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In this New York Times article, Gregg Hecimovich, chairman of the English department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, is reported to have solved a literary and cultural mystery by identifying the author of The Bondswoman’s Narrative: Hannah Bond, and naming her literary influences by researching wills, diaries, handwritten almanacs and public records.
bondwoman’s narrative / Hannah Crafts ; edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
New York : Warner Books, c2002.
Shields Library PS1449.C673 B66 2002 Regular Loan
In search of Hannah Crafts : critical essays on The bondwoman’s narrative / Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Hollis Robbins, eds.
New York : BasicCivitas, c2004.
Shields Library PS1449.C673 B6634 2004 Regular Loan
Hecimovich, Gregg A.Searching for Hannah Crafts in Eastern North Carolina. North Carolina Literary Review 16 (2007): 43-54.
Williams, Adebayo. “Of Human Bondage and Literary Triumphs: Hannah Crafts and the Morphology of the Slave Narrative.” Research in African Literatures 34.1 (Spring 2003): 137ff
As the information environment shifts, and new publishing opportunities are presented to researchers, librarians and scholars planning on how to move forward need to reflect on the relationship between the research library, the scholar/author, and the functions of the academic press.
Having sheparded to publication some of the most remarkable academic books of recent years, Ken Wissoker, the editorial director at Duke University Press, is in a good position to explain the added-value the academic press provides to this relationship. And in an insightful blog post, he does just that, focusing on the work behind the scenes that has helped to make Duke University Press as successfull as it has become.
In a world a-buzz over the technologies of self-publishing and research data repositories, Wissoker reminds us of the importance peer review and editorial guidance have on the shape of the humanities and qualitative social sciences. Questioning arguments which herald the demise of university press book, he articulates a key difference between a report on one’s research and the proper work of the book.
Publication in the humanities and social sciences isn’t the reporting of research. It’s the production of a compelling argument, based on a combination of research and interpretation.”
By drawing our attention to this process, Wissoker contributes to a wider critique of an industry that too often sees knowledge as the direct result of the exchange of information, and libraries and publishers simply as the machinery of information transfer. By opening up the labor of the editorial and review process, he reveals the social form of the book. Rather than seeing it simply as a physical or digital vessel for content, one that serves as an obstacle between the reader and her or his access to pure research, the book is reimagined as dialogue between facts, interpretations and critical arguments, a conversation that is aided by the work of external reviewers and editors. In this light, the best books in the humanities and social sciences, not only transport facts, but take the reader through the construction of those facts by unfolding both the research process and the relationships which affect its trajectory.
Wissoker’s argument in favor of a broader recognition of the social relationships of knowledge production may positively influence the way we imagine libraries too. It may help us to better organize the information environment of tomorrow by bringing into focus one the library’s most essential roles, its function as a generator and facillitator of compelling arguments.
See Ken Wissoker’s article posted on Scholarly Kitchen here:
For more of Ken Wissoker’s thoughts, see the interviews Adeline Koh has conducted with him for the Chronicle of Higher Education, beginning with “On Monographs, Libraries and Blogging”. See:
Social and Cultural Studies Librarian, UC Davis
The web has changed library research, and much for the better. It has allowed for amazing improvements in the discovery and access of information, which has, in turn, allowed for deeper contextualization and previously unforeseen productive comparative work. Research with the internet turned-on can, however, also resemble studying in the middle of a crowded intersection, where news and updates from both relations and strangers interrupt one’s attention. The flood of information repeatedly works to turn one’s mind from the sustained inquiry, the patient scholarship that has always been the hallmark of critical thought.
In an information environment built for speed, I wonder if there a place today for a Slow Research movement. As the obstacles that had previously hindered access and discovery are conquered by deep databases and the digital distribution of texts, it seems that a new research problem has surfaced. How does today’s scholar sustain her or his inquiry into texts, or more simply, in a world of short-burst comments and lighting fast trends, how does a scholar concentrate long enough to reap the benefits provided by our information world? Does contemplative reading take too long? Is the inquisitive multivalent interpretation of events always too wordy or complex? Is tracking down and evaluating references or contextualizing the historical and material production of texts too cumbersome in a world that pressures us to move fast and light? Is there still time for the book-length idea, or the essay that unfolds gradually, with craft and precision?
