After hearing Dale’s great presentation on access during our last class and after reading some of the discussions going on here on the DH Debates group forum and blog, I couldn’t help but pick up on that theme throughout some of the readings this week. In particular, I found Luke Waltzer’s and Alexander Reid’s chapters striking in this regard.
Waltzer refers to pedagogy, curriculum development, and related academic concerns as the “ugly stepchildren” of the university, and argues that they need to become a more central element of DH (Waltzer 338). Later in the chapter, Waltzer cites Katherine Harris’ argument that “faculty members who focus on taking the core principles of the digital humanities into their assignment design should be seen as just as central to the field as the toolmakers, and just as worthy of prestige” (342). This speaks directly to our discussions of access, because without a DH focus on teaching, truly free (or open or full or however you want to put it) access cannot happen. In order to really practice the doctrine of accessibility that DHers seem to preach, projects and tools should be addressing those outside of a particular field. Accessibility, in the long run, means making sure that DH projects aren’t always self-serving – that our students and the wider public, if possible, are able to benefit from the digital format in which the scholarship of DHers is being produced.
Reid’s chapter connects pedagogy to DH as well, but in regards to graduate education. For Reid, accessibility means that graduate students should not be expected “to bear the burden of inventing new digital scholarly practices” (Reid 362). Reid argues that graduate students should be introduced to DH teaching tools as graduate teaching assistants/fellows because of the demand for that knowledge in humanities faculty positions. I love that this point links to accessibility via education of both the instructor and the student. I might carry his point a bit farther, however, and say that in encouraging the use of DH in humanities classrooms, we might make students aware of DH itself (when appropriate, of course) as a way of encouraging undergraduate inquiries into the field – something that Reid recognizes as being largely absent from the DH conversation (357).
In particular, I can connect to Reid’s statement that through new advancements in academic employments of social media, instructors (and students) can begin to “connect with a larger audience,” not only an academic one (362-363). This is really where ideas of access bring me, which is funny, because as we read in some of the earlier chapters of the collection, the idea of knowledge dissemination was an early one in the development of the internet. Yet this is what I think of when I take a moment to consider access: making my scholarship accessible – meaning easy to find, easy to understand, easy to use and/or interact with – to the general public.