Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Annotated Bibliography Cluster II:Writing and Reviewing Digital Scholarship

On Writing In Public/Peer to Peer Review

Daugherty, Jack, and Kristen Nawrotzki, eds. Writing History in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Written as a peer review volume and published in both print and open access online formats, this collection of essays purposes to “explicate and embody” the opportunities that historians have as a result of the digital age. Furthermore, this volume purposes to challenge traditional beliefs about writing and publishing scholarship. Among many topics, essays discuss historical writing in the digital age, visual/spatial based arguments, blogging in the academy, and more. For example, author Ansley Erickson argues that digital tools allowed her to discover new interpretations of her sources that she could not have discovered otherwise. Most importantly, the books’ qualities of being born digital, having open peer review, and being open access, demonstrate the changing practices of publication and peer review in the field of history.

Graham, Shawn, Ian Milligan, and Scott Weingart. Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian's Macroscope. Hackensack, New Jersey: Imperial College Press, 2016.

Publicly writing their book online, the authors edited their book as they received feedback from the community and ultimately published their book as a hard copy and online. As a result, the book’s pre-publication “Final Draft” is made available online for free. While the book’s ideal target audiences are undergraduate students, graduate students, researchers, and professors can all benefit from this book alike. Divided into three sections, the authors effectively structure their book around three areas of emphasis: the first part of the book provides an overview of the field of digital history, the second part of the book holds an “emphasis hands-on textual analysis,” and the third part of the book looks as networks as being a type of analysis and a powerful visualization (11). Through their work, the authors demonstrate different tools available to digital historians; examples of tools include wordle, regular expressions, and voyant. While their book is structured more like a textbook and less like an argumentative narrative, through the way the authors wrote and published their book, they successfully demonstrate that history can be written publicly, be made available online, and still produce revenue. Through their work, the authors promote open access, collaboration, and peer review in the digital age.

Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

This book is structured as a collection of essays by a variety of authors in the field of digital humanities. The various essays are categorized in such a way as to cover 6 topics: defining, theorizing, critiquing, practicing, teaching, and envisioning the future of the field of digital humanities. One essay in the defining digital humanities section, “This is Why We Fight:” Defining the Values in the Digital Humanities by Lisa Spiro, uniquely contributes to the historiography of the field; in this essay, Spiro suggests promoting the core values of openness, collaboration, collegiality and connectedness, diversity, and experimentation within digital humanities. Another section of the book, criticizing the humanities, contributes to the literature of the field as it talks about critical topics that need improvement within the field; for example, this section discusses ways to equally promote the field to both men and women, developing digital technology with universal design principles, and more.

On Methodological Transparency

Blevins, Cameron. “Mining and Mapping the Production of Space.” Online accompaniment to “Space, Nation, and the Triumph of Region: A View of the World from Houston." Journal of American History. Vol. 101, No. 1. June 2014,

Published in 2015 as the first digital methods essay, this metagraph serves as an supplement to Blevins’ 2014 article, “Space, Nation, and the Triumph of Region: A View of the World from Houston." In this metagraph, Blevins explains his visualizations, the meanings behind them, and the ways he interpreted them. Explaining his methods, Blevins shares the way he used distant reading to analyze how The Houston Daily Post created space in the late 19th century. For example, Blevins explains how by counting every instance of place names, he was able to “flatten” the text and ignore context; for instance, he shares that the word “Dallas” on the front page headline was given the same weight as the word “Dallas” in a retail advertisement. In all, this essay represents the changing practices in the field as it answers the call to methodological transparency by providing explanations and contextualization to the author’s methods. Furthermore, while Blevins does not reveal his target audience, he is likely writing for traditional historians, other digital historians, reviewers, and anyone reading his JAH article.

Gibbs, Fred and Trevor Owens. “The Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing.” Writing History in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Writing to digital historians, Gibbs and Owns ask the question, how can digital historians expect others to accept their new methodologies when the “new ways of working with data seem like a mysterious black box?” Considering this, the authors conclude that the new ways of digitally interpreting data demand a methodological transparency. As part of explaining methodologies, Gibbs and Owen argue that authors should be clear what their data implies and does not imply, how they interpret evidence, and how they intend to use their evidence. Through their work, the authors explain that as historians embrace the opportunities in the digital age, they must share their hermeneutics of data (their interpretation of data) in order to gain respect as digital historians.

