Posts Tagged mla

Screwing Up DH101: My Talk at MLA 2017

Title slide. Two screws pointing up through a piece of wood with the text, 'Screwing Up DH101 | #mla17 #s376 | @briancroxall | Brown University'

tl;dr: I gave another talk about digital pedagogy. Here it is.

About two weeks ago, I spoke at the MLA Convention in Philadelphia. I was part of a panel titled, “DH 101: Revisiting the ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ Course.” The panel was organized by Matt Gold and Lauren Klein on behalf of the MLA Forum TC Digital Humanities. My co-panelists included:

I was particularly excited to present with Kathi, as we co-organized a panel on digital humanities pedagogy for the 2012 MLA. But it was great to get to know the work of these colleagues, and the exciting and different ways they are leading development of digital humanities pedagogy at their different schools, ranging from Ivy Leagues to community colleges.

There’s a part of me that hesitates to put this talk up because I talk (at least in part) about an assignment that I have discussed in a previous talk that I’ve published here on my blog. But this presentation gave me a chance to talk through the changes that I had made over the years to the course, and to do a little bit of theorizing—a very little—about what it is that I think matters in digital humanities pedagogy. Spoiler: it’s the last sentence. There’s an essay or blog post to be written about my resistance to “doing things twice,” as that has been an animating tension for me in the development of this and other courses. But I’ll have to save that for another day.

As always, my work is Creative Commons-licensed. Let me know what you think!

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Constellations at the Convention: 10 Years of MLA Data

Title slide with a tree against star trails with caption 'Constellations at the Convention: 10 Years of MLA Daya'

Yesterday I had the chance to speak on a panel about “The MLA and Its Data: Remix, Reuse, and Research,” which I organized on behalf of the MLA’s Committee on Information Technology. The panel was very successful, due largely to fabulous co-panelists: David Laurence, Ernesto Priego, Chris Zarate, and Lisa Rhody. Ernesto has shared his slides for his presentation on his and Chris’s analysis of tweets from last year’s convention. Unfortunately we missed Jonathan Goodwin, who became ill. Lucky for us, he shared his talk as well.

What follows is the text of my talk, “Constellations at the Convention.” The metaphor of the title suggested itself immediately as I began looking at the network within Gephi, but I couldn’t help but think of Matt Kirschenbaum’s post following the 2011 MLA Convention, “The (DH) Stars Come Out in LA.” I think that the methods I’ve been able to begin deploying here might help us track the star system—if not within the profession, but within the convention.

Even though I say it within the talk, it’s critical that I acknowledge up front the assistance of two people. First, Chris Zarate kindly provided the data from the MLA that I asked for. (The MLA itself needs to be thanked for being willing to support this scholarship.) He made suggestions about the sorts of information he could provide me and gave me exactly what I asked for. Unfortunately, since I had never done something like this before, I didn’t quite know what to ask for. So when I discovered the data weren’t quite as I needed them, my colleague Sara Palmer who took the raw XML and transformed it with XSLT and Python into a format that I could use. Sara and I then spent several hours playing with the data and then talking about the different things that we were seeing. She identified the Midwestern Mafia as a question worth pursuing. Finally, Rebecca Sutton Koeser pointed out the Javascript exporter plugin for Gephi, which is why you can now play with the data easily.

I appreciated the interest from the crowd and the thoughtful questions about “algorithmic cruelty” and where such work might lead in the future. If you want to play with the data yourself, you can download the Gephi file of the 2014 and 2015 Mark Sample data. I will see what I can do about sharing the MLA data set. But for the moment, you can explore the four different networks that I showed.

As always, my work is Creative Commons-licensed. Let me know what you think!

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Methods and More for “Beyond the Digital” at MLA 2014

cross-posted from ACH.org 

On Friday, January 10 from 5:15-6:30pm in Sheraton I at the Sheraton Chicago, the ACH will sponsor a session (#402) at the Modern Language Association’s Convention.

Earlier this year, the ACH put out a call for papers on the subject “Beyond the Digital.” In recent years, an increasing number of sessions at the MLA have been devoted to the digital humanities. As we wrote in the CFP, however, what is sometimes forgotten is that the output of digital analysis is not itself the goal; rather, such analysis is a means to an end, and that end is the interpretation of a text or corpus (understood widely). The goal of the ACH’s session, then, is to re-establish this understanding and conversation, defamiliarizing the conversation about the digital and making it re-familiar to the larger body of MLA participants.

The panelists’ brief talks will offer interpretations of texts, language, literature and/or literary history that definitely began with a digital approach. But—and this is crucial—we have asked our presenters to focus not on their methods but instead on the interpretations they have reached as result of their digital praxis.

And yet: since method is crucial for the work these scholars have been doing, the ACH still wanted to make information about their methods available to those who might be curious. Consequently, we have asked the panelists if each of them would write a post for the ACH to explain some of the process they used in starting the project—the tools, approaches, and methods of interpretation.

We are pleased to present posts from all seven of our panelists today:

Given the two different purposes of the posts and the presentations at the MLA—method and interpretation, respectively—the former will likely contain very different content from what you hear in Chicago. We realize that scholarly work is always a conflation of method and interpretation, but since the goal of the panel is to underscore how digital work is qualitatively compatible with “regular” interpretive literary studies it seems worth the imposition of the false binary. In the end, the post and panel presentation taken together are what should be might consider the complete version of the scholarship.

We hope that you will join us at the MLA (Friday, January 10 from 5:15-6:30pm in Sheraton I) or follow along via Twitter at the hashtags #mla14 and #s402.

