Archive for category Announcements

Go West, Young Man

I’m very pleased to share that starting August 1, I will begin a new job as Assistant Research Professor of Digital Humanities at Brigham Young University. I will be part of BYU’s Office of Digital Humanities, which is located in the College of Humanities. I will join colleagues who are experts in computer-assisted language learning, computational linguistics, and, of course, digital humanities.

BYU has an extensive history in mixing computers and humanistic inquiry. When I was a student there in the mid-1990s—how time flies!—I remember courses being offered in a Computers and Humanities (CHum) minor. I’ve kicked myself more than once for not taking some of those courses from Chuck Bush and others. The minor has been renamed as Digital Humanities and Technology in the last five years, and offers tracks in digital humanities, print publishing, and web publishing. I’m pleased that I’ll be teaching courses regularly in the minor, including “Introduction to Digital Humanities,” a course with which I have some history. BYU is intensely focused on undergraduate education, and I’m tremendously excited to return to thinking hard about how to teach digital methods to humanities students and to teach humanities methods to students who come from other parts of the university as part of BYU’s Humanities+ / +Humanities initiative.

In addition to teaching, I will continue to do what I have done for the last six years: partnering with other researchers—undergraduates, grad students, faculty, librarians, and other staff—and imagining, designing, managing, and shipping digital scholarship projects. I was impressed with the range of people I met with at BYU who are well on their way with projects in connection with BYU’s ODH.

N.B. You can’t use the acronym ODH without thinking of the National Endowment for the Humanities‘s Office of Digital Humanities. In this time of disastrous budgetary requests on the part of the person who somehow sits at the desk in the Oval Office, it’s important to advocate as loudly and strongly as possible for the work done by that Office’s Director and Program Officers. I have had the great pleasure to participate in two different NEH-funded workshops as well as acting as an occasional grant reviewer, and you would be hard pressed to find individuals more dedicated to the advancement of humanities education and research than these public servants. If you need advice on how to get started on advocacy for the NEH, please see this post and this one by Jason Rhody, formerly of the NEH’s ODH and now Director of Digital Culture at Social Science Research Council. You can also join the Modern Language Association in calling on the government to come to its senses. And if you want to see the impact that the NEH as a whole has had in your particular state, please see this project and accompanying blog post by Patrick Smyth as well as this series of visualizations and discussion thereof by Hannah Aizenman, Tahir Butt, and Jojo Karlin, all GC Digital Fellows in the GC Digital Initiatives Program at the CUNY Grad Center.

Of course, changes in employment means leaving behind work and colleagues. For the last two years, I have been working in the Brown Library and its Center for Digital Scholarship. Recently, I have been managing one of the two flagship projects for Brown’s grant for digital scholarship from the Mellon Foundation. The Alchemy in Code team is working with Tara Nummedal (Brown) and Donna Bilak (Columbia) to create a digital edition of Michael Maier’s 1617 emblem book, Atalanta Fugiens, along with an edited collection of essays. We are designing an experience for this 400-year old multimedia work that will allow readers to view a facsimile of the rare book as well as consult the text in a modern edition, both in the original languages (Latin and German) as well as English. I’ve had the chance to get deeply involved in the management of the encoding of the text into TEI, the music into MEI, and discussions about the UI / UX of the site as well as the custom platform that will support our remediation. Alchemy ins’t the only thing I’ve been up to at Brown, however. This year, I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to work with Linford Fisher in the History Department to begin development of the Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas. Inspired by the TransAtlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory, we are hoping to reveal the other side of slavery in the history of the Americas: that of native peoples. Working with our talented undergraduate developer, Cole Hansen (’19), on the data models for a group of people who have all but been erased from history has been deeply rewarding and educational. I can’t wait to see how this project evolves as it begins adding data and (fingers crossed) secures funding for further development. I have also had the chance to partner with James Green in Brown’s Departments of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and History on a number of different projects, including Opening the Archives, which is making public tens of thousands of recently declassified documents related to US-Brazil relations from the 1960s-1980s. In another context, I’ve again worked with the Brown Digital Repository and then Susan Smulyan and Jim McGrath at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Jeff Drouin at the University of Tulsa to shore up the foundations of the Modernist Journals Project, a 20-plus year project started by Robert Scholes. I helped develop two visualizations for the Decameron with Nicole Gercke (GS ’15) and Cissy Yu (’17) that draw on data collected by students in Massimo Riva’s course on the same subject. And in the most recent semester, I got to work with Steve Lubar from American Studies and Emily Esten (GS ’18), along with data science student Steffani Gomez (’17), to visualize the catalog of the 1853 New York Crystal Palace exhibition. Steve has written about the research project extensively on Medium.

In these projects, as well as the day-to-day work of the library, I have had the fantastic fortune to work closely with some of the best and most humane colleagues anyone could hope for. Bruce Boucek, Crystal Brusch, Ben Cail, Ann Caldwell, Andrew Creamer, Birkin Diana, Kerri Hicks, Ned Quist, Patrick Rashleigh, Joseph Rhoads, and many others here at the Brown Library have been generous in sharing their thoughts and expertise with me. I’ve perhaps learned the most from Elli Mylonas, senior digital humanities librarian extraordinaire. I will miss them all sorely.

