Several articles in the media have been published in recent years that depict universities as leftist, liberal outposts with arguments ranging from the downfall of research to the downfall of the entire education system. The point of this post is not “liberal” and “conservative” in the political sense, but rather the dictionary definitions. Being liberal, according to Merriam-Webster, can mean “not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted”, whereas conservative can mean, “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions”. So, how do those terms fit in with digital scholarship?
Problem: University systems are often liberal in thought but conservative in practice.
Solution: Universities are perceived as bastions of liberal thought and in some cases that is true. However, they are not often on the leading edge of progress in technology. How long did it take for universities to realize that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, etc. are useful for them rather than a fad? (Some are still waiting it out, I think). Universities also hire personnel for the now, rather than the future – and too often hire in their own image. Extension should be free from barriers of educational background. Extension work is as much an art as it is a science. Our goal is to connect with our audiences and we should be doing that by any means necessary. Extension is strongly based in agriculture, family services, 4-H, and a few other areas. Content has always been king, and we still need that. But, we also need an influx of talent that can help us relay that content in a 21st Century-kind-of-meaningful way. These hires would not need to have an in-depth understanding of grape breeding or calf weaning, but rather have the creative capacity to tell the story of those things. The content providers are too bogged down in creating the content itself and getting it to “count” rather than worrying about the best way to convey it to the widest possible audience. The conveyance can be just as important as the content and the reward for the work should match the realities of the job.
Up next, the vast, abyss-like downside of the peer-review process when it comes to digital scholarship.