The Digital Eighteenth Century 2.0 (ASECS, March 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
ASECS (American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies)

"Texting, Tweeting, Tagging: The Digital Eighteenth Century 2.0" (Roundtable)

George H. Williams, English, U.of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, SC 29303 AND  

Lisa Maruca, English, Wayne State U., Detroit, MI 48202;

E-mail proposals by September 15, 2009 at the latest: AND  (Please email both organizers)

Since the early 1990s, eighteenth-century studies scholars have used Internet-based resources for research and scholarly communication via dedicated websites, list-servs, and static presentations of both primary and secondary sources.  In addition to these open and freely accessible online scholarly resources, commercial ventures such as the Gale Group’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online offer vast databases of digitized works previously available only in a limited number of physical archives.

However, as groundbreaking as these tools or services have been in establishing a web presence for eighteenth-century research, they also have their limitations.   Dubbed retrospectively “Web 1.0,” they draw both their strengths and weaknesses from their ties to print culture, with its view of text as stable and communication as a one-to-many enterprise. Furthermore, online archives such as ECCO often come at a steep price, excluding many working outside large research institutions.

While not denying the importance of previous work, this roundtable will consider how the next generation of digital tools is shaping our field.  In contrast to the first iteration of online resources, “Web 2.0” is characterized by a view of text-making as dynamic and participatory and communication as a many-to-many undertaking.  It privileges a construction of knowledge that is transparent, socially mediated and always in-process.  It is open-access, often open-source, with few if any overhead expenses transferred to users.  This new media environment is already transforming the academy in fundamental ways, as evidenced by scores of digital humanities centers, online classrooms, interactive digital archives, and social networking sites for scholars.

This panel will investigate the changes it has made in the study of the eighteenth-century. Prospective panelists are thus encouraged to provide overviews of eighteenth-century projects (both current and imagined) and new pedagogies made possible by Web 2.0 technologies.  They can comment as well on future directions in teaching and research enabled by the plethora of free, digital tools and services now available.

Through both brief audiovisual presentations and audience participation, we hope to address questions such as these:

  • How are tools such as wikis, blogs, digital cameras, and smart phones, and sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, and Google Apps currently being used in research or pedagogy?  

  • How can we better encourage, evaluate, and share student and/or faculty projects in new media?

  • What sorts of new research models do these media encourage?  

  • Do these tools have the power to engage Gen Y students’ attention and curiosity about Enlightenment thinking?  

  • How can we use Web 2.0 analogies to help students better understand eighteenth-century social networking and media forms?

  • What lessons might we learn for our use of twenty-first-century technologies from eighteenth-century observations about print technology's influence upon learning, knowledge, and communication?

  • What drawbacks should scholars and teachers be wary of as we work with these new tools and services?