a skunk in the library

[This is the text of an invited talk I gave at the University of Nebraska in April. I’d like to thank my amazing hosts in the UNL Library and CDRH!]

I’m going to back into my talk today, perhaps in part to counter the way I have imagined all of you instinctively backing slowly away from the brilliant and hilarious and slightly horrifying posters I’ve seen advertising it.

My title is “A Skunk in the Library: the Path to Production for Scholarly R&D.” Now, why (oh, why) the skunk? It’s because I’ll be introducing you to the R&D unit within my department, the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library, as a quintessential “skunkworks” operation – and I’ll describe what I mean by that in just a second. It’s also because I am not unconscious of the wrinkled noses that can result from an airing of some of the ideas I want to share with you.

To that end, I plan to save plenty of time this morning for conversation, because above all that’s what my gestures here will call for. And I’ll be asking you to help us think together through something of importance to librarians and software developers and scholars alike – namely, the role of libraries and library-embedded digital humanities centers in helping to beat what we might call a “path to production,” both for innovative scholarship and for its supporting technical and social frameworks.

IT staff in the audience will hear that phrase, “path to production,” and think immediately of a set of well-established Web development and release practices. I’ll rehearse those a little bit here, so that we’re on the same page, before I complicate (or possibly just pervert) them. Continue reading “a skunk in the library”

announcing #Alt-Academy

Readers of this blog will know that, for more than a year, I have been working with a group of wonderful people to bring an edited collection collection of essays and a distributed, online community into focus.  (You can see some of my past #alt-ac writing here, or follow the conversation on Twitter.)

Today, I’m very pleased to announce the release of #Alt-Academy, an open-access collection of essays, dialogues, and personal narratives on the subject of alternative academic careers for humanities scholars:


Initial contributors include Willard McCarty, Julia Flanders, Anne Whisnant, Rafael Alvarado, Julie Meloni, Lisa Spiro, Doug Reside, Tanya Clement, Hugh Cayless, Tom Scheinfeldt, Amanda Gailey, Dot Porter, Joe Gilbert, Wayne Graham, Eric Johnson, Dorothea Salo, Sheila Brennan, Jeremy Boggs, Sharon Leon, Brian Croxall, Arno Bosse, Miranda Swanson, Joanne Berens, Amanda Watson, Patricia Hswe, Amanda French, Christa Williford, Suzanne Fischer, Patrick Murray-John, Vika Zafrin, Shana Kimball, and James Cummings.  Gardner Campbell and Tim Powell will provide invited commentary in the coming weeks, and the project’s general editor is Bethany Nowviskie.

As a MediaCommons project, #Alt-Academy takes a grass-roots, bottom-up, “publish-then-filter” approach to community-building and networked scholarly communication around the theme of unconventional or alternative (“#alt-ac”) careers.  24 essays and multimedia contributions are currently available under a Creative Commons license. See our “Welcome” and “How It Works” pages to learn how you can comment, contribute, or volunteer to edit an #Alt-Academy cluster.  Continue reading “announcing #Alt-Academy”