Is Linking Thinking? Addressing Scholarly Hypermedia
michael roy, information technology services, wesleyan university  home

What this talk is not about: digital Scholarship is not equal to Scholarly hypermedia

This is not about curricular computing.

It isn't about assessing learning that takes place over networks. It isn't about how to use the web in teaching. That said,  there is in inextricable relationship between the methods that faculty use to communicate their ideas in their professions, and how they choose to communicate their professions to their students. Many of the resources I will show have grown directly out of course-related web sites. To the extent that curricular computing is based on improving access to and analysis of scholarly resources, rather than simply on communications and administrative functions (gradebooks, quizzing), these sorts of sites are clearly close cousins to hypermedia scholarship, blurring lines that in print-culture often do not get blurred. (EPIC: Kate Wittenberg)


The Myth of Shakespeare

One of our faculty members who teaches Shakespeare required her students to collaborate to create web sites in lieu of their traditional term papers. The course was about the history of the reception of Shakespeare, and in many ways, the subject matter lends itself particularly well to the web, since the web is simply the latest space in which the contests over the ownership and meanings of the bard's works is playing itself out. Thus the students did interesting work looking not only at other spaces in which these contestations have occurred  ( print, film, the stage, tourist attractions), but also used the web to critique itself. At the end of the semester, the students presented their projects during the course of a day-long symposium that we held on Shakespeare and technology. The reaction to the work from both the students, the faculty member for whom they produced the work, and the visitors from off-campus who were participating in the symposium was an odd mixture of excitement over the possibilities that this way of producing student work might afford, anger over the amount of time that it took to do this work compared with the amount of time that it takes to write a 'normal' term paper, and a shared puzzlement over how to evaluate the work. 


As students begin to submit work via the web, and to challenge the conventions of the form of student work, faculty will need to begin to develop ways of evaluating and assessing such materials, out of necessity.



This is not about putting books on the web 


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Peasants and Monks in British India

Vijay Pinch, a professor in our history department recently told me that his book was "on the web". I dutifully went and looked at it on the University of California Press website. While it is a departure from the world of print, it is not a radical departure, less because of the technology, and more because of the way he wrote his book. Not knowing that it would end up on the web, he wrote it as a book, with the assumption that it would be read as such. Thus we find the title page, the dedication, the table of contents, the lists of illustrations, , the introduction the chapters with their end notes, and so forth. While the book may ( or may not)*(fn about evaluation) break new ground in terms of its subject matter, it is entirely conventional with respect to form. And in fact, one might argue, if it is able to break new intellectual ground, it is perhaps precisely because it does not spend its energies struggling with the sorts of formal questions that bedevil/preoccupy authors of scholarly hypermedia.The corollary to this may be that Scholarly Hypermedia may be seen as struggling in this, its incunabular phase, with too many problems at once: how to define its place in an evolving world of ideas; how to use technology in effective ways. Writers of traditional books of course struggle with questions of form and style but (as Lyman points out) do so in a world where the rhetorical norms are already fairly well established. 


Chinese Philosophical Etext Archive

While this project enables Angle to do his scholarly work, and provides a valuable resource both to his students and to others in his field, the texts are meant (for the time being) to be read primarily as non-hyperlinked text. The ability to create new ways of access to the materials through searching and linked indices fundamentally changes the nature of these texts, in particular since many of them in their printed form lack the sorts of conventional navigational and internal organizational structures (tables of contents, indices, etc.). The creation of etext archives such as Angle's , and archives in general are what makes Hypermedia Scholarship possible. Whilescholarly arguments depend on being able to access these sorts of networked primary source materials, archives such as these do not make explicit arguments and by their nature capable of being accessed and organized in multiple, sometimes contradictory ways. As tk notes


Angle is writing a book about China and human rights which is in fact informed to a certain extent by the etexts that he has been collecting, and analyzing. He asked me the other day what I thought about the idea of publishing both endnotes and footnotes within the same book, providing footnotes for the more novice reader and endnotes for those readers who are more expert in the subject or are interested in the side conversations the book is having amid the main arguments put forth in the book proper.


