Recent calls for finding “public” audiences for scholarly work, engaging “the general public,” and for doing public digital humanities work are encouraging, but only when those calls are informed by the long history of “public” scholarly work with some understanding that the term is contested and changing. We should all acknowledge that is no “general public,” and that we need to get real about audiences.
As a digital public historian, I am attuned to the articles in the Chronicle and conversations–on Twitter, at meetings and conferences–from traditional and alt-academics who invoke “the general public,” when they think humanities professors are failing to be relevant to today’s students and citizens. Some academics respond to critiques of the state of humanities education by showing off digital humanities projects or demonstrate how they are integrating digitally-enabled pedagogy into their classrooms as ways to bridge those gaps between the academy and the public. Additional attention is given to the openness in humanities scholarly processes that capitalize on digital platforms and networks that enable and encourage sharing, remixing, and collaborating are highlighted as the best practices in public humanities. These examples signal positive changes among scholarly communities. But, these changes are drawing on the long tradition of public history work done in and outside of the academy for decades in the US.
Read More: The Public is Dead, Long Live the Public