fields. Collaboration was not explicit in previous generations of scholarship, but was implicit in the nature of scholarly conversations via journals and monographs. A scholar in isolation is of little use to anyone, including her/him-self.

[edit] Heidi

Fantastic discussion so far my wonderful colleagues! Carry on!

[edit] Sean

Having taken some time and read more of Gee, I have to say that I think both Spencer and Valerie have raised some good points. In particular, engaging with the greater concern raised by Gee regarding the role of the public in scholarly discourse and the meaning of "authority". For my own part, having thought some more about it, I think that Gee is correct about getting institutions to not only ask, but also teach their students how to to ask the "big questions". There has been a focus on egalitarianism in education, which has not done anyone a service. Dumbing education down, making it more about socialization than education, and opinion rather than informed consideration has only removed from everyone's ability to approach and critique material. As Gee alludes, scholarly disciplines provide a fragmented consideration of issues which leads to a fragmented and disjointed approach to them, rather than a holistic consideration of them. Schools and teachers do need to again relate the essence of the larger human condition and context rather than particular facts for specific exams or papers. However, the question I would raise, is whether the adoption of digital resources facilitates this shift in education? Certainly the internet and collaboration serve to promote more dynamic research, but does it necessarily expand how schools, educators, and students consider the material? Like Valerie, I too don't trust work that hasn't been produced or edited by a trusted and established authority. This isn't because I am defensive of the academy, as Cohen suggests, but because there are standards and reasons for them. Certainly, standards are in many ways created to defend institutions, and certainly those institutions can be wrong, however, rigorous academic critique exist as a guide post towards achieving a higher standard of understanding not to facilitate any standard or opinion. There is a difference between opinion and scholarly consideration, perhaps it is blurry in places, but it does exist and should be maintained.

To crib one of my favourite shows, in academia we deal with important ideas, and “important thinkers, which are never going to be understood” in an online synopsis or a youtube video, and while I don’t know if any of the scholars of our day are thinking about Immanuel Kant, Socrates, or Shakespeare when dealing with the larger questions, “if they do, I am comforted at least in my certainty that [they] are doing their best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets.”

[edit] Stacey

To answer your first question on blogs being scholarly work, I think it depends more on who is writing them and not necessarily the genre of blogs themselves. If an academic like Cohen, Ramsay or Turkel is writing a blog about the digital humanities then I agree yes that can be a considered a scholarly source. However if its some average Joe ranting about something he’s not really a specialist in nor has much background or knowledge other than wikipedia then I think that blogs can’t be scholarly, much like Val and Sean said. Therefore I think blogs are more of an authorship question and not necessarily a genre or academic source question. I think Cohen makes many sound arguments in his lecture, I especially liked how he compared blogs to journals in that scholars can respond to one another directly and pretty much whenever they want. If scholars are willing to utilize blogs in the academic community, then I say what not?

I really like your second question in terms of academics, I think that largely our computerized world has been fairly ignored in terms of education and we are now at a point where educators are trying to catch up. I think that the education system is failing many students and in some ways I’ve been failed too. I think we have certain expectations for our education but at the end of the day in a sense they’re just expectations without a path before hand in order to get what we want/need out of education. One such example is the extreme disconnect between high school and university education. Many students enter their undergraduate careers and they can’t even write a proper sentence let alone a proper essay. So how do we make up for this? How can we fix our education problem? I think the DH world can help and we should be more open to it! I feel like my post secondary education has constantly emphasized the traditional methods of learning (reading and writing). Take for example formatting an essay in history, I spent hours learning how to properly cite books and journal articles for four loooonnng years and then I found out that programs like Zotero will do it for you with a simple click and drag! So why not show students these programs as soon as possible because then they can free up their time to do more research or explore new avenues of learning. Which brings me to my next point, why can’t we have new avenues of learning, why can’t we experiment with different types of projects such as documentaries or game simulations in a class instead of writing a traditional style essay? Does it really cause harm if we change things that can enhance our learning? I could go on for hours about our current education system... however I have a paper to get back to. Go Team Mac!!! Excellent questions ladies!! I look forward to discussing your end of term question in class!!

[edit] Dave

The question on crowd sourcing reminded me of the story of James Murray who was composing the definitive version of the Oxford dictionary in the 19th c. Dr. Murray sent out a call to "learned men of letters" to help in this mammoth project. The most prolific of his contributors was an American living in London. Dr. W.C. Minor was a veteran of the Civil War and a surgeon. Dr. Minor produced tens of thousands of definitions for the reference work, one that Murray would not live to see to its conclusion. Many others contributed dozens and sometimes hundreds of entries to the slips of paper Murray sent out for definitions, but Minor was prolific and unerringly precise. Did I mention that he was also confined to the Broadmoor institute for the criminally insane for the murder of an innocent man that Minor believed was an assassin sent to kill him?