Angle's scholarly text, unlike Pinch's , since it uses an etext archive as one of its primary sources, seems forced to confront some of the limitations of the conventions of print technology. Angle's struggle also signals the struggle that scholars who have begun to understand the benefits of hypertext have when having to force their work to fit into the conventional book form.


This isn't about Academic Portals

Academic Portals play an important role in the emerging world of networked academic information. They provide links to resources for both practioners and students of their fields of inquiry. In this manner, they help disciplines define themselves. One wonders, however, about the principles of inclusion/exlusion. What gets added? What is left out? How do the navigational structures and hierarchies privelidge particular points of view at the expense of others? Do multiple navigational structures and the fact that items can live within multiple hierarchies at the same time produce more egalitarian results, or simply provide for more confusion and noise?


Social Psychology Network





Project Curl: Curricular Resource Library







The premise of Merlot is that the multimedia learning objects its editors are reviewing/cataloging need to receive the same sort of scrutiny as do traditional scholarly publications, a process that it describes as a form of peer review. The activity of evaluating internet resources and recording the results in some searchable/naviagble form is akin (perhaps) to writing book reviews, or editing a newsletter.  Should this activity (not the creation of the learning objects, but the evaluation of these objects) count as scholarship and/or as contributing to one's field?








voice of the shuttle

Of the three 'negative' examples I chose, the Voice of the Shuttle is the one 'publication' (what do you call these things? portals? resources?) that has a theory of linking. According to Alan Liu, the site's editor (compiler, author, vocab problem) The Voice of the Shuttle "assembles" links explicitly to "reflect upon, historicize, critique, collect, exhibit, or otherwise mediate (and mediatize) sci-tech/cybertech.", using the web index as a means of both defining and troubling the borders that distinguish the disciplines within the humanities. While providing links to actual resources, the act of creating categories and hierarchies within the site captures, according to Liu, "catalogs not just the static organization of humanistic knowledges in the research academy but also the in-process reorganization of that knowledge. " For Liu, the link and the web document are a radical departure from the world of print. He writes (in an essay he prepared to explain why he chose not to link the Unabomber manifesto from his site):

With some obvious exceptions (e.g., bibliographical works, textual-editing projects, some of Derrida's footnotes), the proprietary substance of a print publication is that which bulks largest in number of words, type face, and so on. This substance is the "primary" text. Citations and other apparatus are "smaller" and not of the essence. By contrast (and without even needing to invoke the more rarified arguments of deconstruction or other "intertextually"-oriented schools of textual analysis), the Web is a medium in which a larger proportion of each page--and of the total number of pages--consists in links as opposed to "primary" matter. This means that the device of the link does not function structurally in the Web in a manner exactly analogous to citation/publication in print media. In many more cases proportionately than in print, links are not just non-proprietary pointers to someone else's work but part of what might be called a proprietary "assemblage-statement." They have an "authority" or "originality," in other words, that inheres in the uniqueness not of the virtual-clippings they take from the net but of the resulting collage-work



These are clearly scholarly activities that perform the necessary and important work of vetting web resources, and provide authority and disciplinary organizations in much the way that creating readers and editing new editions and organizing symposia in the world of print and bricks and mortar do, and as Liu points out (although perhaps speaking of texts other than his VOS) stress the borders of center and margin, providing permeability of what from a distance appears to be two obviously distinguishable activities: writing and citing sources. 


This is not about putting journals on the web:

Traditional scholarly articles written for traditional, peer-reviewed journals are changing their mode of distribution, but for the most part, the form, the mode of argumentation, the method of presenting information is not engaging with the possibilities afforded by the medium of the web. Thus, simply scanning pages, and putting them on the web is not to my mind 'scholarly hypermedia'. 



