One of the hallmarks of the digital humanities is the collaborative nature of the work.What we do is interdisciplinary by nature, and we generally believe that the more eyeballs a project receives, the better. We also fully recognize that no one person has all the expertise necessary to move things forward in a meaningful way, and we are happy to draw upon and share our skills as resources for the common good.
Blogger Peter Cashmore wrote yesterday that sharing personal information is the wave of the future, one that you'll have to opt out of if you're into privacy. However, privacy is passé - actually, "privacy is dead" - and it is the life lived in public that has value. Social media "give us a simple choice: participate or fade into a lonely obscurity."
I think about this "lonely obscurity," and about my dissertation. I'm in English, even though my project is in virtual-worlds research. I have a committee, of course, but - as with all English PhDs - I'm writing a single-author work. As some of my classmates put it, I'm going to have to go into the cave, and when I emerge I'll have a shiny dissertation and an equally shiny PhD.
This is something we've always done in the humanities, I'm told. We come up with a brilliant idea, we research it, we write it up. We produce a monograph, a work on one subject by one author. Except that my friends studying the Renaissance and Middle Ages tell me that this is a myth, something that we imagine the monks of yore used to do - sitting alone in the monastery, producing beautifully illuminated manuscripts. This image has helped shape the way we do our work, and it's a total lie.
And then I look across to the science side of our campus, where engineers and computer scientists and psychologists write joint papers all the time, and where dissertation work is often a collaborative project. And I ask myself, why don't we?
I am indeed always hearing about collaborative work in the digital humanities. My real question is this: how many of us are (or are going to be) sitting in the metaphorical cave? Is anyone working on a collaborative project for their final doctoral project? Is this even a possibility for anyone? And should it be?