Category: Editors’ Choice

Editors’ Choice: Evaluating Digital Humanities Beyond the Tenure Track

This post (and its partner post on Evaluating Digital Humanities Beyond the Tenure Track Part 2: For Employers) continues a series of blog posts from the MLA Committee on Information Technology about evaluating work in the digital humanities. (See Amanda Visconti’s post on digital dissertations and Shawna Ross’s explanation for the series.) I’ve taken on the task of writing about evaluating the work of “alt-ac” and other digital humanities professionals not working in traditional tenure-track roles.

To a great extent, evaluating the work of these positions is the same as evaluating the work of anyone else–good scholarship is good scholarship, from any source. But the less-charted paths of Digital Scholarship Specialists and Digital Humanities Librarians can lead to some specific issues and points of tension, which I want to address here. I think there’s a lot more discussion to be had on these issues as we work towards fuller guidelines, and I’m hoping this will be only the first part of the conversation.

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: Archives in the Anthropocene

Creative Commons image by Conor Lawless via Flickr

I want to frame my talk around a quote from Community Futures Lab co-director Rasheedah Phillips from her workshop “Time, Memory, and Justice in Marginalized Communities.” She states “Oral Futures is about speaking into existence what you want to have happen.”

I want to think with you today about how such future-making materials are collected, preserved, and made accessible in a moment of extreme climate change and the attending displacements of people and animals due to environmental and political-economic erosion of homelands and sites of cultural heritage.

We cannot save everything, nor would we want to. Decisions have to be made about what to keep and what to discard; these decisions encode and reflect particular values, privilege and power structures—some decisions about what to be kept go against the community’s desire for privacy or restricted access to materials; this is a tension between surveillance and privacy, between visibility and erasure. Yvonne Perkins writes, “In the past people such as women, non-Europeans, Aborigines, the poor etc were not considered important contributors to our history so their stories are often not portrayed in archival records, or they were obscured in the archives by the social conventions of the time.”

Archives—in this usage I mean institutional, community, as well as digital collections curated by scholars—do not only exist to explain or contextualize the past, but also signal towards and shape futures. Archives call to the fore the processes of preservation, memory, and access. As Brit Stolli notes, attending to these processes raises uncomfortable questions of who decides what is significant to carry forward, in whose memory is the past best preserved, how do we (and who exactly counts as ‘we’) determine the ethical framework through which to focus our efforts of preservation and future-shaping? Absences and obfuscations are referred to as archival silences. Michel-Rolph Trouillot outlines the ways voices from the past are silenced:

  • there is a silencing in the making of sources. Which events even get described or remembered in a manner which allows them to transcend the present in which they occurred? Not everything gets remembered or recorded. Some parts of reality get silenced.
  • there is a silencing in the creation of archives—in this usage, Trouillot means repositories of historical records. At times this archival silencing is permanent since the records do not get preserved; other times the silencing is in the process of competition for the attention of the narrators, the later tellers of the historical tales.
  • And thirdly, the narrators themselves necessarily silence much. In most of history the archives are massive. Choices, selections, valuing must be done. In this process, huge areas of archival remains are silenced.

 

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: Some Thoughts on Preprints for NAS Journals Summit

Creative Commons image by Neil Crosby via Flickr

I was invited to be a discussion leader for a panel on Preprints: Challenges and Opportunities at the National Academy of Sciences Journals Summit, but a nor’eastern prevented me from attending. I am grateful to Diane Sullenberger, Executive Editor of PNAS for reading my remarks. Discussion leaders were asked to talk about preprints from their own perspectives, and to offer questions/thoughts for discussion. These are my remarks…

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: How Can Libraries and Digital Humanities Spaces Co-Exist?

A picture of a printed 3D model.

Over at Hyperallergic, I have contributed a new article on the removal of books from the fine arts library at UT-Austin and the planned movement of books from the libraries at UW-Madison [Article Here]. The tales of these two libraries is an increasingly familiar one, wherein thousands of books are deaccessioned or moved into off-site storage in order to make way for a hip new “makerspace” or mixed-use area. These changes are not only redefining what a library is, they are redefining how we interact with them.

Questions over what a library is (e.g. Is it a book warehouse? Is it a social space?) should also incorporate how the digital humanities can co-exist spatially with books, rather than replacing them altogether. How do we create a trinity within libraries wherein digital humanities labs can work in tandem with books and people?

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: A Digital Map Leads to Reparations for Black and Indigenous Farmers

A picture of individuals farming.

Last month, Dallas Robinson received an email from someone she didn’t know, asking if she would be open to receiving a large sum of money—with no strings attached. For once, it wasn’t spam. She hit reply…The gift from the stranger arrived thanks to a new online map, the Black-Indigenous Farmers Reparations Map, a project to promote “people-to-people” reparations.

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: Parsimony and Elegance as Objectives for Digital Curation Processes

Creative Commons Image by Marjan Krebelj via Flickr

I’m increasingly convinced that parsimony and elegance are key values for the socio-technical systems that enable long term access to information. This post is me starting to try and articulate what I mean by that and connecting that back to a few ongoing strands of work and thinking I’m engaged in.

