where credit is due

This is the unedited text of a talk I gave today at the NINES Summer Institute, an NEH-funded workshop on evaluating digital scholarship for purposes of tenure and promotion. It references and builds on a (considerably less obnoxious) essay I wrote for a forthcoming issue of Profession, the journal of the MLA, and which was provided to NINES attendees in advance of the Institute. The cluster of articles in which the essay will appear includes work by Jerome McGann, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Tara McPherson, Steve Anderson, and Geoff Rockwell and was edited by Laura Mandell, Susan Schreibman, and Steve Olsen.

Evaluating Collaborative Digital Scholarship (or, Where Credit is Due)

So, as you’ll divine from the image on the screen, [SLIDE: awkward family photos] today I’m addressing human factors: framing collaboration (an activity that often happens across class lines in the academy) within our overall picture for the evaluation of digital scholarship.  I’m pulling several examples I’ll share with you from my contribution to the Profession cluster that Laura and Susan made available, and my argument may feel familiar from that piece as well.  But we thought it might be useful to have me lay these problems out in a plain way, in person, near the beginning of our week together.  Collaborative work is a major hallmark of digital humanities practice, and yet it seems to be glossed over, often enough, in conversations about tenure and promotion.

I think we can trace a good deal of that silence to a collective discomfort, which a lot of my recent (“service”) work has been designed to expose — discomfort with the way that our institutional policies, like those that govern ownership over intellectual property, codify status-based divisions among knowledge workers of different sorts in colleges and universities.  These issues divide DH collaborators even in the healthiest of projects, and we’ll have time, I hope, to talk about them.

But I want to offer a different theory now, more specific to the process that scholars on tenure and promotion committees go through in assessing their colleagues’ readiness for advancement.  [SLIDE: skeleton reading Baudelaire] My theory is that the T&P process is a poor fit to good assessment (or even, really, to acknowledgment) of collaborative work, because it has evolved to focus too much on a particular fiction.  That fiction is one of “final outputs” in digital scholarship. Continue reading “where credit is due”

why, oh why, CC-BY?

Last night, I joined the tail-end of an interesting conversation on Twitter about the utility of NC (“non-commercial”) clauses in Creative Commons licensing. Some time ago, I quietly dropped the non-commercial specification from my own blog and Flickr stream, switching my license from CC-BY-NC to CC-BY. Yesterday’s exchange of viewpoints has prompted me to explain why.

The CC-BY-NC license I first adopted permitted attributed use of my content but restricted that use (without further, explicit permission from me) to non-commercial republication venues. CC-BY, on the other hand, means I’m only asking that my name appear in some way attached to my words (or images, or other intellectual property). US law asserts that the moment I have “fixed” my thought into some expression I have tacitly copyrighted it — meaning that any republication (beyond fair use and without my explicit permission) is pretty much a form of theft. Unattributed re-use of my intellectual property would be plagiarism.

Baby, I’m givin’ it away.

When it comes to scholarly communication, I stand in Jeffersonian discomfort with the notion of “monopolies of invention” (a subject I’ve addressed before). In the humanities — where we are constantly and rightly concerned with our ability to reach broad audiences and articulate the public good of investment in the liberal arts — assertions of exclusive ownership may well “produce more embarrassment than advantage to society.” Commercial exploitation? We should be so lucky. Continue reading “why, oh why, CC-BY?”