Reflective Post 3

Who makes knowledge?

As the scholarly world moves increasingly into a new era of digital humanities, it takes on new challenges, issues, and questions. New forms of increased digital connectedness usher in “openness” at a maximum by increasing accessibility for gaining new knowledge, but also for forming knowledge. In open access areas such as the vast web, anyone can speak and anyone can “publish”. On the one hand, this provides opportunities for so many informed individuals out there who have not had the chance to be affiliated and published through institutions of higher learning (which can be quite exclusive and long-term). However, this also creates the problem of credibility. How do we know that this work is legitimate if it has been “published” by someone who has not even undergone credentialing through the hands of some credible institution? 

Meanings of what the word “publishing” is and what it speaks of have undergone a great change in recent years. Burdick et. al state, “To publish” is to make something public, to place it within a sphere for broad scrutiny, critical engagement, and community debate” (86). When thinking of publishing, we normally envision a book being printed out and picked up by groups of people interested in a certain genre or field. However, in the digital world such “publishing” would be through the web, not in paper, and the “public” the work is being distributed to would be exponentially larger. Accessibility to the larger public is at an all time high, making it so that almost anyone can “publish” anything. 

The breakdown of the rigid lines between who the author is and who the reader is has been blurred, and the bar to enter the publishing world of the web is extremely low, allowing almost anyone to act as an author regardless of the status of their credentials. Blog posts from mothers are so popular nowadays that if one Googles anything about problems their young children are going through, they even beat websites that provide actual medical advice on the way up to the top of the searches. The opportunity to “publish” in this new way though can give opportunities for so many out there. A quick example of this can be Anna Todd’s “After” series that started out as a Harry Styles fanfiction on an open-to-all site called Wattpad. The digital book series was a massive hit on the site/app, raking in well over 100 million views. The books were even published in print, have become bestsellers, and have even been turned into movies. This success story epitomizes the potential of open authorship. 

Despite all of its potential for greatness though, open authorship can be quite dangerous, especially as it breaches upon subjects covered in academic scholarship. When anyone can write anything on the internet and pose it as a researched fact, misinformation and lies can be spread in a rampant manner, and can actually be believed by others, causing many complications. For decades, institutions of higher education have acted as the hands that ensure the credibility of not only the authors but also of the work that has been published. Institutions only publish and promote works that have been authored by well-decorated (and learned) professionals that have been vetted out, and have been peer-reviewed by equally competent professionals. In doing so, they ensure legitimacy but become extremely exclusive, allowing opportunities to only a certain few. 

For decades, knowledge credentialing has been controlled solely by institutions of higher learning, and they have taken monopoly of knowledge production. However, as Digital Humanities (and almost every other field of scholarship) is entering the digital world, it is experiencing vast changes that it never had to deal with before. In an age where the aforementioned monopoly is only decreasing, how can legitimacy be improved? The problem is extremely large-scale and seemingly neverending. However, I believe some of the power lies in us readers and writers of scholarship. In an age where misinformation persists, it is our job to be responsible readers and authors, and equip others with the knowledge to also bear that responsibility. 

Written by Shukirti Khadka, Gettysburg College Class of 2024, and part of the DSSF 2021 Cohort.  

Reflective Post 3

21st Century digital technology, and knowledge sharing

What happened when everyone speaks up and writes about the things they believe in? Would that make them the author of the work? And how are those work being shared in the 21st century world?

In the past, writing about your belief or the cause you stand for may strictly be confined in a journal or notebook that might not be disclosed. Sometimes, if they wanted everyone to acknowledge what they speak or write, they would publish those work in a form of book or turn it in to the newspaper. However, nowadays, reaching out to the public about your idea or belief, takes only a minute thanks to technology. Social media like Instagram or twitter receive a lot of popularity among people todays, and those are the place where stuff is written and shared. Before, in order to write a paper or academic article, you have to be a high educated person, people or organization of influence/credibility; however, with technology nowadays, everyone can be an author, and everyone can write and publish.

If you have a belief, or new knowledge you want to share, all it takes is a few minutes to write in your Facebook status, or even better, create a WordPress website for free. People are writing and creating knowledge every waking hour, and thanks to that, everyone can find answers to their questions all over the internet. I suppose that’s what I am doing too, trying to create something new that I think might benefit or at least try to answer people’s questions. I am talking about my digital humanity project.

