As an outsider to the field/subfield/whatever, I spend very little time these days listening to Digital Humanities & related folks. But because several of my closest friends are theorists/practitioners in the field/subfield/whatever, it’s inevitable that I hear something about what’s Going On, and rare is the day that I don’t mentally refer back to Bethany Nowviskie’s post “Eternal September of the Digital Humanities”.
But I usually have another publication in mind when I’m listening to these conversations. I’m going to quote liberally from it and then let’s play a little game.
A couple weeks ago I presented at the 4Cs (Conference on College Composition and Communication) as part of Session H18: “Writing text, writing code, writing connections”. My co-panelists were the lovely and talented Annette Vee and Brian Ballentine, and the panel was chaired by the inimitable Dennis Jerz. We had a good turnout—something like 25 people, and not all of them were our close personal friends (!!).
Here’s the panel intro:
An underacknowledged relation of composition and rhetoric is code studies, the critical examination of source code that comprises computer software. Yet the expertise we have in pedagogy, rhetoric, speech acts and narrative offer potential contributions to this new field. This panel plumbs the connections between two important means of communication—written text and written code—to update our understandings of composing with computers. We map productive inroads to code studies by way of rhetoric, Speech Act Theory and narrative theory and collectively argue that code is already central to the discipline of composition and rhetoric.
Here’s the abstract for my part (I was first up):
I had the daunting task of doing a Bootcamp session at THATCamp New England in which I tried to “introduce programming” to an audience I did not know ahead of time. SO. MUCH. FUN. (seriously!)
Here’s the “official” session description:
To participate in this session, no previous programming experience is required — and in fact none is assumed. Additionally, you won’t ”learn to program” in any particular language. Instead, you’ll learn several of the foundational elements of programming, see examples of these elements in a few languages, take a look at various types of digital humanities projects, discuss how programmatic elements work within those structures, and (finally) we’ll think about how to put these pieces of knowledge together to design an application of your own. There might be some programming-on-sticky-notes involved.
Here’s the slidedeck I ran through for the first two-thirds or so of the session:
At the 2010 version of THATCamp Pacific Northwest, I facilitated a BootCamp session on project management. While not nearly as sexy as the 3D modelling or the “Zotero Love Lab” bootcamp sessions, project management is important, gosh darn it, and something I’m apt to geek out about (things that make Julie geek out is an admittedly long list, but again, project management is important!).
The full bootcamp session title was originally “Bootstrapping Your Digital Humanities Project: How to Pull Together a Team and Work Collaboratively (Virtually or Otherwise) throughout a Project Lifecycle” but when I put out a call for participant input into the types of things people wanted to learn, the e-mail replies I got made me shift to more of a general project planning and management sort of thing—less about specifically working with teams and more about how to get started, the role of the project manager, and the sorts of things that one might (and should) expect to write about/plan when managing a project.
A few days ago I had the good fortune to speak for a bit at Scholars’ Lab at University of Virginia. It was an actual event, with signs and people in attendance and everything! People attended for good reason—the other two speakers were Jerome McGann and Bethany Nowviskie. I wanted to hear them.
You see, just about everything I had to say is based entirely on McGann’s essay “Marking Text in Many Dimensions”, and Nowviskie’s experiences in the SpecLab with this piece of vaporware called the ‘Patacritical Demon. [You can read about some of those experiences in Johanna Drucker's SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing.]
Some bits of my talk were also present in my Yale PDP talk, but not too much. The goal of both was the same: inspire movement and change.
[Throughout this text I'll either place the slides I used or will provide off-site links to things for more context. Look for emphasized bracketed text like this. I should also note that I write talks like I speak, with pauses and breaks and such (which means comma splices at times, and other bad grammar).]
Below is the text that I read at The Past’s Digital Presence: Database, Archive, and Knowledge Work in the Humanities, a graduate student symposium held Feb 19 & 20, 2010. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the 24 presenters in the eight sessions held on Saturday. Before the sessions we were given the treat of wonderful talks by Jacqueline Goldsby and Peter Stallybrass, and after the sessions the closing roundtable featured Rolena Adorno, Ed Ayers, Willard McCarty, and George Miles. These esteemed scholars didn’t just pop in for their talks and then leave—they were with us in sessions, asking questions, learning stuff along with everyone else. They all seemed like incredibly nice people (and those I spoke to directly I know are incredibly nice people).
I was speaker #2 on a panel called “Theorizing the Digital Archive” with Stewart Campbell (Columbia) who presented “Eugène Atget and the Digital Archive” and Alexandre Monnin (Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne) who discussed “What is a Tag: Digital Artifacts as Hermeneutical Devices”. Our panel was moderated by the esteemed Jessica Pressman (Yale) who is just super cool.
Although the title of my talk (no slides, just talking) was “Toward a Realization of the n-Dimensional Text” but as I told some people, the secret title was really “Archives: Ur Doin it Wrong”.
