Lively welcome here at ScienceBlogs, I must say. Two posts, a soft launch, and eighteen comments already!
The comments have turned up a question deserving of further discussion. On my first post, commenter Jim Lund said:
E-research? Why make a distinction? Today there's only e-research and archaeology. 🙂
And on my second, commenter rnb said:
Computers have been used to investigate circuit behavior since I was in college back in the 70s. So should engineers be called e-engineers?
Not trying to put words in their mouths here, but it seems to me they're getting at the same question about how we talk about e-research: evolution or revolution?
I've done both, myself. I talk in evolutionary terms with my librarian colleagues, because librarians are frankly weary of revolution-talk. It just works better to talk in terms of what we already do. You can see me trying to keep things low-key and jocular in this slideshow I did for the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee:
When do I go all revolutionary? When I'm talking to those who hold the purse-strings. Even if e-research is the normal course of things in a few disciplines, in most it's not. This means that resource provisioning hasn't happened yet in a lot of cases—and a message of "we're already doing this and just haven't realized it!" won't get dollars and staff time allocated.
(In fact, I think some aspects of e-research, notably data curation, are dangerously underprovisioned, and we'll pay for it later… but that's for another post.)
But I don't get as revolutionary as some folks do. The Digital Humanities Manifesto, while I know and respect some of its authors—honestly, it reads to me like concentrated wacky sauce. I can't imagine it convincing an old-school historian or literary scholar, much less a dean or provost, that the digital humanities are a pursuit worthy of prestige and (more compellingly) resources.
I have a feeling—and it's no more than that; I don't know—that the Manifesto comes out of a place of deep frustration. Believe me, I understand frustration, having run institutional repositories for over four years. The most unwise things I do happen when frustration boils over. On that scale, the Manifesto barely rates. It's just bravado, not especially damaging… I hope.
The moral of the story (and I say this as shouldn't) is that we e-research types do need to think about how we present ourselves and our endeavors. We may not choose the same words; we may not even be consistent about the words we choose and use. Eyes on the prize, however. Some words will help us more than others.
What words do you use? To whom? Why?