Riding Two Surfboards, Historically Speaking

Robert B. Townsend, assistant director for research and publications at the American Historical Association (AHA), wrote about the recent AHA survey exploring the current state of new media in their field.  The findings are a very good example of what we’ve been seeing across the Humanities at SSRN; a large percentage of users with general online media familiarity, small (and likely growing) number of “power users,” and the important dichotomies between the groups.
Robert’s observations on the different types of users:

The number of “power users” in the discipline—those who said they are quick to adopt and make significant use of multiple digital technologies in their research and publishing—was quite small, comprising just 4.3 percent of the respondents. But more than two-thirds of the faculty in history departments could easily be classified as “active” users of new media. These historians said they regularly use online sources for their work, employ a variety of different technologies for their research and writing, and tend to adopt new technologies with some regularity and teach themselves how to use them.

As of late, I’ve coined managing these distinctly different groups of users as the riding two surfboards at the same time issue.  It is difficult to simultaneously address the needs of both groups, it is very cool when it works…but you can get hurt if you slip. We’ll be talking more about this dichotomy across all areas of the humanities in the coming days.