Links are included in the text below for anyone who finds them useful. I use [emphasized text in brackets] for more info; it wasn’t spoken or anything like that.
Some of you may know (and even care!) that in the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook, URLs are no longer part of citations for digital resources. I will quote Mark Sample on this one: “How could one not see that these new guidelines were remarkably misguided?”
Personally, I’ve been ignoring the new rule. Ok, I suppose “ignoring” isn’t true. When my students this fall cited digital resources and dutifully included the URL, I let it go. It’s difficult enough to get students to cite at all, for whatever reason (poor training, I believe), so I certainly wasn’t going to go negative on them for using the 6th edition instead of the 7th edition of the handbook. In other words, I didn’t choose that particular hill to die on, such as it were.
In his blog post on the subject, “The Modern Language Association Wishes Away Digital Différance”, Sample clearly articulates the issues at stake (as usual):
In a strange move for a group of people who devote their lives to studying the unique properties of printed words and images, the Modern Language Association apparently believes that all texts are the same. That it doesn’t matter what digital archive or website a specific document came from. All that is necessary is to declare “Web” in the citation, and everyone will know exactly which version of which document you’re talking about, not to mention any relevant paratextual material surrounding the document, such as banner ads, comments, pingbacks, and so on.
The comments on his post are all good, including the MLA’s reasoning behind the change, offered by Rosemary Feal (executive director of the MLA). In short, it’s ok to add URLs if we want; the guidelines are meant to be flexible.
So that’s a little bit of context for the brief mention of Hari Kunzru‘s work in a panel at MLA ’09.
If you do scholarly work on John Muir, as I do, chances are good you know the man was a crack-up. Not a crack-pot, a crack-up. He was really funny. He also loved his children very much and wrote some great letters to them on his various journeys to Yosemite, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. These letters often had great doodles in them—besides his illustrations of new plants and what not, he also drew happy little pictures of squirrels and bears (and other things). If you know me, you know that I have a tattoo of one of his doodles and it makes me smile every day.
I had the good fortune recently of e-mailing with Mike Branch, and we were talking about all the good Muir stuff hidden away, like his illustrations and letters to his kids. I remembered another favorite letter & doodle: Muir pushing his wife up a hill with a stick. Then I remembered that the last time I had the microfilm of his papers, I scanned it! Here you go world—the text of the letter, and then the image itself.
July 16, 1884
My Dear Wanda:
Papa & Mamma are coming home to baby tomorrow & Mamma & papa hae been glad all the time when grandpa wrote a letter & baby wrote a letter that said “baby is well & good & does not cry at all.” After Papa wrote the other letter to baby Mamma & Papa climbed up a high mountain & Mamma got tired & so Papa walked behind & pushed Mamma with a long stick this way & the stick soon began to hurt Mamma’s back & then Mamma was too warm & so she took off some of her clothes & papa tied a shirt on the end of the stick & ….
It trails off because of archivist FAIL. In other words, I didn’t manage to grab an image of the flip side of the letter, because I am an idiot. It’s not like I won’t be seeing the microfilm again, though, so I’ll remedy that in the future. But I think you get the point.
Last week I was at the biennial ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) conference. Those of you who know me purely online or as a digital humanities geek might be surprised to know that I do a lot with literature and the environment (specifically Emerson, Thoreau, and Muir), or Western American literature, but there it is. I do. So, I’ve been looking forward to this conference for two years, and I’m already looking ahead to 2011 when ASLE is at Indiana University in Bloomington. After the experience I had this week, there’s no way I am going to miss it ever again (if I can help it). But that’s for another post.
This post is about the roundtable I was part of: “The Virtues of the Virtual: Using Blogs to Communicate Place across Space”
After I wrote my post about going from industry to academia, Barbara Hui followed up with a great post on her own path. In her post, Barbara shifted our discussion from trading war stories about industry life to actual theory and/vs praxis in Digital Humanities. For the purposes of the conversation, she categorized three types of DH scholars:
1. Some DH scholars don’t create any digital tools themselves at all, but rather, for example, read and theorize about literature that has been written in the digital medium, and/or that references the digital medium in some way. (pure theory)
2. Other DH scholars don’t theorize at all, but instead, for example, might have a background in a “practical” discipline like Library and Information Studies (or a humanities degree they have “left behind”) and now work on creating digital reference or archival tools for use by humanities scholars. (pure praxis)
3. Yet others do a mixture of both: for example a literature and media studies scholar creates a new media mapping platform to serve as a multi-purpose tool for both teaching and theorizing about city-spaces. (theory + praxis)
She then asked a series of very good questions: “Which of these scholars is the most authentic DH scholar? Or is DH all of these things? Is the DH scholar who can’t/doesn’t write code a true DH scholar? Or should she instead be called a literary and/or (new) media theorist?”