This session focused on the way that changing technology has the tendency to work against the grain of established cultural habits, both within and outside the academy. The rise of the digital seems to mean that we rethink not just how we present our scholarship, but what we present and why (for example, Smarthistory content is accessed by users in an incredible range of cultural contexts, all of whom can bring a rich array of background information towards a global conversation about the meanings of artworks).
Overall, the most pressing needs articulated were to be our own advocates. Some argued for pressing forward with the adoption of models from the sciences (such as open peer review or rapid response publishing) that could make scholarly publication more open and dynamic. Others considered how conventions like citation need to evolve to stay current in a world of digital publishing. Many advocated for a revised model of evaluating the scholarly importance of digital material for tenure and promotion and suggested the inclusion of outside referees to ensure it received adequate recognition. Perhaps the most interesting conversation arose as to how to archive digitally published material, which can have a disturbing short “shelf-life” compared with more traditional books or articles. No consensus was achieved but many fronts were opened for further conversation and collaboration.
Mike Maizels, Predoctoral Fellow, National Portrait Gallery