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  • Digital Scholarship and Pedagogy, the Next Step:Cultural Science
  • John Hartley (bio)

"How well he's read, to reason against reading!"

(Love's Labour's Lost, I.i.94)

There are two aspects to the problem of digital scholarship and pedagogy. One has to do with scholarship, the other with pedagogy. In scholarship, the association of [End Page 138] knowledge with its printed form remains dominant. In pedagogy, the desire to abandon print for "new" media is urgent, at least in some parts of the academy. Film and media studies are thus at the intersection of opposing forces pulling the field "back" to print and "forward" to digital media. These tensions may be especially painful in a field whose own object of study is an analogue form of communication, neither print nor digital. Although print has been overtaken in the popular marketplace by audiovisual forms, this was never achieved in the domain of scholarship. Even when it is digitally distributed, the output of research is still a "paper." Meanwhile, in the realm of teaching, production- and practice-based pedagogy has become firmly established. Nevertheless, a disjunction remains between high-end scholarship in research universities and vocational training in teaching institutions. Neither is well equipped to deal with the digital challenge.

Knowing and Doing.

Common sense suggests that knowing and doing are intricately linked. But doing has been separated from knowing in formal education. Harking back to a medieval distinction between action and contemplation, some professional practitioners assert that practical "doing" is in opposition to academic "knowing"; so the best (indeed, the only) qualification for teaching in universities is that of having worked in the industry. Among the media-related disciplines, journalism education is especially wedded to this idea. Those who have not worked as an employee in the newsroom culture of industrial-era media organizations are not always welcome in J-schools. It seems the students are too busy doing journalism to spare a thought (as it were) for studying its historical development, social impact, and cultural form, or for considering critical theories about journalism.

Is this the future of pedagogy and scholarship for cinema and media studies? Are they destined, like journalism, to favor doing over knowing—craft skills over conceptual models, practice over research, contact with industry personnel over contact with scholarship, and the fetishization of the current industrial form over the study of a given medium's historical development, social problems, or untried potential? The trouble is, the further the field has pushed toward practical pedagogy, the further it seems to have retreated from scholarship. Would a move toward more active scholarly engagement with the digital and audiovisual media, that is, knowing through doing, hasten or prevent such a future?

Obviously, some media and film production programs are already committed to the practical path, but these remain exceptions. In general, the two fields remain founded in social problems (media) and textual forms (cinema). Typically, practice-based teaching is an adjunct to traditional forms of pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. Unlike journalism education, cinema and media studies are not generally vocationally oriented in an instrumental way. Not many film or media companies are organized along the lines of large-scale corporations with standardized entry-level recruitment. Nor do media courses face a coherent professional body along the lines of the law, medicine, engineering—or, indeed, [End Page 139] journalism, which does have professional ambitions (but is reluctant to concede entry certification to universities).

What faces the media graduate is not a stable industry or profession with a career structure, but a globalizing market with chaotic needs. This market is characterized by rapid change, high failure rates, high rates of casual and freelance labor, winner-take-all innovation, team-based and project-based companies that dissolve and re-form around opportunities, and the certainty that everything they know, from enabling technologies to production processes, will be obsolete all too soon. Faced with such a prospect, where the technologies they may use are not yet invented, the name for their job is not yet known, and the global enterprise in which they might do it is not yet formed, what—and how—does the newly minted media graduate need to know...


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pp. 138-145
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