In the article “Digital Scholarship Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work” Nick Pearce, Martin Weller, Eileen Scanlon, and Melanie Ashleigh contribute to the conversation around integrating digital technology and higher education. The authors take it as a given that new technology is capable of affecting how academics work, but they are steadfast in their belief that this is not an inevitable outcome of our increasingly networked world. Although I suspect this is a bit of a strawman argument, perhaps it is true that in 2010, when this article was published, there was still a sense that academia might pass through the digital revolution unchanged. Inevitable or not, 7 years later it is all too obvious how integrated the university is with the digital, on practical and conceptual planes.
Pearce et al. map the affects of digital technology onto Ernest Boyer’s definition of scholarship as including four dimensions: discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Discovery, Pearce et al. argue, is represented by open data; integration by open publishing; application by public engagement; and teaching by open education. In this way, digital technology is represented as emphasizing or continuing the integral activities of scholarship. Interestingly, all of the technological elements that Pearce at al. isolate fall under the umbrella of the open movement. “It is clear,” Pearce et al. write, “[…] that new technologies hold out very real possibilities for changes across all facets of scholarship. In each case these afford the possibility for new more open ways of working” (40). Of course, there are technological developments that are not necessarily open that can be linked to traditional scholarly activities. In particular, I think of computationally-motivated fields like computer science, digital humanities, and new media, who incorporate Boyer’s four dimensions of scholarship but not necessarily in open ways. For these fields, advances in technology have contributed directly to intellectual study and application, rather than serving as a means to some other scholarly end.
Although I do believe that collaboration and openness are goals that digital technology can readily facilitate, I think that it is important to remain cognizant that just because something is online does not mean it is inherently open and engaging. Digital technology has other uses than increasing openness (both within the university and outside of it), and also needs to be harnessed appropriately to be truly open.
Pearce, Nick, Martin Weller, Eileen Scanlon, and Melanie Ashleigh. 2010. “Digital Scholarship Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work.” in education 16 (1): 33–44.