History and Theory 


At Wesleyan University, a group of faculty mostly from the history department edit the journal History and Theory . A well established publisher publishes the journal. The faculty group meets regularly to choose themes for their issues, to hand out reading assignments to one another, and to make decisions about what is to be published and when. The publisher demands from them camera-ready .pdf files, which they then somehow or another turn into print issues that they mail out to their subscribers. Our faculty with the help of one full-time staff person, do all of the editorial work, and all of the production work including developing the .pdf files. They have become increasingly intrigued by the possibility of self-publishng the work on the web, since to their mind, the role of the publisher as printer and distributor might very well be made obsolete by the web, since the journal has already a well-established 'brand' and the virtues of being part of the publisher's list do not any longer necessarily off-set the costs of the relationship.


  <footnote: ; deinstitutionalization of these spaces. university as isp/asp>





While a great deal of analysis has gone into the effects of this new way of distributing documents, and how the ease of access will change the face of scholarship, like books being slung up onto the web, JSTOR is not about changing scholarly forms, even if it revolutionizes scholarly activity.. 






Technology and Scholarly Communication,
edited by Richard Ekman and Richard E. Quandt.


There is a great deal of interesting work being done in studying the economics of putting journals on the web, and many journals are beginning to explore the possibilities of new forms of publishing enabled by this new technology, including the disaggregation of the journal as the thing that is produced, and focusing instead on the article and then on clusterings of articles into coherent themes that may or may not have been produced for publication at the same moment in time. 


In particular, Hal Varian's essay entitled The Future of Electronic Journals ( ) is of interest, as he proposes a quite radical approach to the process of peer-review. He argues that all scholarly work should be published, and that the peer-review process happen ex post, after a particular publication has proven itself to be interesting. Citing studies that show that a discouragingly low number of articles published ever get read or cited elsewhere, he argues that the expense of making all published work be 'perfect' may not be worth it. He argues that editorial boards should continue to review work and then rate that work on a scale of 1 to 5 with respect to whether the work is interesting. Readers of this sort of journal would have access to all of the submissions, but could filter out those that the editorial board deemed to be not interesting. Those deemed interesting could then be evaluated in terms of correctness. Of particular interest to this paper is Varian's notion that journal articles should be formatted as what he calls 'stretch-text', allowing both the generalist and the specialist to gain access to the underlying argument, and having variable length to account for reader's varying level of interest in the topic. Papers would have

" three parts: a one paragraph abstract, a five page summary and a 20-30 page convential paper. The abstract is a standard part of the academic papers and needs no further discussion. The summary is modeled after the Papers and Proceedings issue of the American Economic Review: it should describe what question the author addresses, what methods were used to answer the question, and what the author found. The summary should be aimed at as broad an audience as possible. This summary would then be linked to the supporting evidence: mathematical proofs, econmetric analysis, data sets, simulations, and so on. The supporting evidence could be quite technical and would probably end up being similar in structure to current published papers." p. 412


Varian's claim that such documents would "probably end up being similar in structure to current published papers"  opens up the possibilities that they won't necessarily be familiar in form at all.




Having excluded from consideration these various activities (portals, etext archives, course websites, books on the web, electronic journals) as not being Scholarly Hypermedia, it is clear that these borders are both somewhat arbitrary and very much in flux. As Christopher Wilson notes when it comes to the web and hypertext, there is a "contagious yet under-theorized preference for the provisional" or as Thomas Thurston in his essay " New Questions for New Media: Scholarly Writing and Online Publishing writes (and as evidence of Wilson's claims) "It's somewhat of a devil's bargain to commit to print observations concerning a medium as shifty as the web." (He goes on to say in the same paragraph "However convingly I may argue that this is the future of academic publishing, that argument risks being severely undermined by the not unlikely possibility that five or ten (or even two) years from now the reader of this manifesto might search for the URLs mentioned herein and find not a trace. "



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