DH down under (state of play; why you care)

For the past two weeks, I’ve had the great privilege of presenting ideas (ranging from the institutional and professional to the scholarly and creative) in a series of six public lectures in four cities across New Zealand and Australia. These were invited talks and keynotes at events as diverse as: a project-specific and infrastructure-oriented workshop at Victoria University, Wellington; a joint DH and library Information Futures forum at the University of Melbourne; two gatherings geared toward archivists, curators, and arts and design faculty at schools and cultural heritage institutions in Canberra; and a thought-provoking digital editing symposium at Sydney Uni. The visit was was break-neck, whirlwind, and a great deal of fun, mostly thanks to my splendid hosts Sydney Shep, Craig Bellamy, Tim Sherratt, and Mark Byron. It didn’t hurt that it was summertime and end-of-term in the southern hemisphere, with the journey framed by a sparkling harbor in Wellington (which, it’s true, you can’t beat on a good day) and another in Sydney.

Happily, the visit afforded me an opportunity to learn from and better understand the values and working conditions of the Antipodean digital humanities community, members of whom I had only met before as exotic and sometimes jetlagged creatures out of their natural habitat. I considered it excellent timing and came to care about these folks, because they show a great deal of energy just now, not only for enlivening humanities scholarship through digital tools and methods, but for organizing — creating stronger local networks and a broad, new Australasian professional society for scholars and practitioners of the digital humanities: the first in the hemisphere. This could be an initiative that partners with ACH, which I represent, and stands on par with SDH-SEMI as a vibrant regional DH organization and potential ADHO collaborator. You should care, too. Here’s why.

Continue reading “DH down under (state of play; why you care)”

eternal september of the digital humanities

Here’s where I am. It’s nearly Hallowe’en, and kids have settled into school routines. I have little ones in my own house and big ones in the Scholars’ Lab — the youngest of whom are newly, this year, exactly half my age. Other kids are dead, and it’s still bothering me a good deal. Mornings in Virginia feel cold now, and acorns are everywhere underfoot. We’re tracking leaves inside.

It’s a melancholy way to begin a post, but it situates us.

It’s October 2010 in the social scene of the digital humanities, and (yes, I’m feeling wry) our gathering swallows Twitter in the skies.

I tweet a lot. It’s a mixture — the writing and the reading — of shallow, smart, and sweet. I answer lots of email, too, lots of messages from strangers asking questions. We’re doing a good job, my team, and people are asking how. I stuck my neck out on a thing or two, and people are asking why, or for more. This fall, I worked with friends to launch a website that I’m proud of — which is for strangers, asking questions. I’ve stopped answering to the phone.

There’s a bit of a joke around the SLab, about the degree to which the boss-lady is not service-oriented. It’s funny (as they say), because it’s true. But it’s only true insofar as I let it be — and most local colleagues realize that I put on this persona consciously, as a useful corrective or (at least) a countering provocation to that strong and puzzling tendency I have noted as a scholar come to work in libraries: the degree to which the most beautiful quality of librarianship — that it is a service vocation — becomes the thing that makes the faculty, on the whole, value us so little. Service as servile. The staffer, the alternate academic, the librarian, the non-tenure-track digital humanist, as intellectual partner? Not so long as we indulge our innate helpfulness too much. And not so long as we are hesitant to assert our own, personal research agendas — the very things that, to some of us once expected to join the professoriate, felt too self-indulgent to be borne.

Continue reading “eternal september of the digital humanities”

uninvited guests: regarding twitter at invitation-only academic events

[Subsequently published in Hacking the Academy.]

Over the past several years, I have been privileged both to attend and to help plan a number of invitation-only conferences, institutes, and symposia related to my field, the digital humanities. I use the word “privileged” not because of the exclusivity of these events, but because I know from personal experience how very hard their organizers work to set conditions leading to meaningful experiences and outcomes.

In recent weeks, I’ve attended two private events — UVa’s Shape of Things to Come conference, on scholarly editing and matters of sustainability (#uvashape), and the Re:Enlightenment Exchange (#reenx), a set of dialogues hosted by NYU and the New York Public Library. On Wednesday, I’m heading to another invitation-only gathering, Playing with Technology in History (hashtag TBD: #pastplay?), and we’re gearing up at my shop, the Scholars’ Lab, to host a second round of our NEH-funded training program, the Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship (#geoinst) — by application only; deadline long passed. I’m also helping to organize the 8th annual meeting of the Mellon-supported Scholarly Communication Institute this summer (#sci8-to-be).

Most likely, you’re not on our guest list. Continue reading “uninvited guests: regarding twitter at invitation-only academic events”

day of digital humanities

Just a quick post to say that I participated again this year in the Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities “community publication project,” along with these fine folks. This is becoming an annual exercise in which digital humanities scholars and practitioners of all kinds document the ins and outs of a typical day.

My own blog posts and pictures are here, at the somewhat ominously named “Day of Bethany Nowviskie“. Some other folks from the Scholars’ Lab contributed, too: Kelly Johnston, Joe Gilbert, and Wayne Graham.

I’ve been peeking in on the RSS feeds, and am looking forward to reading day-in-the-life posts from many, many friends and not a few strangers all over the world. You can also get a snippet-y sense of the activity by watching the #dayofDH hashtag on Twitter.

on compensation

I have felt troubled, lately, by the number of tenured and — to a much lesser degree, tenure-track — faculty (pardon me, friends, all!) whom I’ve heard whining about the “uncompensated” time they spend on their digital humanities scholarship. They are not talking about the sorts of unpaid service many of us render every day in support of the digital humanities community: time spent planning conferences and other gatherings, serving on advisory and executive boards for various projects and digitally-oriented professional societies, advising graduate students and junior colleagues not our own, inserting scholarly voices into commercially- and institutionally-driven conversations about the transformation of our cultural archive in the electronic age, and offering methodological training or building resources meant to bootstrap other scholars in their ability to engage meaningfully with digital objects and processes.

No. That’s all good work — necessary, important work, and it’s work that I have chosen to undertake, in my non-tenure-track, library-based position on the “administrative and professional faculty” of the University of Virginia, to the detriment of my ability to focus on my own research and writing. I don’t waste time, but time periodically wastes me. To someone who trained as a humanities scholar at a large research institution, a role like mine can feel like a reversal of the natural order of things. I work on “my” scholarship at off hours — stolen weekend mornings in coffee shops, or late at night — and spend most of my energy on service, the consuming category of activity against which graduate students and assistant professors are warned, and which I find — in all regards — richly rewarding.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. Continue reading “on compensation”