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Two Job Markets in Every Pot: My Platform for the MLA Executive Council

Earlier this year, I sent Rosemary Feal, the Executive Director of the MLA, a direct message via Twitter. In the last couple of years I’ve had the chance to get to know her as we’ve spoken together on panels and as I’ve served on the MLA’s Committee on Information Technology (CIT). In this DM, I suggested that the MLA should host a job fair alongside the academic job interviews that take place at the annual Convention. I followed up with the observation that if the MLA needed to hire someone full-time to implement this strategy, well…I knew a guy.

Her reply came a few days later and not in the way that I expected. Instead of an offer of employment or (as was much more likely) a good-natured jibe about my need to show up to the Convention first, she instead conveyed the news that I had been invited to stand for election to the MLA’s Executive Council. I was both flattered and floored. As noted on the Association’s Governance page, the Executive Council “has fiduciary and administrative responsibility for the association” and works in partnership with the Executive Director and all of the MLA staff to steer the organization according to the concerns of its members, all 27,736 of them [PDF].

As I said, I was completely surprised by the invitation. But at least I already had the beginnings of a candidate statement. Here, then, are the 250 words that I could include in my platform, with some links thrown in to contextualize things:

I am a former adjunct who now works off the tenure track building digital humanities projects and programs. My experience—shared with countless others—suggests that the MLA must lead graduate education reform that includes thoughtful preparation for nonprofessorial employment. The MLA must help its members believe about themselves what we say about our undergraduates: that the study of languages and literatures prepares one for many careers.

On the Executive Council, I will work to introduce something new at the annual convention: a job fair with government and private-sector exhibitors. In so doing, the MLA will put its imprimatur on nonacademic outcomes for graduate training, which will help individual departments institute the changes necessary to reimagine graduate studies.

Concurrent with this expansion of what graduate training means, the MLA should expand how it conceives of its membership. At present, our association is largely composed of those who research and teach modern languages and literatures. We must reframe the organization to represent and advocate for those who have studied these subjects in the past. Those in other career paths need to feel not just welcome but valued as continuing members of the MLA.

Once we expand representation, the MLA will be better able to demonstrate the many outcomes of an education in language and literature because our members will be everywhere. By making visible the many pathways available to those trained in modern languages, we will show the public and ourselves the usefulness of a humanities education.

In the four months since I wrote this statement, I’ve been thrilled to see that the MLA, along with the American Historical Association, is continuing, as a Chronicle headline puts it, to “chip away at [the] taboo of nonacademic careers.” The MLA’s Task Force on Doctoral Study is just one example of such efforts. If elected to the Council, I’ll advocate for the above-mentioned job fair and ever-increasing attention to pathways beyond the professoriate. Making all alternative careers—and not just alternative academic jobs—part of the discourse during graduate study will help those who work outside the academy understand that their work makes sense within the context of the MLA.

But it turns out that 250 words are not enough to adequately capture everything that I would have liked to say about the MLA. The Association must absolutely continue to work for equitable working conditions for all those who work in academe, which includes graduate students and adjuncts. It’s critical to remember that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. The MLA must do all that it can—and constantly ask whether it can do more—to change what has become the status quo in higher education. We must also think about those who work alongside faculty. To this end, I’m proud to have worked with the MLA’s CIT to revise the Association’s Guidelines for Information Technology Access and Support for the Modern Languages. These guidelines make it clear that it’s a responsibility of scholars to “recognize academic technology staff members as vital collaborators.”

As a result of my service on the CIT, I will also work to find ways to allow the MLA to make more of its data open. One example of this might be the Job Information List, which was made free to all users this year. There are good reasons why not all MLA resources can be made open in this way, but many kinds of data might be made available for research. The result could be explorations about the history of the profession and scholarship similar to the analysis of PMLA that Ted Underwood and Andrew Goldstone undertook and reported on in December 2012.

I do hope to be elected. I’m excited about continuing to serve the MLA which is a forward-thinking organization with great leadership. So if you’re into people who have gone on record as being very enthusiastic about the Convention, please consider voting for me. I’m interested to respond to any questions you might have for me. Comment here, on Twitter, or on MLA Commons!

And then vote!

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Beyond the Digital: Pattern Recognition and Interpretation. A CFP for MLA 2014 from ACH

Cross-posted from http://www.ach.org/beyond-digital-cfp-mla-2014

Recent MLA Conventions have featured many sessions about the digital humanities, considering their impact on methodology, pedagogy, bibliography, race, and the profession itself. What is sometimes forgotten, however, is that the output of digital analysis is not itself the goal; rather, it is a means to an end, and that end is the interpretation of a text or corpus (understood widely). This session—organized by the Association for Computers and Humanities (ACH)—seeks to re-establish this understanding and conversation, defamiliarizing the conversation about the digital and making it re-familiar to the larger body of MLA participants.

This panel will feature presentations that offer interpretations of texts, language, literature and/or literary history that definitely began with a digital approach. Crucially, however, we will ask presenters to speak not about their methods but instead about their interpretation, results, and conclusions.

Speakers will give brief talks (5-7 minutes, depending on number of participants). Speakers will also be invited to write brief blog posts to be shared on their own websites as well as that of the ACH about their methods and approaches. These posts will be shared at the session but will not form the subject of the conversation.

Send 300-word abstracts and bio to brian [dot] croxall [at] emory [dot] edu by 27 March 2013 at 12pm EST. N.B. All panelists will need to be MLA members (or have their membership waived) by April 7th.

I am organizing this session on behalf of the ACH. Since the ACH is an allied organization of the MLA, this session is guaranteed for the 2014 MLA.

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