Slow Research might be loosely modeled after the Slow Food movement, the global movement to rethink about how food is made, served, shared, and tasted. In their effort to present a challenge to the industrial character of fast-food, Slow Food enthusiasts encourage people to understand the production of food. They insist we discuss the consequences and context of food differences and the impact of different foods on our ecosystem. They also encourage people to take time to share and savor the taste of food, often holding community convivia to bring people together to think about what they are eating and drinking, and to discuss how the special tastes conjured by food and drink relate to their lives.
Slow Food seems deliberately out-of-step with the speed of the 21st Century, and, indeed, it often draws on recipes, cooking methods, farming practices, and myths born in an era before our own. Yet Slow Food is very much part of our time. It serves as a necessary antidote to the buffering and suppression of our sense of taste, while working to fortify or question our sense of community and sense of self.
As a movement, Slow Research might encourage us to slow down and concentrate on the texts that seem to be always whizzing past us. It might offer a deliberate suspension of the time pressures scholars face, carving out time and spaces in which one could sit quietly and read deeply. It might encourage us to follow trains of thought more rigorously. It might nurture spaces where scholars felt free to discuss the trials and challenges of their research journeys, and places where they could thoughtfully map-out new directions. Slow Research might also serve as a protest against information clutter and distraction by advocating the time necessary to organize knowledge within schools of thought, or to rethink the history of ideas. Or perhaps, it would take shape as a conscious rebellion against the pressures to accelerate the publication cycle, by valuing the time and space of collaborative reading, thinking, sustained argument and play over formulaic production, and the packaging and distribution of quick opinions and novel facts.
If so, like the Slow Food Movement, Slow Research would also seem out-of-step with contemporary society. It would be called old-fashion, antiquated, or obsolete. It might even look ripe for liquidation, as if such contemplative research was a waste of precious resources. But also like the Slow Food movement, Slow Research would serve a necessary contemporary purpose. It would serve to crucially restore the very values that motivated the advances seen in our information environment, values which were never just about the quantity of content and the size of data, but, at their core, about improving the quality of research and, in turn, the quality of life. Although it may not be perceived as ‘in-synch’ with the pace of today’s information economy, Slow Research can help teach the crucial skills necessary to make sense of the information world of tomorrow.
(Here is an article from eFlux, one which distracted me, and got me thinking about this… )
After the Social Media Hype: Dealing with Information Overload
“The “social media” debate is moving away from presumed side effects, such as loneliness (Sherry Turkle), stupidity (Andrew Keen), and brain alterations (Nicholas Carr), to the ethical design question of how to manage our busy lives. This Foucauldian turn in internet discourse sets in now that we have left behind the initial stages of hype, crash, and mass uptake. Can we live a beautiful life with a smart phone, or is our only option to switch it off and forget about it? Do we really have to be bothered with retweeting each other’s messages for the rest of our lives? When will the social fad that is Silicon Valley be over and done with? We are ready to move on. Time to send your last lolcats.
Read Richard Poynder’s excellent and thoughtful article on how large research libraries have been receiving their journal content in the form of huge all-inclusive provider-based bundles (the “big deal’ model so loved by the big providers has however not proved to be such a good deal for anyone else). And if you think “Open Access” is the solution to the problem, you should read what the author has to say about that as well.
A collaborative, interdisciplinary, and international project in the digital humanities, Mapping the Republic of Letters, centered at Stanford University, presents visualizations that analyze “big data” relating to the world of early-modern scholars, with a focus primarily on their correspondence, travel, and social networks. The project makes use of quantitative metrics while retaining a committment to the qualitative methods of the humanities.
Postcolonial Digital Humanities is an initiative seeking to bring critiques of colonialism, imperialism, and globalization to bear on the digital humanities. Questioning the neutrality of digital codes and systems, this project asks how historic and contemporary colonial relations of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability influence the digital world, the digital archive and libraries of the future.
Led by post-colonial scholars Roopika Risam and Adeline Koh, the Postcolonial Digital Humanities initiative positions itself as “an emergent field of study invested in decolonizing the digital, foregrounding anti-colonial thought, and disrupting salutatory narratives of globalization and technological progress.”
To learn more about this interesting and important work read the group’s FOUNDING PRINCIPLES
From the article: “The printed book risks going the way of the cuneiform tablet, papyrus scroll or vellum parchment, say the doomsayers….but despite the huge growth in e-books in the past few years, the traditional publishing houses are not yet predicting the end of printed book.
In fact, figures for 2012 show that while e-book sales are still on the rise, the rate of decline in print sales has actually slowed.”