Clearly collaboration in some fields (linguistics, epistemology) have existed for some time; I still see history as a somewhat siloed field. We have our own research and projects and the ability to share those concepts or throw it out on the web to see what comes back is anathema to most current scholars. I see pioneers like Dan Cohen making inroads to this approach, but it is clearly an uphill battle.

My overly broad point is that the need for collaboration on a project as immense as defining the English language was a very Victorian concept and one that only could be completed (after 40 + years) by the contributions of "men of letters" and eventually excited lay persons. Those contributions were still vetted by Murray or a member of his team at Oxford and that double checking added to the time needed to publish the volumes. This is always a part of the issue in crowd sourcing and exponentially so today with the amazing power of the digital age. The issue of authority that Sean, Stacey and Val have raised in their thoughtful posts still troubles me, since I will forever be the skeptic, taking the long view of history and referring back to H.L. Menken: "I have never gone wrong by underestimating the intelligence of the American public".

Yeah, I said it.

[edit] Rob

Okay so I opted for alliteration vs. rhyming. Here's a grammatical question: what is a synonym for unemployed? If you guessed Humanists of the future, you have guessed correctly. And if you haven't guessed, I do enjoy being provocative.

In light of the readings this week, especially pertaining to crowd sourcing, it seems to me that scholars and those in academic authority are essentially doing themselves out of a job. Look at wikipedia. Do most people in the general public even bother to consider the authority of the source there? Do they go and ask a scholar instead? Hells no! Nowadays if anyone wants to know about a subject, that is generally their first, and probably last, stop. Likewise, even though projects like the "Bentham project" are opening these documents to the public and allowing them to transcribe things, doesn't it beg the question that will inevitably be asked: Why are we financially supporting "academics" when we could just do the work ourselves?! A case where Mr. Everyman tears down our hallowed halls not in the interests of egalitarianism, but out of some misplaced sense of puffed up authority that we have given over that we might make the humdrum aspects of a scholar's job easier? It's like a director handing over the reigns of storyboarding a movie to anyone who has ever made a video of a cat dancing to Justin Beiber so that he can relax and focus on his Oscar speech. Though this example is extreme and absurd, it seems like a good analogy to the logical destination we're headed.

Gee also talks about this idea of Colleges and Universities essentially becoming caricatures. He actually says a lot about a lot. I loved his blogs btw. I would add, by incorporating such things as crowd sourcing, are we further making them redundant? Or in agreement with Gee, are we only helping to make them in "camp" or vocational schools?

And may I add, Gee points out the nature of "discussions" as being essentially useless unless there is already a certain degree of shared knowledge among the participants (note "knowledge"). I do wonder what he would have to say about the model of: read, discuss amongst yourselves, write a paper (note: "paper"). Blind leading the blind? The one-eyed being kings? Not that I know of any MA programs like that.

I must say, though I have become a member of the choir for DH, I can envision a very probable future where technology makes Colleges and Universities, and the attendant professionals that work in them, in the sense that we know them obsolete. Where everyone is an authority simply based on access to a podium. Where disciplined observation becomes an offensive term, and any request for it becomes simply a voice crying out in the wilderness. Really a slightly altered version of "Idiocracy".

Three cheers for post-modernism and progress!!!


[edit] Class Notes


- Dr. Kee in class and Robert on the Wiki: The idea of the University is being called into question

- Val in the Wiki: it’s an issue of authority

- Grant in the Wiki: What happens when an expert deletes ppls’ comments

- Activity: Tagging Tim Hortons cup using Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)

- Description: brown, Canadian, coffee, cup, hot, hockey, etc

- We see how specific museums are; usefulness of social tagging?

Dave: How many parameters is one allowed?

Ryan: colour not useful

Spencer: if you’re going to start tagging it with crowd sourcing, include basics that can be made more specific in the future

Ryan: experience causes ppl to be less specific; not useful

Sean: doesn’t have a problem with public, but will it take/waste more time?

