In private conversation humanities scholars increasingly give voice to a strange confession regarding digital scholarship: “Actually, I’m O.K. with it, but the institution is not.” Such a stark opposition between an assertion of individual progressiveness and a hesitation about institutional entrenchment hides a more complex story.
As institutions become increasingly open to new approaches, resistance to digital work still emanates more from a traditionalism rooted in departmental lore. It’s hard to change cultures, but academic publishing currently confronts a major structural transformation, and contributors as well as evaluators seek advice on how to assess digital projects. What steps should scholars, especially younger ones, take with their digital work to ensure that it will “count” toward hiring, promotions and tenure?
When I advise doctoral students assembling their dossiers for humanities teaching positions, most report great excitement about their digital projects, but remain uncertain whether to mention these for fear that they won’t “count” or that they may even count against their applications. Some tell me their advisers have encouraged such projects, but also doubted that one can be hired or promoted solely on the basis of digital contributions.