ICYMI – Matt Delmont on doing digital history and how important it is that digital work counts (especially for junior scholars) as serious research and teaching:
“Digital projects should not be a unique privilege of tenured faculty. Scholars writing dissertations, revising first books, or creating public history projects could benefit from using digital tools to draft, prototype, or remix their research and writing. Rather than being seen as time spent away from doing what really “counts,” digital work has the potential to make scholars more creative, inquisitive, and precise. Indeed, the AHA’s guidelines for digital scholarship call for digital historians to be more self-reflective than their analog peers: “For their part, scholars who embark upon digital scholarship have a responsibility to be as clear as possible at each stage of conceiving, building, and sharing that scholarship about the implications and significance of using the digital medium for their contribution to the scholarly conversation.” This suggests that by using digital tools and methods, historians must engage explicitly with what it means to be a historian—a valuable practice for scholars at every level.
“I hope that tenure does not remain the only horizon for what it means for digital projects to count. I am tired of offering graduate students and untenured faculty the same advice I would have received a decade ago: “Finish the book and get tenure before doing a digital project.” I would rather encourage them to create the kinds of scholarship they want to see in the profession and in the world. This is difficult in a field where many scholars are first-generation PhDs and have little space to veer from traditional paths through the academy. Institutional support for African American digital history practitioners and projects is particularly important in this regard. The University of Delaware’s Colored Conventions project and the University of Maryland’s Synergies project, for example, are helping to redefine the relationship between digital humanities and African American history. Similarly, digital skills workshops are now a robust part of the annual Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference. If scholars of African American history are called to communicate to audiences beyond the academy, we are also called to build institutions and networks to support this work.”