Uniqueness of scholarly practice in the humanities

The extent to which scholarly practice in the humanities is unique emerged as a contentious subject. A number of scholars saw the humanities as highly heterogeneous, to the extent that no convergence in practice could be possible. A number of scholars emphasized the role of serendipity in their work, and felt that no metadata or standard would be fully applicable to them because of it. Some scholars were committed to the correctness and necessity of their own approach, even when it came into conflict with standards: "Certain things have to be done in a way that's peculiar to the case at hand. The uncommon observation is that it's idiosyncratic. Do not presume that things are non-idiosyncratic." (Ex 5, 1c-A)

Other participants, particularly IT professionals and librarians, were skeptical about the notion that scholarly practice in the humanities is absolutely unique. There was general acknowledgement that humanities scholarship is sufficiently diverse that no single tool or standard could address all needs. Nevertheless, one participant summed up his concerns about the perceived uniqueness of humanities practice as follows: "Most people like to think that what they're [d]oing is uncommon and unique. One person might be able to help them because he's seen people doing similar things before, but this can a hard sell. Not recognizing these themes is a barrier: people are slow to recognize that there might already be appropriate tools. One can take the notion that there are things that can't be captured in a normative way too far. People have a notion of the uncommon." (Ex 5, 1c-A)

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