Dave: Patricia Cohen; “pro-amateurs”; if something is repeated enough it ‘becomes’ truth

Grant: agrees with Dave; idea of letting public take part can be a ‘pain’; eg of Lincoln letters mistakes; time and money; Wyman: ppl will see things that museum curators won’t see

Val: depends on purpose of involving the public; trying to be engaging? Yes, a good thing; if meant to be more accessible, can make more confusing, can be against what museums are about

Rob: brings up feelings… AGAIN! All about opinion; we’re all authorities

Terry: could it be exhibit specific? Tagging on something you know

Ryan: deeper engagement is a good thing but activities at a museum are different than opening up meta data to the general public; taking on a part of the role of museum staff, which he has a problem with; if it’s getting them engaged, fine let them tag; if it changes meta data it’s a problem

Melanie: problem of authority; how does this affect how we see universities

Rob: Future problems with jobs in humanities; we’re ‘doing ourselves out of jobs’; less jobs in museums, less jobs in academia because of online courses

Grant: comes down to where you draw the line; how involved do you want the public to be; Simon’s article and museums

Sean: if everyone starts to think that they’re an authority, it undermines everything

Dr. Kee: can change output/product; classic museums versus level of engagement; to what degree does it then change what we do

Dave: exhibits that are more engaging and less static; deep connections because interactive and asking you to become engaged; a museum can be so much more; engaging but not necessarily changing anything

Robert: isn’t the idea more about input? Allowing the public more to decide what is shown and what the interpretation is to;

Ryan: still has to be academic space of learning; physical space is key too; worry is that you can put everything online; part of the museum experience is the physical space; can you get the same experience online

Terry: what if ppl reconfigure history?

Ryan: even something like tagging is leading; tags change essential meaning

Spencer: are you suggesting only misleading tags would be on there? If your history excludes that ppl believe different things, it is incomplete

Ryan: because a lot of time it doesn’t make sense

Dr. Kee: isn’t the problem that we are happy preaching to the choir; we know what we’re supposed to do/say; isn’t the benefit of the chaos that we are getting beyond ourselves

Grant: can tags be a bad reflection on the museum? KKK sympathizers?

Dave: what should a museum do? General public vs experts

Grant: what does a museum do? What is supposed to do?

Dr. Kee: you can get called up before parliament; if we just stayed away from the adjectives, judgement; problem is going beyond facts; but, that’s what we do in the humanities. We make judgements

Dave: different debates

Terry: public money vs private money

Dave: is there such a thing as public space

Grant: if you have a blog web 2.0 collaboration then different perceptions are coming in; big supporter of blogs on museum websites

Melanie: what Is the point/purpose? Cohen- what is the purpose of scholarly work. Gee- what is the purpose of university

Terry: on Gee; agrees with points, in her mind she could not use that blog at all; can talk about or enjoy but cannot quote

Dr. Kee: disagreements on Gee show what happens when we collaborate on the Wiki; you read something and respond quickly; medium has sealed for eternity a moment; blogging, what if I get misquote/misrepresented; raises interesting points of risk of collaborating is bumping heads; what is the risk of collaborating when we are bumping heads

Terry: importance of peer review; role of authority

Dr. Kee: he wanted to get book out on the blogosphere first and get feedback; isn’t one of the beauties of writing things that no one will read that we get academic freedom

Melanie: should universities reevaluate what is ‘quotable’

Ryan: what Gee is saying; up on his soap box; good to question but what are you proposing; agree with article but don’t like it

Melanie: do you agree with Gee? Need for reassessment?

Stacey: goes back to debates from earlier in the year; university standards lowered, everyone gets in

Robert: idea that if the public can become an ultimate authority; why do we need university? All we need is a vocational school

Terry: off Stacey’s point- job switched because graded too hard, failed majority of students

Dr. Kee: we have experts, we have professional amateurs, all in conversation together but the expert has his special place - does this work for understanding

Grant: if a student is interested in something, why not have a yearly reading course - in the process they learn the bigger ideas of it. Profs give undergrads a mini version of what graduates get - if student have a specific interest they should be able to fully delve into it, needs to be addressed

Heidi: burrito bracket question

Grant: if someone knows that much, a website is the perfect way to share the info if they are an expert

Val: 538 blog came after the bracket, huge following, very well-known, got a job in a newspaper - online journalist, does this make him an academic? Does this consider itself as academic work?

