Category Archives: Weller

Thinking about scholarship and discipline

In the history of art, “history” is generally foregrounded.  For the early modern period, artists respond to earlier artists, art-writers respond to earlier artists and to what has been written.  “The word” — both visual and textual — is nearly sacred.  It’s incomprehensible (irresponsible) to ignore what has been published, or what survives as a manuscript.  I really want my students to read “that article” published in the 1950s!  In many disciplines this is absurd.

The work of early modern art historians is generally solitary work.  There’s something really pleasurable in working through an idea on one’s own.  Maybe it’s like making bread.  Weller’s comments about archives rang true to me. I’ve worked in the Vatican Library — a collection of books and manuscripts, and now digital materials, that was organized in the 15th c.  That is a powerful environment of scholarship and home to a remarkable genealogy of scholars.  An online search doesn’t offer this experience of “being.”

The work in contemporary art can be almost entirely online.  The excitement is of a different sort.

I agree with Weller that discipline and area of research matter here.  I’m thinking particularly about data collection and data collecting, and what that data is.  There’s a difference between what’s available online (articles, primary sources, etc.) and what we do with it.  Many museums have done tremendous work in making their resources available, and this has been especially important for researching provenance of works in the 20th c.  For academics, digital scholarship is often what we do with students.  My project here (the online art exhibit) is work with students.

“Lack of relevance.” Really???

This quote from 2.3, Lack of relevance, struck me:

“Baby Boomers preferred some face-to-face encounters with their instructors; Generation X students reported substantial, pointless interaction in class, and the Net Gen students felt that the interaction mechanisms designed by their instructors were much less adequate than their personal technologies.”

Weller is suggesting here that f2f encounters are less relevant to our students now than they were to many of us as students.  Gosh.   Do we agree?  If so, are we willing to accept it?  I’ve taught online (ok…just once), and “even there” I worked to interact with my students, and I worked to develop strategies to get my students to interact with each other.  If students’ “personal technologies” are more “adequate” (and “adequate” for what, I have to ask), something is very wrong.  Does this have something to do children learning more from tv and computers because this is where parents put them?  Is the generation now in college less comfortable with interacting with people?  With adults?

I feel that accepting Weller’s statement as accurate (or as inevitable) is equivalent to dumbing down my classes.  I would be admitting defeat.  I want my students…and all college-age students…to become comfortable communicating f2f with others.  They will have to negotiate all kinds of things in their futures, quite possibly whether to wage war.  How viable are “personal technologies” in that situation when war is waged against human lives?