monopolies of invention

[This is an edited version of a talk I gave today at the 2009 convention of the Modern Language Association. I omit here some of the local details and concrete examples I offered at MLA. At this point, I feel more comfortable voicing these specifics than publishing them online – but I do commit to seeking out further opportunities to open the kind of frank and important conversations I advocate below. This text (like everything posted on my personal website) reflects my opinions only – not those of my colleagues or employers. I welcome comment, including correction and instruction.]

I’ve decided to spend my 10 minutes of introduction on the MLA convention’s “Links and Kinks” panel indecorously – in opening conversation about one of the least genteel, least talked-about aspects of collaborative work in the digital humanities. I’ve been active in this community of practice for 14 years – and can count on one hand the number of interchanges I’ve had about these issues that were both unguarded and productive.

The policy issues related to institutional and academic status that I want to put before the panel are so uncomfortable that they tend to make good-hearted, collaborative folks like all of you behave as if they can be wished away – as if they’ll shrivel up and die if they are studiously ignored. But here, as in other areas of the academy, benign neglect is bad behavior. Consciously ignoring disparities in the institutional status of your collaborators is just as bad as being unthinkingly complicit in the problems these disparities create. Continue reading “monopolies of invention”

works in progress at the Scholars’ Lab

Just a quick post to announce a new look, a revitalized blog, and lots of angle brackets at, a site where we’ll trace works in progress at the Scholars’ Lab in the University of Virginia Library. The Scholars’ Lab is the colloquial name of the library department I direct, “Digital Research and Scholarship,” and also the name of the open lab, classroom, common room, and collaborative workspaces we manage. We’ll keep up our real home page, but will be home to musings and project reports by faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and Grad Fellows affiliated with the SLab. It’s also a place where we’ll launch test versions of the software and websites we’re working on — so be sure to subscribe to our feed. And many thanks to Wayne Graham, head of Digital Research and Scholarship R&D, and Joe Gilbert, Head of the SLab (not “on the SLab”), for their leadership in this new venture!

Check out the site to see what’s going on with Omeka plugins (including Fedora and Solr), EAD, poetic prosody, web services for maps and GIS, text mining for metaphor, TEI on Rails, Xforms, Colonial-era social networks, and more. There’s also a section for “alumni projects,” that have graduated from incubation at the Scholar’s Lab, including one recently featured in the Chronicle.