Digital Dissertations at #MLA13

Dr. Kathie Gossett, the co-director of the Digital Dissertation Depository project, participated on a roundtable entitled, “Rebooting Graduate Training:  Collaboration, Computing, and the New Thesis.” Gossett gave a 5 minute presentation on her research about the status of digital dissertations in the field of Computers and Writing, as well as the D3. The session was covered by William Pannapacker in the Chronicle of Higher Education on January 7, 2013. He wrote:

Kathie Gossett, an assistant professor of digital humanities at Iowa State University, observed some of the challenges faced by graduate students who are seeking to do innovative work in more traditional contexts. “Why should the dissertation be wedded to traditional book-culture formats?” she asked.

Gossett presented surveys showing that, even though there is strong support for humanities graduate students having opportunities to become more engaged with approaches that involve digital technology, most departments do not provide such opportunities: Essentially, graduate students have to find courses and mentors elsewhere. (The lack of departmental support is leading increasing numbers of students to international training events such as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute—helpful, of course, but not always connected with the culture of the home institution.)

Moreover, there are longstanding institutional policies that prevent graduate students in the humanities from developing digital work. For many students, it’s just not an option for the dissertation, just as digital work is often just a supplement to traditional publications for faculty on the tenure track. In the context of the MLA job scramble, Gossett noted how search committees ask for writing samples; they don’t know how to access or evaluate other forms of scholarship.

Working to deal with those challenges, Gossett is helping to develop an open-source project, backed by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities, called D3: Digital Dissertation Depository, which will enable digital dissertations, software, and simulations to be archived online.

Gossett will post her slides to this site soon.

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