Doing More with Less: The Promise and Pitfalls of Short-Form Scholarship in the Digital History Age
Kathryn Nasstrom, University of San Francisco
Ben Railton, Fitchburg State University
Stephanie Westcott, George Mason University
Over the last several years the historical profession has witnessed a flowering of new, technologically enabled scholarly forms and publication channels, from group blogs and open-access monographs to interactive multimedia works and data sets. Notable among these developments has been an increasing interest in “short forms”—mini-monographs, brief journal articles, white papers, blog posts, and a host of other works that are substantially shorter than the conventional products of scholarly research. The appeal of such forms lies partly in their rejection of arbitrary minimum lengths, which are in turn vestiges of an earlier era of scholarly publishing. At the same time, they raise important questions that speak to larger uncertainties about the ongoing evolution of digital history. Do these forms admit the same depth of analysis and intellectual rigor as traditional outputs, or do they veer too close to attention-deficit scholarship? What research methods, habits of mind, and writerly practices do they cultivate? Do they hasten the drive toward hyper-specialization, or can they help to forge interdisciplinary connections? How are they discovered and assessed by colleagues and the field at large, and how should you list them on your CV? (Put another way: Will they help you to get tenure?)
The proposed panel brings together editors and scholars from different sectors of the short-form history landscape to discuss the intellectual, practical, and professional dimensions of this growing phenomenon. Chris Chappell, history editor at Palgrave Macmillan, will share insights and lessons learned from his work with Palgrave Pivot, a platform for scholarship longer than a journal article but shorter than a typical monograph. Kathryn Nasstrom will offer her perspective as editor of the Oral History Review, which has recently launched a new initiative for short-form articles, including integrated multimedia pieces and works-in-progress. Stephanie Westcott, Research Assistant Professor at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, will draw on her experience as part of the PressForward project, an initiative for developing digital tools that help discover and disseminate scholarship that falls outside of traditional publications channels. And Ben Railton, Associate Professor at Fitchburg State University, will speak as an interdisciplinary researcher whose scholarly outreach has included a “mini-monograph” on the Chinese Exclusion Act and an indefatigably maintained blog and Twitter feed.
By bringing together these varied perspectives on one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of scholarly production, we believe the proposed panel will be genuinely distinctive and of immense value to AHA attendees at all stages of their careers. Far from being the usual “Publishing 101” panel, we aim for this to be a focused discussion with ample time for audience questions and comments, making it both practically useful and intellectually stimulating.