Now that the book as been circulating around a bit, I’ve been able to both reflect on it and get to have a lot of great conversations with people about it. Along with that, I’ve been participating (or at least trying to participate when my calendar allows) in some ongoing conversations about the role of maintenance, capacity, care, and repair in library work.

My points of entry into these conversations have been Bethany Nowviskie’s  Capacity and Care, Steve Jackson’s piece Rethinking Repair, Hellel Arnold’s Critical Work: Archivists as Maintainers, and Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel’s work in pieces like Innovation is overvalued: Maintenance often matters more. As I mentioned in a pervious post, I think there is a ton more that I need to sort through in Nell Nodding’s line of thinking on an ethics of care, and that is all tied up in this too. So take those as trail heads to what I think is going to grow more and more into a major part of our professional discourse. Notions of capacity and maintain all implicate notions of sustainability.

Less is More Sustainable and Mantainable

The specific prompt for this post was one conversation where I ended up saying something I’ve said a few times before. Something like; “If you can do it with an Access database then don’t gather requirements for a software engineering project.” Furthermore, “If you can do it with a spreadsheet, don’t build an Access database.” Beyond that, “If you can do it with a text file, then don’t set up a spreadsheet.” The general point in each of these situations is that you want to use the least possible tool for the job and then when the complexity of the work demands it, you justify the added complexity of the next thing.

 

Read the full post here.

Editors’ Choice: Visualizing Cultural Collections

A data visualization

Below is an overview of research projects that were carried out by student teams in the project course Visualizing cultural collections taught by Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk since 2014. Students with different disciplinary backgrounds including design, media studies, information science, and cultural management analyzed existing interfaces and developed new approaches for different case studies in collaboration with a broad range of cultural institutions.

 Read more here.

Editors’ Choice: Diversity Work and Digital Carework in Higher Education

Creative Commons image by Patrick Hoesly via Flickr

“Diversity” has become a managerial directive for the twenty-first century university in the United States. In its endless pursuit of diversity, the contemporary academy has required faculty, staff, and administrators to perform diversity work, marshaling the labor of employees to undertake diversity initiatives, often in addition to their stated job descriptions. Participating in diversity work is a trap into which those whose work is guided by an ethical commitment to communities underrepresented in academia and those who belong to these communities risk falling. This phenomenon has a long history, reflecting a tradition of activism performed by people of color, women, and LGBTQ scholars who have demanded that the scholarship of their communities be taken seriously as “academic.” Yet, the advent of social media has added new dimensions to this labor.

As such, what I term “digital carework” has become essential to academic labor. Digital carework, in this instance, is a form of affective digital labor that relies on the deployment of affect through digital media to remediate inequalities within higher education. It ranges from managing affect in the production and distribution of scholarship to providing emotional labor to fellow colleagues and students in response to the challenges faced by those who engage in “diversity work” (Ahmed, 2012). Digital carework around diversity has played a visible role in digital humanities, in which I situate my scholarship. This particular form of digital carework illuminates the confluence of affective and digital forms of labor that are essential to diversity initiatives in the neoliberal university. As in other areas of higher education, this labor preys on the optimism of early career scholars, typically women, people of color, and LGBTQ scholars, or a combination thereof. They undertake diversity work and the digital carework it requires through both explicit and implicit direction from universities and scholarly communities.

Read full article here.

Editors’ Choice: Community Review

Creative Commons image by Conor Lawless via Flickr

In my last book, Planned Obsolescence, I argued for the potentials of open, peer-to-peer review as a means of shedding some light on the otherwise often hidden processes of scholarly communication, enabling scholars to treat the process of review less as a mode of gatekeeping than as a formative moment in which they could learn from and contribute to their communities of practice. In Generous Thinking, my focus is somewhat different—less on the ways that scholars communicate with one another and more on the ways we invite the world into our work—but the emphasis on opening up our processes and imagining the ways that they might invite new kinds of conversations remains.

When I launched the open review process for Planned Obsolescence in 2009, the world was somewhat different. There seemed cause for optimism about the potentials presented by new kinds of openness, and though there was without question just as thick a strain of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and general hatred within western culture, it was somehow less emboldened. Or so it seemed to me, at least, in my narrow corner of the internet, where my colleagues and I chatted happily through our blogs and on Twitter, imagining the ways that our networks could help support more open, egalitarian modes of scholarly engagement.

Things are different in 2018. Scholars are being actively targeted for their political beliefs, with off-campus groups campaigning for their dismissal. Entire academic departments have come under investigation by state legislatures for their apparently subversive activity. And too many writers whose work explores issues of race, of gender, of sexuality, of oppression routinely receive threats of violence in response.

As Generous Thinking will attest, I still believe in the opportunities presented by building more open forms of conversation both within the academy and between the academy and the broader publics with which we engage. But I am more cautious about how we should do so now, or at least I am less naive. And so I’ve staged this review process a little bit differently.

 

Read the full post here.