Bethany Nowviskie

how we learned to start/stop “speaking in code”

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[UPDATE: #codespeak is over and was a smashing success. See a post on outcomes, including a kit for hosting similar gatherings, here. This entry is cross-posted from the Re:Thinking blog at CLIR, the Council on Library and Information Resources, where I’m honored to be serving as Distinguished Presidential Fellow. Check out all the great content at CLIR!]

Here’s a consummation devoutly to be wished: digital humanities research and practice becomes its best self, and finds scholars and technology staff engaging as peers in mutually intelligible conversation. It sounds like a modest hope, until you reflect on how far we are from achieving that vision.

Communications gaps are deep and broad, even among humanities-trained software developers and the scholars with whom they collaborate. Much (not all) knowledge advances in software development through hands-on, journeyman learning experiences and the iterative, often-collaborative development of built objects and systems. Much (not all) knowledge advances in humanities scholarship through fixed and fluid kinds of academic discourse: referential, prosy, often agonistic. A real division exists in style and practice, even when the subjects and objects of humanities inquiry are the same. What might bridge a gap like that? And can we move past an historical moment in the academy, in which the onus is almost entirely placed on archivally and theoretically trained humanities scholars to become tech-savvy digital humanists—to build a concomitant sense of momentum, responsibility, and opportunity in our community of DH software engineers? Can we build greater community itself, just by making a space in which such problems are addressed? Read the rest of this entry »

until the government re-opens


The email pasted below announces cancellation — due to the current, ridiculous US government shutdown — of a meeting that would have provided excellent professional development, project development, and academic networking opportunities for scholars awarded highly-competitive grants for digital projects by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Staff of the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities could not even send this message themselves, as farcical political brinkmanship has locked them out of their offices and email accounts.

I have attended and benefited from NEH ODH Project Directors’ Meetings in the past, and one of my staff members was set to represent the Scholars’ Lab’s current “Speaking in Code” grant at the event this Friday. These meetings help to create a more thoughtful and better-connected community of American scholar-practitioners of the digital humanities. They’re smart, these meetings. They are good business. Through an investment in building up the people who do the scholarly work, these meetings help the NEH to maximize (already too-small) investments American taxpayers have made in the Endowment itself — which is to say, they maximize the NEH’s contribution to education and research in fields like history, literature, anthropology, and foreign languages, and in the public humanities, in opening up the richness of our increasingly digital/digitized cultural heritage to broad and diverse audiences. This email, canceling Friday’s meeting, represents a wasted opportunity for NEH-funded scholars and ultimately for the publics their grant-supported projects serve.

But it also represents just one tiny example of government waste created by one faction of one political party unable to accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Commons License This site uses a heavily modified version of Bryan Helmig's Magatheme. Work at by Bethany Nowviskie is always CC-BY. Want to know why? The falling letters are by Wayne Graham. He kindly made them to replace a set I designed in Flash in the late 1990s and had in place for more than 17 years. Not a bad run! Ave atque vale.