On Digital History Reviews

Cameron Blevins, "The New Wave of Review." Posts (blog). March 7, 2016,

Written as a blog post, Cameron Blevins shares how digital history is experiencing a new “review wave,” pointing to the AHA Guidelines for American history, the JAH’s first digital reviews, and other examples. In discussing the lack of online reviews for digital history, Blevins shares how the immediacy of blogging and the challenge of subject specialization make it difficult for digital projects to be reviewed online by other digital historians. Analyzing the new wave of digital reviews, Blevins shares how such reviews can often be categorized as pedagogy and public engagement, academic scholarship, and data and design criticism. Taking issue with these types of reviews, Blevins argues that digital historians to substantially review digital scholarship “in terms of new historical knowledge, insight, and interpretations that these projects contribute to the field.” Writing for digital historians and scholars evaluating digital scholarship, Blevins concludes that digital reviews should be based on a project’s methodological strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the project’s historical contributions.

Georgini, Sara. “Reviewing Digital History.” The Junto. January 2015,

Presented as a transcription of an interview between Dr. Jeffrey McClurken and The Junto, this blog post discuses reviewing digital history. In his interview, McClurken answers questions about his initial experiences in the field, the influence of big data on his personal scholarship, his own professional career, the influence of digital history on peer review, and more. Discussing peer review and digital history, McClurken notes that in digital history, there is no single audience, but rather, different expectations depending on the project’s target audience. Thus, when he chooses which digital projects to review, McClurken tries to review scholarship that covers lots of topics that use different methodologies to meet the expectations of different audiences. Overall, this blog speaks to the field’s developing practice of digital reviews.

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Digital Scholarship in History. America Historical Association, 2016.

This posting discusses guidelines for reviewing digital history projects based on suggestions from the AHA. According to the AHA, digital projects fall into one of the following categories: archive, electronic essay/exhibit, teaching resources, tool, gateway, journal/webzine, organization or virtual community. Additionally, the AHA outlines several guidelines for evaluating digital projects; such guidelines include addressing the topics of content, form, audience/use, and new media. While this post is primarily written for individuals reviewing digital scholarship, it may also be written for creators of digital scholarship to set a standard for which their scholarship will be evaluated. Considering this, this post serves to normalize the changing practice of digital reviews.

Lichtenstein, Alex, Joshua Sternfeld, Stephen Robertson, Natalie Zacek, and Vincent Brown. “AHR Exchange: Reviewing Digital History.” American Historical Review. Vol. 121, No. 1, February 2016: 141-186.

For the first time ever, in its February 2016 issue the AHR featured two reviews (and author responses) of digital history projects. This is significant for both the development of the journal and the field of Digital History as a whole, as digital projects seek to earn the same respect shown to traditional, print scholarship. For its first DH reviews, the AHR looked at two interactive web based projects: Digital Harlem: Every- day Life, 1915–1930 and Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760–1761: A Cartographic Narrative. Both digital mapping sites, these two projects show how “digital tools can reveal both geospatial and sociohistorical patterns not visible through a more “traditional” reading of the historical sources available” (141). Comparing the two digital project reviews and their associated author responses, Digital Harlem was criticized for its lack of argument while Slave Revolt in Jamaica was praised for its historiographical contribution.

Guldi, Jo, David Armitage. Deborah Cohen, and Peter Mandler. “AHR Exchange: On The History Manifesto.” The American Historical Review. Vol. 120, No. 2. April, 2015: 527-554.

In The History Manifesto, authors Guldi and Armitage argue that historians should embrace the role of using the new long dureé methodologies to study the past in order to understand the present and predict the future. Written for professional historians and junior scholars, this book serves as a call to arms for new long dureé studies. In their review of The History Manifesto, Cohen and Mandel take issue with Guldi and Armitage by claiming that the evidence used to support The History Manifesto’s arguments are often taken out of context, misinterpreted, and lead to opposite conclusions. In response to the critique, Guldi and Armitage highlight the judgmental tone of the critique and then reaffirm their arguments in The History Manifesto by further explaining their evidence.

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