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  • Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation of Digital Scholarship
  • Allyson Mower
Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation of Digital Scholarship Council on Library and Information Resources, March 2009, 78 p. $25 (ISBN 978-1-932326-33-8)

This collection of white papers argues that, although a scholarly paradigm shift is occurring because of computer technology, the Web, and an abundance of data, the existing cyberinfrastructure is not well suited to promote the next generation of digital scholarship. Researchers need new methods, new tools, and a new familiarity with data in order to advance scholarship. Working Together or Apart brings together experts from computational linguistics, digital librarianship, applied physics, art history, computer science, information graphics, and classics. It contains six white papers presented at a symposium sponsored by The Council on Library and Information Resources and The National Endowment for the Humanities and also includes two additional chapters: Amy Friedlander's discussion of the day's events (and what led up to them) and Diane Zorich's summary [End Page 519] of digital humanities centers.

Anyone wanting a substantial introduction, along with a fair treatment of what needs to be considered for the future, will find this book useful. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the current issues and trends in digital scholarship and does so in a concise, readable manner with extensive references following each chapter. Topics range from philology, American studies, and automated language processing to information visualization, art history, and the nature of social attention in the age of the Web.

Although not exhaustive, the book reports on the heart of the matter—the fact that the Web and the vast amounts of digital information it facilitates create opportunities that go beyond a single author, work, region, or country. More extensive works on digital scholarship include Alexander Hars' From Publishing to Knowledge Networks: Reinventing Online Knowledge Infrastructures (Berlin: Springer, 2003); Charles Franklin Thomas' Libraries, the Internet, and Scholarship: Tools and Trends Converging (New York: Marcel Dekker, 2002); and, of course, Christine L. Borgman's Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).

The chapter on e-philology sums it up best by reminding readers that print technology will never provide researchers with the opportunity to consume vast amounts of information in order to provide analyses that are both in-depth and have breadth. Gregory Crane et al. point to new kinds of research taking place in which digital collections are used to study the influence of authors (Plato, for example) across a wide range of cultures. This also was a theme in Caroline Levander's discussion of the discipline of American studies and what it means in a global era of distributed networks, where geography and nation-state boundaries are less meaningful than cultural influences.

Anyone unfamiliar with automated language processing tools for the humanities and social sciences (as I was) will find Douglas Oard's very concise and quick read on the topic of particular interest. Oard defines terms, provides background, and also puts forth a salient point—headlined Mastering Their Voodoo—by calling attention to the fact that better tools can only be built as long as those doing the research and those building the tools maintain open and constant communication.

Analyzing images and visualizing data become a particularly sticky point for digital scholarship. As Maureen Stone and Stephen Murray explain, the nature of representation can be a powerful tool but requires a new kind of literacy with which many researchers (and students) will need to become more familiar. This kind of knowledge and expertise will be necessary in the coming years as the Web exerts its growing influence. Bernardo Huberman brings in the social aspects of digital scholarship and argues that attention has become academia's main currency; finding ways to gain people's attention will be essential.

Working Together or Apart offers a survey-level view of trends in digital scholarship and also provides a nearly complete bibliography for those wanting to explore digital scholarship further. [End Page 520]

Allyson Mower
University of Utah