I’m at THATCamp today and tomorrow at CHNM, where we have more than 70 people interested in digital humanities all gathered in an “unconference” where the interests of the group determined the topics and schedule for the day. As a historian, I don’t think I can express how happy I am that the participants are not reading papers. If the AHA meetings were anything like this, the membership would actually start to think that sessions were worth attending.
The first session of the day that I attended was a wide-ranging discussion of teaching and digital humanities. Because I arrived late (the hazard of attending a conference/camp in your home town), I can’t really say too much about the discussion. But toward the end the discussion turned to how to make digital work “count” toward tenure and promotion in the ways that more conventional things (books, articles, student end-of-semester evaluations of teaching) count.
This business of “counting” seems to come up over and over and over at any gathering of people trying to innovate in higher education. It happens when people interested in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning come together. It happens when people working in digital humanities come together. And I’d be willing to bet that it happens when people doing service learning or field studies come together.
If there were an easy solution to this problem, we’d have come up with it already. I wish I could be more optimistic, but in history at least, I think we’re still a full scholarly generation (10-15 years) away from digital history actually “counting” the ways that other scholarship counts. Why? Reference my earlier comment about historians reading their papers at conferences. We are perhaps the most conservative and fussy tribe in academia. And until we, as a community of scholars, decide to be less fussy, less conservative, people on this particular part of the cutting edge of our discipline, this kind of work just isn’t going to “count” the same way a book or a peer-reviewed currently do.
And so, we’re doomed to keep expressing our angst about it all for at least another decade. But once more of us sit on tenure and promotion committees, things will change…slowly, because we’re historians. But change they will.