I am thankful that people are creating new contents and digital tools on the internet and made it available for everyone. There are things I read on the internet that are very useful for class and my everyday life. There are also contents, photos, and other material that are made free to use (in public domain), and it has been really helpful for my own educational projects. For example, the photos from the government and archives from newspaper. WordPress and many other hosting sites are made free for users, easy to use, and even are regularly updated. All these availabilities made it possible for more people to go online, and start creating new things, hopefully in a way that can be shared.

However, even though I support the idea that people share their knowledge and voice freely on the internet, I am also concern about the spread of false knowledge and fake news that has been circling the society. As the notion of sharing become widespread, it’s easy for people to confuse what right and wrong, and unintentionally incite society. That’s when the credential and copyrights of institutions comes in to play because different organization give its credibility. Knowledge sharing is important, but so is its credibility, and that is why I believe the institution should control their credential, unless the sharing is for the public good and for education purposed.

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Authorship of Knowledge

As I take the time to stop and reflect after these six weeks, I’m impressed by how well Chapter 3 of Digital_Humanities by Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presnet, and Schnapp deftly discusses the transformation of how we view knowledge, authorship, and how the two affect the Digital Humanities. It is also cool to notice how their discussion can be applied to my own experiences with DH this summer.

I’d say one of my favorite aspects of DH is the dedication to open and accessible information, with the goals of making knowledge available to everyone – not just those with position, money, or power. On page 79 of Digital_Humanities, the authors write, “Peer-to-peer sharing and open-source models of production transform “property” into something created, edited, and monitored by the ever-expanding public but ultimately owned by no one,” emphasizing this goal of openness.

I am reminded of a Tweet that has circulated on several modes of social media for the past three years or so, written by Dr. Holly Witteman on the accessibility of scientific scholarly works:


Here, Dr. Witteman makes the case that people can get around paywalls to scholarly works by reaching out to the actual authors themselves. Although it does provide for the open transfer of knowledge, it cannot be denied that it also opens up questions on creatorship and ownership.

As I was pondering the question of this reflection post – “What happens when anyone can speak and publish? What happens when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning?” – I am inclined to be cautious in responding solely positively.

On one hand, the boundaries around knowledge have oftentimes been misused and abused. Examples like obscene textbook prices and prohibitive paywalls on academic journals only serve as gatekeeping devices. This does not promote or encourage widespread knowledge.

However, I also feel that it’s important to give credit where credit is due. In addition, I agree with the authors of Digital_Humanities when they write, “As much as we celebrate the global proliferation of networking, it is important to bear in mind that network technologies do not inherently promote democratic values and community-building. They also create the conditions of possibility for violent backlash, community surveillance, and possibly even genocide,” (81). So, as with many things in life, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

There are certainly pros and cons to these issues. I think that the greater ability to speak and publish leads to some wonderful outcomes that encourage collaboration, connectivity, greater understanding, and greater knowledge. In addition, it adds to an open-ended setup of expansion in which a continuous chain of events is set off, from which new ideas are sprung, which inspire new ideas from those new ideas, and the chain continues.

I’ve even seen this with my own project, for which I’m taking ideas and scholarship from others and transforming them or utilizing them in new ways, or ways that more closely fit the narrative of my project. I could only hope that others might do the same with my work some day!


Reflective Post 3

Reflection #3

The Expansion of Knowledge

Anyone can create knowledge. Knowledge is multi-dimensional. The advent of technology not only fostered more transmission of knowledge, it also allowed more individuals to “create” it. This reflection will seek to answer Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presnet, and Schnapp’s question found in Chapter 3 of Digital Humanities: “Who can create knowledge, who monitors it, who authorizes it, who disseminates it, whom does it influence and to what effect?

The digital humanities offer a unique access to knowledge and information that had not existed decades and centuries earlier. In popular academic disciplines in the humanities such as history, literature, and philosophy, well-known scholars had the power to control knowledge in their respective fields. With such a localized control of knowledge, the humanities as they existed before the explosion of computer technology focused on scholars and knowledge centers such as universities. The time, resources, and skill required to become a knowledge “creator” generally prevented everyday individuals from being able to create widely available knowledge. This extended to the arts as well, most readily seen in the renaissance period of Europe. As far back as Ancient Greece and Rome, philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato dominated their field for thousands of years. With time came the printing press, which made knowledge much more accessible to people who had to work the land for their living. The rise of technology has in turn made knowledge more available and its creation more tangible for a wide variety of individuals.

Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1665, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This famous painting, known as the “Mona Lisa of the North,” represents how technology has led to greater exposure over time of individual creations.

Computers have become the ultimate tool for the access and creation of knowledge. Anyone who owns a computer can use it to quickly research any wealth of topics, whereas compiling research in decades prior entailed going to a library. Additionally, individuals can use their computers to create knowledge on social media, blog posts, and through website building. I believe that time has proven that knowledge is still monitored, authorized, and disseminated by those individuals and institutions that most readily produce it and support it. The work of a noted historian of the 18th century on the material culture of that time will more likely be supported and disseminated over that of a blog post from a middle school student on that same topic.

The influence of knowledge can be measured through understanding its consumer. Human beings generally use knowledge to form their perception of the world around them, and how they want to navigate it. My experiences in both a traditional humanities setting, and my more recent dive into the digital humanities has reinforced that the internet provides the entire world with a vast expansion of accessibility to knowledge, and provides more people with the ability to create it. Nevertheless, how it is disseminated and how it influences individuals largely depends on how we collectively deem creations of knowledge as important. More knowledge brings more perspectives which adequately represent the diversity of people and cultures that makes up our world. This expansion should be appreciated because of its vital effect on challenging what we believe is true. The digital humanities prove how the expansion of knowledge is undoubtedly tied to technology and innovation.

This post was created by Ben Johnson, Gettysburg College Class of 2022, and member of the student cohort for DSSF 2021.

Reflective Post 3

Reflective Post #3

The Digital Humanities is going to be constantly developing. The reasons behind this fall among the lines that the subject is still relatively new and will advance as long as technology does. This means we will see uncertainties about the Digital Humanities in everyday life and will encounter new questions and possibilities about them. Since the digital world is far more accessible in the modern era, the knowledge it shares also becomes easier to reach. People can work communally and on different platforms to share this information. This social and academic open access also forms questions about intellectual property.

While reading about the Digital Humanities, Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presner, and Schnapp posit questions about open access knowledge through technology. One of these questions (as referenced in the prompt for this week’s reflective post) is:

“What happens when anyone can speak and publish? What happens when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning?”

I tried my best to construct a somewhat decent/ coherent thought about this subject. Obviously, the situation is far more complicated than what I can put into a blog post, but this was my attempt at it.

As previously mentioned in the prompt, the fellows are not being paid to do research, but to create knowledge. While this adds a level of formality to our work, there was nothing stopping me from investigating my topic with a self directed approach had I not been part of this program. I am fortunate that I have the capabilities to work with the library, have a committee supporting me throughout this program, and the ability to do this program full time. While it would have been possible to do this project without all the resources that the library has offered to me, the final project would likely look completely different from what it will be currently. The timeline of my work would probably be different. The entire outcome would not have the same advantages as I currently have.

While I think it is a good thing for people to speak and publish knowledge with the current technological tools, I acknowledge that the road to this shared knowledge will likely face different obstacles. Therefore I posit that even if anyone can speak and share knowledge, it would not be received the same way. It would be up to the user to determine what knowledge they want to learn or use. While it is a good thing that this knowledge can have multiple outlets, there is always going to be a question of the quality of this knowledge. A person getting their information from a social media post would have a far different outcome from a person reading an academic webpage. Of course, this becomes more complicated when we look into cases of intellectual property. It’s also important to note that there is a social and academic aspect to consider with this topic. Many of these pieces of knowledge can be created or altered collaboratively.

Collaborative work in a digital setting also makes for a more accessible project. There are multiple points of view when it comes to sharing this knowledge.

Ultimately, I think knowledge was made to be shared, and technology is one of the right ways to share it. It is a good thing that this knowledge can be created and shared publicly and easily, even if it is subject to flaws. While it may have its imperfections, I believe that they can be solved as the technology and social culture surrounding the Digital Humanities advances.

Written by Nicole Parisi, Gettysburg College Class of 2023 and member of the DSSF 2021 Summer Cohort.