I will also miss being part of a library. Libraries are where I’ve worked for the last seven years and are, as I wrote when coming to Brown, a logical and important part of digital scholarship. I hope to help cultivate strong connections between BYU’s ODH and the campus’s libraries (which have one of the best YouTube presences imaginable). Libraries are both where scholarship starts and where it ends up, so it’s critical to partner with them every step of the way. 

Finally, I find myself surprised to be starting a job that may ultimately lead to tenure. That said, this is a 12-month faculty position on a professional, rather than professorial, track. Add that to my starting this job at age 40, maybe I still qualify as a little bit alt.

I can’t wait to tell y’all about what I get up to at BYU!

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Printable Pedagogy and 3D Theses: ACH’s CfP for MLA 2018

Over the last decade, at roughly the same time that digital humanities methods and tools have appeared in language and literature classrooms and research, universities have made investments in 3D printing and makerspaces. And in a similar way to digital humanities, those working in modern languages might not immediately see how they could use fabrication technologies in their teaching and research.

For its session at the 2018 MLA Convention, ACH invites proposals that highlight how 3D printing, soft circuits, or other methods of physical fabrication are used to teach languages or literature or to conduct linguistic or literary research. Speakers will give brief talks (4-6 minutes, depending on number of participants) that address the praxis of printing and the metaphysics of physicalization. While a discussion of what you made and how you made it will naturally feature in these talks, it is more important to discuss how the act of making contributed to the understanding of languages and/or literatures. In this way, this session is cousin to the ACH’s 2014 session at the MLA.

Please send abstracts of 250 words (not including references) to brian [dot] croxall [at] brown [dot] edu. Abstracts should be received by 5pm EST / GMT-5 on 15 March 2017. N.B. All accepted panelists will need to be current MLA members—or have their membership waived—by 7 April 2017.

Since the ACH is an allied organization of the MLA, this session is guaranteed to be accepted for the 2018 MLA.

Cross-posted from ach.org.

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Announcing Like Clockwork

A few years ago, my good friend and colleague Rachel Bowser and I put out a call for papers for an edited collection on steampunk. Today, we are pleased to say that Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures will be published this fall by University of Minnesota Press. In fact, you can order it now. And check out this cover!

The cover of *Like Clockwork, which shows a brass colored automaton with a number of gears and dials in its head. The edges of the book have gears running up and down it.

In many ways, our book leaves the question of “what is steampunk?” aside as we already tackled that question in our special issue of Neo-Victorian Studies on Steampunk, Science, and (Neo)Victorian Technologies. Like Clockwork asks a different question: “why steampunk?” and, perhaps more importantly, “why steampunk now?”  why did steampunk explode in popularity in the first years of the twenty-first century? What is it about the aesthetic, the themes, or the crosscutting of anachronistic technologies that speaks to so many around the globe? Why did steampunk only become a thing—and a thing that IBM’s social analytics predict will continue to grow—more than 30 years after its invention in the early 1970s?

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a genre that celebrates the similarities and disjunctures among times took a while to find its own moment, but our collection identifies specific trends and events to which steampunk as a genre, a fan culture, and art movement respond. The essays in the book address these subjects as well as disability studies, postcolonial studies, digital humanities, Victorian culture, urban studies, performance, graphic novels, film, cultural trauma, and even the question of whether steampunk is “punk enough”:

Introduction

Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall, “It’s about Time: Reading Steampunk’s Rise and Roots”

Steampunk Spaces and Things

David Pike, “Steampunk and the Victorian City: Time Machines, Bryan Talbot, and the Center of the Multiverse”
Roger Whitson, “How to Theorize with a Hammer; or, Making and Baking Things in Steampunk and the Digital Humanities”
Catherine Siemann, “The Steampunk City in Crisis”

Steampunk Bodies and Identities

Kathryn Crowther, “From Steam Arms to Brass Goggles: Steampunk, Prostheses, and Disability”
Stefania Forlini, “The Aesthete, the Dandy, and the Steampunk; or Things as They Are Now”
Diana M. Pho, “Punking the Other: On the Performance of Racial and National Identities in Steampunk”

Steampunk Reading and Revising

Mike Perschon, “Seminal Steampunk: Proper and True”
Lisa Hager, “The Alchemy of Aether: Steampunk as Reading Practice in Karina Cooper’s Tarnished and Gilded
Joseph Weakland and Shaun Duke, “Out of Control: Disrupting Technological Mastery in Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air and K. W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices”

We’ve been thrilled to work with great authors throughout the project and the fine folks at Minnesota. We can’t wait to see the book in print and to be throwing out to the rest of y’all from the sides of the book-tour dirigible.

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Announcing the Open Peer Review of My “Failure”

A piece of printed paper with a red 'FAIL' stamped on it, with the rubber stamp and ink pad sitting nearby.

How’s that for a clickbait title?
tl;dr: You can now do open-peer review on something Quinn Warnick and I wrote, https://digitalpedagogy.commons.mla.org/keywords/failure/.

