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If we apply a science paradigm, a digital humanities scholar could be compared to an experimental physicist, as someone who designs processes and instruments to find the answers to their research questions.   But the most striking difference between the experimental humanist and the experimental physicist lies in the fate of these processes and instruments after the article on the findings they enabled has been written: they are transcended, perhaps licensed to another for further use, perhaps simply discarded.  Why are we so different about our electronic data?  Would it be enough for humanistic scholars as well to draw their conclusions and let it go either to be developed by someone else or to mildew?  Or is there something inherently different in the nature of our data, that we should be so attached to its survival?  For example, we expect to receive credit for scholarly editions—why should we not receive it for digital scholarly editions?  Are the data collections created by humanists inherently more accessible and open than an experimental physicist’s algorithm or shade-tree spectroscope?  Are we not just creating slaves and drones, tools to meet our need, but instead, as McGann puts it elsewhere, contributing to a “Global Library,” something that invites users across time and space to access the information within and use it to answer their own questions and undertake their own experiments?

If so, then there is another pachyderm in the parlor to address, which is the conundrum of reuse.  We all know the excitement of the digital project, the feeling that comes as the tide of understanding begins to break over us with each new iteration of the interface or each refinement of the search terms.  The day we send the URL around to our scholarly colleagues is a great day, and we bask in the congratulations they return to us.  But then what?  Usage studies confirm that after our close friends and colleagues have an initial trawl of our project data, rate of reuse of digital projects is actually disappointingly low.  Is it that the act of organizing a digital collection or a dataset is always already too powerful an act of editorialism, thereby marking that intellectual territory as no longer open for original investigation?  Is it that in a world where the size of the ocean of analog data means that the mere choice to digitize a manuscript or a collection leaves a watermark that reads “noli me tangere”?  Or is it that we simply don't have the infrastructure to communicate about works produced in this manner?  Stripped of publishers’ lists, of their marketing channels and peer review and quality control systems, are we failing the next generation of scholars by creating too many resources in the wild?

Culture change is always the most difficult part of any corporate project, and in this case we have neither the profit motive nor the bounded scale of operations to hold our community together while we try to change minds not just about the value of digital editions, but of scholarly editions of all kinds. Generations of big projects, Europe’s DARIAH and Project Bamboo not excepted, seem to struggle with the notion that the right tools will turn the scholarly Sauls to Pauls, and bring them in their droves into the digital fold. Others put forward the notion that generational change will bring us along regardless of our efforts for or against changes in modes of scholarly communication. But younger scholars have a long road of apprenticeship to endure before they can call the tune rather than merely dance, and many of them will be well and truly institutionalized by the time they can take a bold stance on what they produce from their research. The elephant in the room may therefore in fact be an iceberg, with many layers of analog problems filling the depth beneath the digital ones we tend to focus on. Change can come, and organizations like the DHO and the Trinity Long Room Hub are well placed to facilitate changing attitudes from above and below. If, to paraphrase another old bit of rhetoric, we can get beyond the entrenched attitudes of the stonemasons and the bricklayers, perhaps we will all be able to see that what we are building is a cathedral.

Notes

1 .   http://web.me.com/xcia0069/nof.html . Thanks to Alastair Dunning of JISC and to Mark Hedges, who graciously shared their summary of the data with us. 2 (External Link) . 3 Alastair  Dunning, “The Tasks of the AHDS: Ten Years On.” Ariadne 48 (July 2006). (External Link) . 4 (External Link) . 5 Our thanks to Lou Bernard and Laurent Romary for the help with information about TGE Adonis.

Questions & Answers

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Missy Reply
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Joseph
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nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
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Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
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da
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RAW Reply
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Damian
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Professor
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Professor
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Alexandre
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Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
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LITNING Reply
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LITNING Reply
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LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
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Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
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Source:  OpenStax, Online humanities scholarship: the shape of things to come. OpenStax CNX. May 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11199/1.1
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