For my sixth blog post on digital culture I’d like to focus on digital scholarship, specifically surrounding digital exhibits. One of our main class discussions points this week was how technology, the internet, and social media have all become new avenues for scholarship. The American Historical Association sets guidelines for evaluating the validity of this new type of scholarship. To test and learn more about the topic, I’ll look at a Stanford digital exhibit called “ORBIS, The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World”.
To give some background into ORBIS, it’s a digital model to display both travel routes and travel times of the Roman world. For instance you can see all land and sea routes between all provinces, and know how long it would take a person to walk on foot from Rome to Tarraco. At first glance, this is just something cool to look at and mess around with. But a deeper look shows the amount of data and research that went into a massive digital scholarship project like ORBIS. The format is one that welcome exploration of the topic, not only can you know travel times and travel routes, you can explore what affect the season and mode of transportation would have on a Roman’s travel. The AHA helps us separate this digital exhibit from other sites online displaying similar topics, but without the validity that comes with ORBIS. The AHA defines valid research as one of the requirements behind true digital scholarship. The AHA also encourages collaboration from multiple sources and opinions when creating digital scholarship. ORBIS accomplishes this by providing tabs to describe their research and creation process, which required a large team pulling from a large amount of past research.
This project would not be possible, or at least not nearly as accessible, in analog form. If I was to transfer ORBIS into analog or physical form, I guess I would pick a map along with a book to describe the many routes, travel times, and variables that go along with the project. Analog form would cause a significant loss to the possible scholarship value of the project. The online form promotes easy and quick modes for exploration through the information. While analog form would contain the same information, it would not be as easy to navigate or truly learn from.
When considering other viewpoints, it’s common for some to see more value and validity in old forms of non-tech scholarship. While I agree that there is much more nonsense to weave through online, we cannot lose sight of the value that comes with the new forms of online and digital scholarship. Digital scholarship has the potential to advance human learning and development at a faster rate than ever before. Conversations over digital scholarship in DCI are extremely important, because it’s one of the most important developments in human learning in recent history.