Audience, Substance, and Style

Welcome to the second issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities. In the introduction to our first issue, we explained how the journal’s content came directly from the writing, coding, and projects of our field’s community of practitioners, without a traditional academic publication’s process of submission. We think it is also useful to share how JDH has been received and used — the demand side as well as the supply side, so to speak. In their open online work, scholars clearly provided a rich supply of high-quality material to choose from; we wondered if the community would in turn provide a large audience for the publication itself.

We were gratified to discover that significant demand indeed existed. Over 10,000 people have read at least one article from the inaugural issue of JDH thus far, and overall more than 45,000 articles have been read since it was released three months ago. Given our experimental new model of compilation, we appreciate how so many of our colleagues in digital humanities have taken to JDH, and hope to build upon this energy and commitment in the coming years. In particular, we are dedicated to the further sharing of editorial decisions. Recently this has begun with the addition of weekly community editors of our feeder publication, Digital Humanities Now. Many of these peer-nominated selections will appear in the next issue of JDH.

With this second issue, the Journal of Digital Humanities continues to explore and challenge the composition of the academic journal and our field itself. We will of course keep highlighting groundbreaking work in areas long prominent in digital humanities, such as the text mining of literary corpora. But because DHNow pays close attention to the daily work of an expanding circle of scholars, we are able to find and more quickly highlight nascent work that broadens the definition of digital humanities and shows its application in novel ways. This issue, for instance, contains an investigation of the impact of digital humanities on art history and a special section on gaming and historiography. In addition, we have been able to take advantage of our rapid production cycle to review museum exhibits while it is still possible for readers to visit them.

We also remain committed to being honest about the disadvantages of our experimental model as well as its advantages. In a six month review of Digital Humanities Now, for instance, we lamented a gender skew in blogging, noting that there was only one post by a woman for every two by a man. Although digital humanities is better than in some other fields with a large number of bloggers, such as economics, this ratio remains a problematic aspect for any publishing model that relies on open online writing. Such hurdles will have to be overcome, and we welcome suggestions from our scholarly community.

We have also struggled with the necessity of spending significant effort enforcing a “house style,” or the preferences for spelling, grammar, citation, and other formatting details that nearly all journals have. Should we make contributors from UK lose their humour, or Americans their color? Complicating this decision is the fact that the PressForward project, the home of JDH, is trying to reduce the production costs associated with journals, in addition to streamlining acquisition of high-quality content through the open web. When it is expensive—in direct costs, in-kind labor, or both—to run a journal, scholarly communities are inclined either to drop the endeavor or gate their scholarship in exchange for payment.

Some may say that’s a fair trade, but we disagree. We believe that good scholarship can thrive in a journal even with stylistic variation—and yes, even the occasional spelling error, although we do try to rid the journal of those. Audiences on the global network are now used to encountering such variety, and scholars are trained to assess value separate from style. Moreover, leaving in such variation retains authorial voice, something that can be leached out of writing in the process of conforming with a house style. For this second issue, we have once again put together formal and less formal articles, and pieces that show the range of approaches to research and analysis in digital humanities. We hope you’ll agree that what matters most is the ideas themselves.

Daniel J. Cohen and Joan Fragaszy Troyano