The Digital Dissertation: History, Theory, Practice

A Database and eBook Project

Virginia Kuhn, Kathie Gossett (eds.)

While the book chapters have been solidified, we are still accepting entries in the archive portion of the project. To participate, please complete this brief survey about the work (which will form a database).

Manuscript submission details for accepted authors:

DUE: First round — 29 June 2018. Second round — 31 July 2018

Length: 3000-4000 words

Style: Modified APA : specifics found here

Resources to consider:


The original CFP:

Humanities scholars recognize the growing importance of digital media in knowledge production and distribution. However, recognition does not imply acceptance. How does one negotiate digital scholarship in an academy that remains largely print based in its outputs? The most valued scholarship is still the book, monograph, or journal article, and this not only limits the audience for humanities research to university scholars, but also limits its forms of argumentation to a primarily Western, linearly structured way of thinking. That is, relying on one mode of communication limits what can be said and to whom it can be said, making the humanities insular rather than allowing it to take advantage of opportunities to communicate with the broader public. In their study, The Responsive PhD, The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, argues that “scholarship is the heart of the doctorate” and that programs need to ask “What encourages adventurous scholarship? What retards and discourages it?” Adventurous scholarship requires “new paradigms,” which demand an examination of the often unarticulated philosophies that govern what qualifies as legitimate scholarship.

How do these “new paradigms” play out in the context of the dissertation? While digital dissertations have been around for twenty years or more, the precise processes by which they are defined, created and defended remain something of a mystery. Is an interactive pdf significantly different than its paper-based counterpart? What specific possibilities can a digitally networked environment offer that are impossible without its affordances? How are dissertation committees able to gauge the quality of natively digital work? What support systems and processes do students need to complete these types of projects? How do precedents prove helpful in defending one’s choice to create a digital dissertation? How do digital projects change the ways faculty members advise dissertations?

This project, The Digital Dissertation: History, Theory, Practice, will consist of a definitive database of digital dissertation projects as well as an ebook whose chapters explore the larger implications of digital scholarship across institutional, geographic and disciplinary divides. Have you completed or advised a digital dissertation? Then please consider this project.


There are two ways to participate:

1. Complete this brief survey about the work (which will form a database) by January 12, 2018.

2. Complete this brief survey about the work (which will form a database for others) and submit a 300--500 word proposal by January 12, 2018 for a chapter in the e-book which responds to the most salient issue/s surrounding the digital dissertation and the ways that students and committee members managed the possibilities and obstacles inherent in this type of work. We imagine these chapters as being 3000 to 5000 words in length and due on May 11, 2018. Authors will be notified in early February.


Please send proposals and/or any questions about the project to Kathie Gossett (kegossett@ucdavis.edu) and Virginia Kuhn (vkuhn@cinema.usc.edu).


Editors’ Bios:

Virginia Kuhn is Associate Director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Professor of Cinema in the Division of Media Arts + Practice at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. In 2005, she successfully defended one of the first born-digital dissertations in the United States, challenging archiving and copyright conventions. Committed to helping shape open source tools for scholarship, she also published the first article created in the authoring platform, Scalar, titled “Filmic Texts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate,” (IJLM, 2010), in which she discusses teaching with the video essay. Kuhn recently published (with Vicki Callahan) an anthology titled Future Texts: Subversive Performance and Feminist Bodies (Parlor Press, 2016) and has edited three peer-reviewed digital anthologies: “The Video Essay: An Emergent Taxonomy of Cinematic Writing,” (The Cine-Files, 2017) with Vicki Callahan; MoMLA: From Panel to Gallery (Kairos, 2013) with Victor Vitanza; and From Gallery to Webtext: A Multimodal Anthology (Kairos, 2008) with Victor Vitanza. She directs an undergraduate Honors in Multimedia Scholarship program, and a graduate certificate in Digital Media and Culture, and teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate classes in new media, all of which marry theory and practice.


Dr. Kathie Gossett received her Ph.D. from the Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She is currently a member of the faculty in the University Writing Program and an affiliate member of the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include digital dissertations, open-source design, digital media theory & practice, and medieval rhetoric. Kathie has published in journals such as Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, Computers and Composition Online, and MediaCommons. She has also contributed multiple book chapters to edited collections, and has led several digital development projects. Her research has been supported by multiple grants, including an NEH Start-Up Grant in 2012 for the project, “Building an Open-Source Archive for Born-Digital Dissertations,” with Dr. Liza Potts (MSU). She is a member of the editorial review board for several multimedia journals and was the associate editor for the journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy from 2009-2011. Before returning to graduate school she worked in the information technology sector as a project manager, systems designer, user experience specialist, web designer/architect, and technical communicator.