- VAR Born Digital Editorial
Our journey to the Visual Arts Research: Born Digital special issue began in the Fall of 2013 when we started collaborating on a manuscript to review digital scholarship constituted in the field of art education. In what became “As We May Publish: Digital Scholarship and the Future(s) of Art Education” (Knochel & Patton, 2014), we surveyed activities within and outside of the field of art education and engaged in speculation about the nature of technological ecology: How might a digital publication afford different opportunities for art education and knowledge generation? Further, if advantages were possible, what would be needed to sustain these digital publications as extended textual forms and reach a broader, more diverse global audience?
Despite early efforts to use digital spaces for research, from our perspective in 2013, digital scholarship and online publication in art education remained skeuomorphic translations of traditional print publications. What we suggested then, and continue to believe, is the need for innovation in scholarly publishing through digital scholarship. While print modes of scholarly publications continue to be privileged as this special issue is published, 21st-century scholarship is being shaped and morphed by digital platforms: journals distributed as electronic documents; social networks for sharing academic and professional resources; and peer-review processes managed on open journal platforms. Increasingly, major publishers are developing robust digital platforms to distribute journal content by making electronic documents available and offering a range of tools for authors to promote their research so they can more effectively market the availability of their content. It is as if scholarly publishing has entered an uncertain business model [End Page v] somewhere between the distributed direct-sales model of Mary Kay Cosmetics and Etsy’s networked labor force. Despite these developments, in surveying the current field of art education, there are few venues advancing scholarly practices that are living and thriving as multimodal digital manifestations. So in our call for this special issue, we asked authors to engage with the question of how scholarly activity might be born digital, augmenting current practices of research in art education, by expanding opportunities in knowledge creation.
When we first proposed our idea to the editorial team of Visual Arts Research, we balanced our desire to think ambitiously about what digital platforms may offer to academic platforms and art education authors, while being wary of the hype of digital media and learning. Marc Prensky (2001) coined the term “digital native” and “digital immigrant” as metaphors to frame the generational shift demarcating the emergence of tech-savvy learners, or those at least born in an era with a networked and pervasive technological ecology. The digital native and immigrant concepts have received pushback for the ways they are wielded to assume technological knowledge. However, we do gravitate to the idea that our era is increasingly filled with digital systems, processes, and objects. At the time of our article, our core challenge was to try to understand how digitality was affecting scholarship as practices associated with academic labor and knowledge creation. Was scholarship born digital doing something different, and if so, how? We believed the most obvious place to look first was at the impact that digital systems and platforms were having on academic publishing. Born digital scholarship in the form of publishing has its exemplars: Kairos (online since 1995) is a peer-reviewed rhetoric and composition journal, encouraging scholarship that is interactive and networked and that utilizes multimedia. Other examples include Vectors; the American Institute of Graphic Art’s Loop; the Institute for the Future of the Book; and the publishing platform Scalar, recently used for an issue of The Art Bulletin (2013) and the book Flows of Reading (2013). Art education journals Voke and Visual Culture & Gender also present multimodal research using digital publishing platforms. Building on the innovative spirit showcased with VAR’s graphic novel issue (2012), our call for papers asked scholars to question, investigate, and expand the conversation about the ecology of art education scholarship to specifically address work that is born digital.
However, expanding any ecology can come at a cost or a reallocation of resources. In our earlier efforts to understand the...