Day One of Faculty Academy–Got Inspiration?

As always, I’m inspired by UMW’s annual Faculty Academy, in its 14th year. I’ve been presenting here every year since I started full time at Mary Washington in 2001, yet I always seem to get more out of the sessions than I ever give in the presentations.

Others have done recaps, but I’ll do a brief overview of my takeaways from today.

The day began with brief introductions and a welcome recognition of the talents of our DTLT staff by acting provost Nina Mikhalevsky.

We quickly moved into the first set of concurrent sessions. I attended Digital Resources and Global Studies: Working Projects, with Susan Fernsebner, Joseph Calpin, Alexandra deGraffenreid, Steven Harris. These faculty and students from my departent of History and American Studies showed how much has changed since I was the only history faculty member to attend Faculty Academy just four or five years. Sue and Steve talked about their projects to collect digital resources (or offline sources catalogued in digital form) related to their particular areas of interest, specifically the history of China and Russia/Soviet Union. Especially intriguing to me was the role that the two students played in shaping the structure of the resource sites, the categories that were used, and the general involvement in the creation of what we might describe as the information architecture of the sites and the resources. Excellent work all!

The keynote address by James Boyle of Duke Law School, “Cultural Agoraphobia: What Universities Need to Know About Our Bias Against Openness” was a delightful romp through the history of computer technology and the internet (making me think that there is a class to be taught in the “history of the ‘future'”) as well as an argument that our default position should not be closed/proprietary/walled, but open/shared/commons. His point that academia, a group invested in the sharing of information, has been the most closed, most inaccessible group in sharing that information hit home with me. Much to think on there.

Lunch was enlivened by a mock debate on “Is the CMS Dead?” that went nothing like any of us had expected. Jim Groom of EDUPUNK fame attacked CMSs in his usual passionate way as restrictive of innovation and old. John St. Clair both brought down the house with his laugh-inducing descriptions of Jim and other individuals, and made the argument that there are various teaching styles, some which lend themselves well to Blackboard, and some which don’t, but that we should respect both.

PSU’s Cole Camplese presented a new version of a talk I heard him give at the Chronicle’s technology forum a few weeks ago, now entitled, “If this is scholarship, then we’re all doomed” (an allusion to a quote from a Chronicle forum audience member who was resisting Cole’s multi-modal argument about social networking (YouTube and/or Twitter) as both creation and conversation).

Finally I sat on a panel about grappling with one’s own digital identity via purchasing individual domain names and (potentially) mapping onto current UMW resources. I think it was a fascinating conversation with the audience and between the panelists. Very cool.

After a leisurly evening disecting Jim’s next move, most of us retired for the evening. Tomorrow is another day.

Contemplating Online Academic Publishing

This post began as a comment on Laura Blankenship’s Emerging Technologies Consulting blog. Laura noted that the topic of online academic publishing and how it relates to tenure and other institutional academic concerns was going to be part of her formal role as a speaker/leader at this year’s Faculty Academy. My response was as follows:

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say in May. This is a particularly tough issue and one that has gotten a great deal of resistance when broached (at UMW and elsewhere) in formal or informal ways in a variety of conversations I’ve been a part of lately.

On one hand the change to a new system is always complicated (and frankly, even in the old system, the disciplinary differences are enough to make university-wide review committees shudder–e.g., how many psychology articles equal a book in history? I have my own argument, but all would agree that my perspective on this is fairly biased). So, that resistance isn’t that surprising.

Yet, on the surface, online publishing should make a lot of things easier, not harder, to assess for tenure and/or merit pay:

1) Financial limitations that restrict #/size/scope of published works exist on a completely different scale in the online world, especially once a system for peer-reviewed academic e-publishing is built.

1a) It seems almost a no-brainer that scholarly journals should move on-line completely (or at least in part) given the large percentage of costs that publishing those journals entails.

2) Measuring impact — There must be some way of measuring the number of readers/links/hits/formal citations in other peer-reviewed articles or books/presence in syllabi. Now, obviously these things could be gamed (i.e., hits and uniques) or narrowed by restrictive access to some of the examples (BB course syllabi aren’t accessible, for example, nor are many online, but peer-reviewed articles in collections like JSTOR).

I’m sure there are many things I’m forgetting/overlooking here, but I’m really looking forward to Laura’s exploration of the topic in May. Every institution needs to have that conversation.