Teaching teachings

I am teaching DH this term, which is quite exciting. Since it is a temporary job with no dedicated classes or modules constraining me into specific themes, I was creative when it came to suggesting topics. As it turns out, the four classes that I am giving and the way I am giving them is more special than I thought it was. They carry much more the imprint of my understanding of DH as a whole than I had realized at first. As long as I was in a traditional department of literary studies, I could afford one digital feature at a time – encoding/digital edition, blogging, zotero for bibliographies for instance -, but hardly mix them.

With four classes at four different institutes, I have the opportunity to teach all of what I have been doing in research over the past three years: digital edition, historical networks, infrastructure and international scholarly communication, quality assessment of web resources. As if this were not enough, I am adding blogging and twitter interviews to it as well as writing of wikipedia articles – but also a trip to the archive. And the students seem to find it weird that I write with a fountain pen and have an actual calendar in which I write my appointments with them (I do so with my fountain pen, too). It is as if I had to be totally digital, live by and through digitality.

So this is me having but a term to teach them that not everything has to be digital or has to be about being digital, but for some things, it matters that we ask ourselves what there really is behind the digitality of it. How do you present good science online, how do you find good science online, how do you contribute to people finding good science and being able to discriminate it from commercial interests? I keep repeating it and I hope that I will never lose faith in it: I don’t want google to decide what and how my children and grandchildren will read. As a literary scholar, I want to contribute to setting standards for texts on the web (and hope that they will still be worth something when my children will become parents themselves and my main occupation will consist in baking apple pies).

A year or two ago, I thought that my contribution to a better digital scholarship would mainly consist in providing a solid scholarly edition that would mainly offer much more reliable information and interface with other research projects than your standard online pdf. Today, I am convinced that outreach and dissemination have to be part of digital scholarship from the first moment on, because it is the only way to bridge the gap with the users of other web formats – the only way for my children and grandchildren not to let google decide for them what and how they will read. Well, and for my students, too.


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