Dave: blurs the lines between academic/non-academic work, needs to be accountable - needs overarching theoretical structure

Rob: bracket is more relevant then lots of academic areas of study, more applicable to real life. Speaks to making universities relevant. Answer kevin’s question about experts - could work, sees trend of universities being politically incorrect - how dare someone tell me im not right or they are

Ryan: bracket uses the university method - most people respect the method, but people have a problem with universities because its full of elitists jerks, ivory tower. Break with society - we are in an academic bubbles and people get their backs up because we have a break from regular society - we try to separate ourselves, but they respect the methods, he talks to them as their own level

Terry: professors haven’t worked in the real world, lived experience counts for very little, don’t know the new ways of doing research

Grant: we can learn a lot from the bracket

Val: if you read the thing after Cohen - said the bracket wasn't that successful. 538 was very successful - as it because of his method or because it was a popular issue?

Ryan: lots of people probably tried to write about it but this guy had the methods that made him legit

Dave: very familiar with maps, spreadsheets, math - translated into something useful that because his job - more professional then professional amateur

Val: subject matter itself needs to be considered. ALso, there is criticism about the expert in the university - not relevant lectures, gee touches on this. The lecture should be a discussion and should be beneficial, learning from an expert allows us to gain more from lectures

Rob: fighting a losing battle trying to pull things back

Grant: lectures are a way of having profs keep authority, however if its a good lecture you’ll want to go back to it. In the past I’ve had bad lectures that were bad - didn’t take anything away from them. The ones given well are what I took something away from. Professionals have to keep on top of things, still seen as the professionals not being shoved into the amateur category

Heidi: relates to museums - engaging ones were best. Profs don’t engage students to speak on stage - relates to tagging - Dave was engaged throughout the museum and that was the one he liked best

Ryan: unique position - historians have experienced all the good things Gee talks about in our seminars - we are coming at it from a different perspective then other types of students. Authority has to have a genuine interest in what they’re doing, reflect on us learning from you - makes it easier. Put off by profs who aren’t interested

Rob: teaching ability? Passion can be good, but they can still suck as a teacher. Teaching colleges - teachers with higher degrees - are they more teacher than scholar or visa versa?

Terry: taught for 40 years or taught once 40 different times?

Dave: profs get into a rut of teaching. Collaboration - first and second year seminars were the least involved and engaging. Not until 3rd and 4th year that they get better - people really engaged. 1st and 2nd year you look forward to lecture not seminar.

Grant: my undergrad - a quiz between the TA and myself. Passion and teaching - student really interested in a certain subject with a reading course will do better - don’t have the lecture style, passion of prof will come out to student

Heidi: how many people know what they want to do that early?

Rob: depends on style of learning as well (Melanie agrees). Some people learn from a book, not discussion. Idea of the blind leading the blind - would be nice to get a lecture every once in awhile. Half of us don’t even know the subject we are TA for. If students haven’t done the word or making fluffy comments, we cant do much.

Stacey: whose fault is it?

Spencer: in our seminars are we trying to teach them content or teach them skills? Gee says content is not unique, everyone has access to it. If you want lecture knowledge just go out and buy a book - profs will be able to teach you the skills that go along with being a scholar. Whole point of being here is to practise what we’re doing. University for the process of the work, not the knowledge. Abilities are what establishes someone as an authority - everyone has a voice, but their ability to write will make them an authority. All the info is the same - crowd sourcing will bring other bits of information to let the other experts pull it together coherently

Ryan: this is evident in blogs. The best ones are the ones who have those kinds of skills, they don’t spout random crap.

Grant: agree with spencer. See it in examples form our own schooling. We use well written essays as a model, because we know its well written and organized. The ones that are not good, we hate reading. We get the content, and the skills comes through what we learn

Rob: idea of audience is important as well. One will reach a much wider audience then the other - who are we trying to reach?

Mel: what is the point of scholarly presses? - More info to more people

Heidi: and the rate of speed at which you can put things up - more material as fast as possible? Or is it the process?

Rob: if the point is to tackle big questions we have to do so in ways that more people can understand them. Scholarship is far from this mark

Spencer: traditional modes of scholarship put the onus on the form to vouch for the skill set behind it, the authority behind it. This process ives validity to what he/she is doing - the process catches errors. When we publish online or wider audience, that becomes our own responsibility - should be like that all the time. Journals have set it up so researchers don’t have to be as diligent - revision. If you know you wont be accepted you can put in half-assed work and revise what you put up, can’t do that in a blog post because other people will know your an idiot - might scare academics away from this form

Dave: immediacy scares people, but this is part of the evolution of scholarship. Books take years, journals 6 months. Blogs - its out there, what are they going to think? References our own blogs as an example

Ryan: blogs are evolving - the nature of the blog is that you put it out there, get feedback and your argument can evolve - often publish in parts, so you can fix things based on response. Its not as insular.

The end! Thank you for your insightful comments!

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