Way, way back in what feels like forever ago—and perhaps it was given my two new jobs since then—I attended the 2012 MLA Convention in Seattle. That convention was notable for a number of things for me, including a panel that I co-organized with Kathi Inman Berens on “Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom”; a talk that I gave on #altac and the digital humanities; and the publication of Debates in the Digital Humanities. Note that I didn’t have anything to do with the latter, but it’s a book that changed the field and Minnesota was kind enough to buy pizza for the small but growing DH contingent at the MLA.

Also at that convention, I ended up in a conversation about digital pedagogy and the lack of books on the subject, which was thrown into sharp contrast by the appearance of Debates. The happy result is that in the months that followed I found myself engaged on the advisory board of what eventually became titled, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. The editors who steered the project—Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers—felt that a publication on digital pedagogy probably shouldn’t be limited to print as it simply didn’t respect the medium of the discussion. And fortunately, they were able to place the project with a press that agreed: the Modern Language Association using its tremendous MLA Commons platform. The result will be a book-like publication that is open access and allows for the presentation of original assignments and student work in relation to those assignments.

Even early on in the process, the editors knew that they wanted to organize the volume by keywords that were central to digital pedagogy. Those who contributed keywords would curate pedagogical artifacts and materials in relation to their term. I was both amused and flattered when I was asked by the editorial team to tackle “failure.” It was only a couple of years since I had flailed and failed very publicly in the pursuit of a job and I had since given talks and written articles about failure of one sort or another. It seemed like the FAIL meme had come home to roost and that I should embrace it.

I might have embraced it a little bit too hard at first, and I failed to make much progress in pulling together my thoughts on “failure.” But last November, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at Virginia Tech by wonderful Quinn Warnick, whom I had met at the DH Conference in 2013. (Kids, never let people tell you that networking won’t pay off.) Our conversations over my time in Blacksburg led me to think that Quinn could be an ideal person to fail with, and we began to discuss what failure meant in the context of our own teaching and that of people we admired. Eventually, we decided that there were four types of failure in digital pedagogy:

  • the technical glitches we have all experienced in our teaching, when something just doesn’t work
  • the difficulties students have in implementing tools that are functioning just fine
  • when students are directed to find failure in others’ work as an opportunity to do better in one’s own, like peer review
  • failure as an epistemology, where students are asked to fail on purpose

Along with articulating how we saw failure working in the classroom, we found assignments or experiences that responded to each of these tiers of failure. We wrote them up and sent it off to our editors.

I’m now proud to say that Quinn’s and my keyword has appeared as part of the open review process for Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. From now until 18 January 2016, you will be able to tell us exactly how well—or how badly—we failed at describing “failure.” (Consider it a Tier 3 exercise!) Please join in the conversation and let us know what you think: https://digitalpedagogy.commons.mla.org/keywords/failure/.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/phobia/2308371224/ / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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New Job; or Come for the People, Stay for the Projects

I’m thrilled to announce that in July of this year, I’ll be joining the team at Brown University’s Center for Digital Scholarship where I will be the Digital Humanities Librarian. In this position I’ll continue to help imagine, design, and carry out digital research projects in conjunction with faculty and graduate students. Some of this work will be in connection with the newly awarded $1.3-million grant from the Mellon Foundation for long-form digital publications in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Since big data can often be a red herring, I will also continue to advocate for the value of small, short-term research projects. Finally, I will partner with colleagues in developing and deploying innovative digital pedagogy.

With this new position, I will be leaving Emory, where I have worked in one form or another for 12 of the last 13 years. (During that other year as I taught at Clemson, I continued to haunt the stacks at the Woodruff Library.) I’m proud of the work that colleagues and I accomplished during the last five years as we created the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) and now the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, which includes large projects like the Battle of Atlanta and small ones like Tweeting #OWS. What’s more, I’ll be here long enough to put the finishing touches on Belfast Group Poetry|Networks, which Rebecca Sutton Koeser and I have been working on for close to three years. Significant work is underway on other projects that I’ve helped design, such as “Schooling Donald Allen,” an exploration of the networks in and around mid-twentieth-century American poetry using the materials in the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, and “Hacking Haiku,” which traces networks, allusions, and places in the work early modern female haiku diarists in Japan. Alongside these big projects, I’ve appreciated the chance to spearhead a number of small, undergraduate-driven projects in the courses that I’ve taught in the English Department over the last four years. I’ve learned over and over again that the computer-assisted pattern-recognition and interpretation of the digital humanities can operate at all sorts of different scales.

I think it’s telling that my work—as is the case with so many others in digital humanities—has been and will continue happening in the context of a library. Since libraries ultimately preserve knowledge, it’s critical that librarians be involved with researchers and others in the creation of 21st-century scholarship. But as anyone who has done research knows, libraries aren’t just the endpoint for research, they are where research begins. One needs the stacks and the databases when getting a new project underway, of course. Yet more and more, I think people come to the library not for the materials but for the people, as Virginia Tech’s Brian Mathews put it following a talk I gave there in November 2014.

I’m headed to Brown for the people, and I hope that people at Brown start coming to look for me soon.

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