The inaugural issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities—a PressForward publication—is out today. Dan Cohen and Joan Fragazsy Troyano graciously invited me to guest edit a special section on digital humanities and theory. My introduction to the special section, which has not appeared elsewhere, is here.
I'm excited and intrigued by JDH, as well as cautious. What excites me most about JDH is the postpublication review model that it enacts, insisting on indexing work that has already seen a wide readership. In that sense, JDH is itself a digital humanities project, a fascinating trial version of a program for reshaping scholarly communication that has been much discussed but too rarely attempted.
Editing is always a somewhat heartburn-inducing affair, and I experienced some of that during the process, despite Dan and Joan's continual support, intervention, and hard work. The table of contents of the main body of the issue (the "Articles" section), over which I had no control, was and remains heavily white- and male-authored, a dismaying development that certainly contributed to recent discussions of gender in DH. At that time, through the vagaries of the editorial process, the preliminary table of contents for the special section on theory also came to be very heavily skewed, not only as to crude metrics of authorial identity but also in approaches to what constitutes DH or theory. Considering the terms of the discussion, and the very crucial role that #transformDH had played in it, this seemed maddeningly, frustratingly wrong. (Heartburn ensued.) Postpublication review, then, had its drawbacks, and they had to be painstakingly corrected for.
As it later turned out, DHNow had not been indexing most of the #transformDH group's work—an accident, but a bad one—and the theoretical shorthands for DH that were being rethought in this very special section also acted as filters for what came to "count" as DH work that might be indexed in DHNow. Is the Crunk Feminist Collective an instance of DH, for example? If not, why not? I was so, so pleased when crunk feminist and Emory DiSC fellow Moya Bailey agreed to contribute a piece that spoke to those very boundaries.
Postpublication review is also a hard thing to get used to simply as a humanities scholar. As an editor, I found it a little bit mindblowing to know that the authors' pieces were already accepted—postpublication, you know—and that they were under no obligation to revise according to my suggestions. Several authors did anyway—Alexis Lothian, Jean Bauer, and Patrick Murray-John were particularly thoughtful in this regard. It was wonderful to work with the authors, but, as an editor, slightly terrifying to have committed to this postpublication element.
JDH is a work in progress, and the JDH team are mensches all around. I'm honored to have been a part of the inaugural issue. But a (very recently) past involvement is less interesting to me than seeing where JDH will go from here. Will the problems with skewed demographics subside? (And how?) How will scholars respond to a publication comprising mainly pieces they have already read—comprising those pieces because they have already been widely read? What will the editing conventions ultimately turn out to be for authors contributing to JDH? What culture of open peer review—if any—will grow up around it?
I look forward to finding out.