Institut zur Erforschung und Förderung österreichischer und internationaler Literaturprozesse
Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies
Reichenau, May, 24-27, 2001
 TRANS No. 10: 
"Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies" 
(since June 2001)

Electronic Publishing and the Future of Humanities Scholarship
Cary Nathenson (Houston)

The cliché that academics from the humanities are slow to warm to technological innovations is not entirely accurate.  Most faculty members have long since overcome their anxieties about the Internet.  We email colleagues, conduct research on the web, even find academic positions through on-line job postings.  But while departmental web sites and email discussion forums now belong to everyday life in the humanities, it would be wrong to claim that the face of scholarship has been fundamentally altered.  The primary vehicle for disseminating scholarly research remains traditionally printed journals and books.

In this presentation, I will explore the reasons for this apparent contradiction between technophile academics and their technophobic media.  I will illustrate my discussion with an account of my own on-going attempt to create a new “e-journal” of German studies.  I argue that the challenges facing the application of (not so) emerging technology to humanities scholarship are not technological but ideological in nature.  The primacy of print journals and books for advancing scholarship and academic careers, I claim, also insulates the profession against dramatic structural change.

In most fields within the humanities, and in the academy in general, traditional print journals and book publications are an integral part of a system of knowledge distribution that valorizes the lone scholarly effort as a finished “product.”  There is little, if anything, inherent in the structure of humanities publishing that promotes collaborative efforts or fosters a productive debate about the theses of the publication.  An article in a print journal or a book manuscript is always presented to a scholarly audience as a fait accompli; “works in progress” are deemed unprofessional or, at best, the province of conference papers.  Thus, academic publishing reflects and reinforces an anachronistic model of scholarship based on isolated acts of “genius,” a spurious if not mythical view of scholars.  The thrust of my argument, then, is that the debate over the future of technology and academic publishing in the humanities is actually a debate over the role of academicians themselves.  Will we remain beholden to antiquated concepts of the scholar that protect but limit individual professors or will we truly embrace much-touted notions of interdisciplinarity and collaboration?  I will show how the question of “e-journals” versus print journals provides insight into this greater and so crucial question.

Papers held at the conference "Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies" are published in
TRANS. Internet journal for Cultural Studies, No. 10/2001

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