The Future of Scholarship?

A fantastic essay by Alan Jacobs on scholarship in the digital age:

The Future of Scholarship: Easier, Harder, and With More Charlatans – The Atlantic

Jacobs notes at one point that digital access to thousands of sources has made it easier for researchers to “fake erudition,” as a simple search in Google Books or JSTOR makes it easy to find obscure sources with which to dazzle one’s readers. I would by lying if I said I haven’t been guilty of this in the pass.

The upshot? Perhaps writing will once again become about writing rather than an attempt to pretend that you have actually read every word of your bibliography:

It’s at least possible that in this new knowledge environment we’ll be able to take more of the research as a given — not all of it, but more of it — and will demand from researchers some of the literary virtues: lucidity of style, subtlety of argument, liveliness of narrative. Maybe when readers will make it clear that they know how easy it is to multiply sources, writers will cease to try to impress through numbers of footnotes.


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