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Expanding forms of scholarly inquiry within the academy - upcoming panel at Imagining America Conference


For this year's imagining america conference, i proposed a session looking at new forms of inquiry going on within the academy, hoping to bring together other folks pushing on the boundaries. I connected with Anastasia Salter and a group known as Hack the Dissertation, to go along with my work in doing a comics dissertation. We created the following statement about the session and a website to continue the conversation after and outside of the session itself ( Thought this was right up the alley of HASTAC-ers and wanted to share here and invite folks to join in. thanks -Nick 

Expanding forms of scholarly inquiry within the academy

The increasing movement away from traditional print journals to new forms of distribution comes with opportunities to rethink the form of research. And yet the traditional journal article or codex, with its pagination, headings, and 12-point font, is still the dominant form of scholarly expression. Yet this format is often divorced from the actual work in question and fails to take advantage of the visual and multimedia communication available to scholars. Thanks in part to a movement within the digital humanities community to recognize scholarship outside of traditional print forms, new approaches to scholarly communication are gaining recognition and distribution networks...

Building on Imagining America’s mission to incorporate the arts as an important means of making meaning, this session takes up the works of scholars looking to explore alternative forms of presenting scholarship, and expand the very form of scholarly inquiry within the academy. Such works unite theory and practice as they seek to disrupt and redefine what scholarship looks like. Furthermore, they redefine the reader’s interaction with a scholarly text by asking the reader to think outside the box (or panel).

There are many ways artistic form and scholarly intent can be meaningfully integrated, particularly when concepts and objections under study are themselves not confined to print. Such experimentation also encourages recognition of the arts as themselves intertwined with research and scholarly questions, as projects like Art Spiegelman’s Meta Maus reveal.

Participants for this session include a doctoral student doing dissertation entirely in the comic book medium, a digital narratives scholar working with interactive forms in her scholarship and pedagogy, and a collective seeking to start a conversation about how the doctoral dissertation can be made visible, relevant, and impactful both inside the world of academia and communities outside its walls.

Session Format:

After brief introductory talks from participants sharing concrete examples of what these alternative forms of scholarship look like in their own works, we will invite conversation and participation from attendees, taking up some of the following questions:

  • What should the future of scholarship look like? 
  • How can you incorporate new forms of scholarship into your current research?
  • What impacts can new forms of scholarship have within the academy and in the world outside it?
  • What ideas do you have for pushing your own scholarship, or that of your colleagues in new directions – in both form and content? Consider how new scholarly forms impact the questions we ask and are able to answer, and to what extent can new forms help us address the timeless questions of the humanities?
  • How can we support new forms of scholarship within and outside the academy? And promote the value and visibility of this type of work?
  • What obstacles have you faced or do you anticipate in trying to change the way you conduct and present your research?
  • With new scholarly forms come new means for evaluation as traditional criteria no longer stand up – what might some of these look like? 

We also envision the session serving as a workshopping opportunity for scholars to bring their current projects for discussion and feedback. To continue the conversation after the conference – please see the website here:

About the presenters

Anastasia Salter is an assistant professor of Science, Information Arts and Technologies at the University of Baltimore. Her primary research focuses on digital narratives and electronic literature as storytelling is transformed and remediated by emerging technologies. She holds a Doctorate in Communications Design from the University of Baltimore and a MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. She writes about technology and pedagogy for ProfHacker, a group blog hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education. More at

Hack the Dissertation (HtD)is an attempt to start a conversation about how the work of the creation of a doctoral dissertation can be made visible, relevant, and impactful both inside the world of academia and in the communities and worlds outside its walls. The core tenets of Hack the Dissertation are:

  • A dissertation should be useful.
  • A dissertation should reach beyond the academy.
  • A dissertation need not be bound by the printed word or the page.
  • A dissertation is an opportunity for a conversation.

HtD consists of Paul Tritter, teacher in Boston Public Schools and graduate of Harvard Graduate School of Education; Tom Neville, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Zac Chase, Harvard Graduate School of Education. See Hack the Dissertation on Facebook, twitter @htdcollective and

Nick Sousanis cultivates his creative practice at the intersection of image and text. A doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, he is writing and drawing his dissertation entirely in comic book form. Before coming to NYC, he was immersed in Detroit’s thriving arts community, where he co-founded the arts and cultural web-mag and became the biographer of legendary Detroit artist Charles McGee, among other things. His comics have been infiltrating the academic realm through numerous publications and he furthers his advocacy for the medium in the comics course he developed for educators at Teachers College. Comics at



1 comment

So, Anastasia Salter, Paul Tritter, Tom Neville, and I came together at Imagining America for our session. Went great - we made it a highly interactive session, inviting attendees into small working groups after our initial presentations on our particular approaches to alternative scholarship. Existing projects were discussed, and all left with plans for how to continue this work in our individual institutions. Hoping too, to reconvene the presenters at a different venue down the road.

Anastasia reported on this in depth on her ProfHacker column in the Chronicle:

We welcome further discussion. - Nick