Current social science research and writing faces a number of possibilities that seem to be constrained by three major challenges. The first is the limits of the imagination; the second is knowing what kinds of data are now out there; and the third is having the tools to aggregate and mine them.
Early proponents of the power of digital publishing celebrated the ways in which the Internet, and in particular the world wide web, democratized both access to information and the ability to disseminate knowledge to wide audiences. News organizations might evade government controls of the press by publishing on servers outside their nations’ borders. Dissidents could organize in the digital public sphere, evading controls that prevented freedom of assembly in the physical world. Scholars could disseminate work in progress directly to the web either outside of the process of peer review or under the aegis of new types of online journals.
It is now abundantly clear to librarians, archivists, computer scientists, and many social scientists that we are in a transformational age. If we can understand and measure meaning from all of these data describing so much of human activity, we will finally be able to test and revise our most intricate theories of how the world is socially constructed through our symbolic interactions.
In the end, this task force did recommend going open access, and got some assurances from the AAA that we felt would allow us to do this in a fair and substantial way. In February of 2014 the first open access issue of Cultural Anthropology was published.
The arguments around scholarly communication, and particularly scholarly communication within the social sciences, are rather more complex than the simple “evil closed publisher/good open researcher” narrative that dominates so much of the current conversation on the blogosphere.
The Digital Culture program is organizing a series of meetings, cochaired by Mary Lee Kennedy and Michael Schudson, under the heading of "Curating Knowledge Under Digital Conditions." The following introduction frames the first of those meetings, held in May 2016 at the New York Public Library, and the broader contexts informing the working group.
An online forum from the Council’s Digital Culture program meant to address a complex, persistent question at the heart of social science research: how does (and, ultimately, should) the production and distribution of knowledge change under digital conditions?