The New Rigor is an opportunity for a variety of academic stakeholders to self-consciously approach matters of evaluation and assessment. This is a three part process, beginning with the May 2nd event, continuing online through the summer, and culminating with a closing conference in fall 2015.
The growing accessibility of digital technology has been met with an increased willingness on the part of scholars to integrate new digital methods into their interpretive and presentational practice. And, in a great many cases, the idea of digital innovation has been generously supported by departments and academic units across higher education.
At the same time, the academic structures that are supposed to support scholarly work have not been able to keep pace, thus often making the pursuit of digital work unreasonable, unless that work is undertaken as additional to the other kinds of scholarship already vetted by any given field or discipline. Indeed, when we ask staff and untenured faculty what holds them back from doing digital work, concern regarding how their work will “count” is consistently named as a hindrance to engaging the digital humanities.
But working to map extant systems of assessment onto new kinds of scholarship not only assumes that such translation is possible, it also implies that we are in fact satisfied with what we already have. With that in mind, The New Rigor requires us take digital projects’ various resistances to standardized assessment as fundamentally instructive. “Academia” moves generationally and hierarchically, and it is perhaps inevitable that many of our practices are, frankly, inherited habits of mind. Not all bad but, regardless, often unconscious. If you could start from scratch, what structure of evaluation or assessment—in terms of peer review, tenure and promotion, or student research experience—would encourage you to do digital work? How might we construe evaluation and assessment as generative processes, rather than as merely restrictive ones?
The May 2, 2015 conversation is a first step toward developing a community sense of how we might construe rigor flexibly, as a tenet that supports the creative energies that drive different kinds of scholarly insight. We would like to hear from arts and humanities faculty at all levels, and also from the numerous staff members invested in creating and supporting digital work. We are also asking undergraduate and graduate students to join this endeavor, because complex questions about evaluation and assessment determine their paths as well. Each stakeholder group will be engaged in a moderated conversation tailored to that group’s concerns. By so doing, we hope to create safe spaces for honestly engaging the problems that matter most to each group.