Hybrid Pedagogy, Digital Humanities, and the Future of Academic Publishing

 “‘Digital scholarship’ is its own animal, a chimera that defies the conventions of print scholarship.”
~ Roopika Risam, “Rethinking Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities”

It is not enough to write monographs. It is not enough to publish. Today, scholars must understand what happens when our research is distributed, and we must write, not for rarified audiences, but for unexpected ones. New-form scholarly publishing requires new-form scholarly (digital) writing. Digital academic publishing may on the surface appear as a lateral move from print to screen, but in fact it brings with it new questions about copyright, data analysis, multimodality, curation, archiving, and how scholarly work finds an audience. The promise of digital publishing is one that begins with the entrance of the written, and one that concludes with distribution, reuse, revision, remixing — and finally, redistribution.

Digital publishing is a field worthy of rigorous research and deep discourse. In a post-print environment, for example, social media — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, or Tumblr — have supplanted the static page as the primary metaphors for how we talk about the dissemination of information. Digitized words have code and algorithms behind them, and are not arrested upon the page; rather they are restive there.

Traditional academic publishing is aimed at a scholarly process that is private and gradual, deliberate and uninterrupted by the memes and news of the day. Digital publishing is public work, packaged and poised for ready distribution. Post-print publishing keeps its focus on moving objects: digital artifacts and networked conversations that can be plumbed at the level of the code behind them, tracked in their progress through the web, or catalogued next to works beside which they would not normally sit. It happens as quickly and as prominently as rumor and gossip, but is rigorous in its play and tenable in its rapidity.

Hybrid Pedagogy models sustainable digital practices that work to represent the variety of tools, platforms, processes, and scholarly voices working in the field of Digital Humanities. But that’s the tip of the iceberg: in fact, we are a group of humanists (mostly writing teachers) who run a peer-reviewed digital journal as part of a project that stretches well beyond the digital humanities into educational technology, composition studies, labor advocacy, and critical pedagogy. In truth, we see digital publishing as a form of digital pedagogy as much as a digital humanities project.

We believe that, at its best, digital humanities is the practical application of an experiment — and a deeply political one. At the center of the digital humanities should be an emphasis on individual and collective agency. What stirs at the foundation of Hybrid Pedagogy is a desire to find in digital scholarship something fundamentally humane. Our goal is pedagogical: to share models that can be duplicated — and, in the manner of things open source, modified, reconfigured, and reworked — by other digital publishing projects. The journal is an entry point for scholars into a digital community, and for scholarship that is yet chrysalid.

Which is not to say that post-print publishing and digital writing and teaching are entirely novel. Rhetoric and Composition scholars have long investigated the shift from print to digital. The field of Computers and Writing and its companion conference create spaces for dialogue on the ground between those who are teaching, researching, and learning in digital environments. Cheryl E. Ball describes her editorial pedagogy as one that “builds on the recursive and reciprocal nature of professionalization through editing, writing, mentoring, and teaching – student and teacher, author and editor, reader and scholar learn from each other (and the lines between those roles blur in an editorial pedagogy).” More and more, scholars have sought to expound upon the digital within the digital, using the writing environment as both publishing platform and subject matter.

Hybrid Pedagogy provides a platform upon which participants can engage in meta-level thinking about teaching and learning. We focus less on building an archive for the preservation of ideas, and more on building networked communities of inquiry consisting of scholars, pedagogues, alt-academics, post-academics, and students. We aren’t interested in fortifying the walls around academic publishing, but rather making important scholarly work accessible and shareable. Together, our community has helped chart the journal’s course, while also helping to imagine new directions for the field of critical digital pedagogy.

In this way, the journal itself, along with all of its articles are products of collaborative peer review. Collaboration is not just part of our review process, but part of our investigation and modeling of the digital humanities experiment. For our purposes, the collaborative process necessitates that every article be more than a reservoir of information. We encourage co-authored and multiple-author submissions; we invite the public into conversation around articles; we link articles directly to their sources, creating a web of influence and dialogue; and we hold #digped Twitter chats which are curated and published as exemplars of critical work in process.

Bonnie Stewart points out in her article “What Counts as Academic Influence Online?”: “The work of research that is not legible to others always feels, rhetorically, like lifting stones uphill: constantly establishing premises rather than moving on to the deep exploration of that one particular thing.” Thus, one goal of the journal is to offer scholars strategies for making their pedagogical, editorial, and design work legible as scholarship to tenure committees, job search committees, and the discipline as a whole. Kathleen Fitzpatrick argues that “peer review is extremely important […] but it threatens to become the axle around which all conversations about the future of publishing get wrapped.” The notion of the “academic journal” needs to be rigorously hacked. This isn’t to say that we should abandon traditional academic journals, but we need to broaden the landscape to make way for marginalized voices, dynamic collaboration, new media, and participatory culture. One of our central goals is to push on the boundaries of what, when, and how academic work gets published.

Our collaborative peer review process is aimed less at intellectual gatekeeping, and more at creating conversations and fostering new thinking about critical and digital pedagogies. Editorial work is done both asynchronously and synchronously in evolving Google Docs. In “Collaborative Peer Review: Gathering the Academy’s Orphans,” Sean writes,

A typical review process includes discussion about the overall direction of the piece, its voice, as much as the specifics of its rhetorical strategy. This is done with the author in as cooperative and supportive a way as possible, with an insistence not on academic excellence or perfection of prose, but on deliberate choices, discernment, and a care for the work that goes tirelessly until the piece is complete.

Hybrid Pedagogy itself enacts a hybrid pedagogy. The journal is more than just another online academic journal because it seeks to practice that which it espouses: that all learning is necessarily hybrid. We are concerned as much with the writer as her words, as much with the online as with the on-ground, as much with the person as with the tech, and as much with rigor as with imagination. The journal is a hybrid between a blog and a journal; and our editors reside in a space somewhere between traditional peer-reviewers and educators.

Scholarly research is no longer a solitary activity. Reading, writing, and publishing in the digital must and always already do take place in public, collaborative spaces. This is the great project of the social Internet and an imperative for the digital humanities: to make space for thoughts and ideas — even our most scholarly and esoteric — to be made relevant. The journal’s work, then, is less focused on publishing articles as content repositories and more on reimagining scholarship as pedagogical, publishing as a way to create conversations and bridge academic and non-academic communities.

[Photo, Airwaves by Michael Josh Villanueva, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.]