Comic Books + Playing with Scholarship

A few weeks ago, I finished rereading Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes. The work combines memoir with a serious examination of not only James Joyce’s daughter Lucia but also of the very act of literary biographical scholarship itself. I grew up on lessons learned in comic books, from Larry Gonick’s epic Cartoon History of the Universe (among other indispensable guides and histories) to Scott McCloud’s metaworks.

Taking the graphic novel as a scholarly text and transforming it into digital can make things even more interesting. The digital editions of graphic novels, including the CD version (with animations, billed as “interactive literature”) of Cartoon History of the Universe and the many layers of Art Spiegelman’s Meta Maus, add another dimension to the form. Comic books evolving online are already texts of study for the digitally-minded humanities, but can they also offer inspiration for rethinking our own forms of communication?

Often, the comic form is still associated with simplicity or beginners. Series of graphic scholarship spawn titles like McLuhan for Beginners that suggest comics are only a tool for transitioning to the “real” monographs. But of course, McLuhan himself used experimental forms in his scholarship–The Medium is the Massage has more more in common with graphic novels than it does with his text-heavier volumes.

These forms offer a starting point for experimenting with public, accessible scholarship that launches away from the confines of the traditional monograph. I propose a session for THATCamp brainstorming ideas for future forms of scholarship inspired by these types of experiments and comic books.

DH and Libraries

This session is becoming a THATCamp tradition so, while I’ll propose it, I am doing so merely as the representative of a movement.

University libraries have always been a hub of activity for scholars working on projects. Increasingly those projects are digital and libraries are looking for ways to support that work. Whether you are a librarian or a scholar, this session is a good way to share problems, solutions and dreams.

This conversation can take several paths; what tools are needed in libraries? what skills do librarians need? what kinds of opportunities exist for graduate students in terms of both training and career options?

I’m keeping this short on purpose so others can expand it in the comments section.

General Discussion: Public Scholars Unite!

I’m working on a project to bring more scholars on Asia into social media and public discourse with the Association of Asian Studies. I’d like to start a discussion about what it takes for historians, anthropologists, political scientists — all kinds of scholars, really — to begin writing and communicating for mass consumption. I’m looking for ideas, good examples of what works and what doesn’t, and a deeper discussion about the role of scholars’ work in how the broader public thinks about the world.

A bit about me — I’m a journalist who keeps one foot in academia and one in mass media. I’ve co-edited a book about everyday lives in China with stories by journalists and scholars, and edited an online magazine published at UCLA that also helped get scholars writing for broader audiences. This is my first time at THATCamp and I’m really looking forward to the weekend.

(You can read more about the project, called Asia Beat, in a short proposal we wrote for the Knight News Challenge and more about me on my website.)

Digitization and its discontents

Now that digitization is part of almost every cultural heritage institution’s workflow, how are we doing?  I’m still seeing real tensions and unresolved arguments over metadata (how minimal can we get without making our work undiscoverable?), process, staffing, interfaces, preservation and discovery. (This can also be an opportunity to talk about the problems with Google Books’ digitization model and its omissions.)  And funding, of course:  plain vanilla digitization projects are less fundable than they used to be.  And when is 3D scanning going to be cheap enough for mass digitization of museum objects?  Let’s discuss where we are and where we’re going in terms of digitization and providing digital access to collections of all sorts.

Reminder: Rosenzweig Forum today 4pm

Just a reminder that if you’re getting in for THATCamp today, you can come to the Rosenzweig Forum at 4pm. Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration, will be speaking with Dr. Sharon Leon at the 2012 Roy Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other exciting digital projects from “our nation’s attic.”

This event is Thursday, June 14 at 4:00pm in Johnson Center Meeting Room A. See Travel for a campus map.

Idea: The Submit Bit

One thing I’ve noticed in all the many THATCamps I’ve been to over the past three years (I should really count sometime, but at least a dozen) is that there’s less “less yack, more hack” than there used to be. The default session at a THATCamp, in fact, is a discussion. As I often say, though, I’m a humanist, so for me, a good discussion *is* a good, productive outcome. And the “yack” you get at traditional non-un-conferences is so often bad yack, the “sage on the stage” kind of yack, whereas at THATCamp we actually get to talk to one another, which frankly I love. My other hoary THATCamp chestnut is “an unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture,” and if I didn’t love seminars I’d never have earned my PhD.

Nevertheless, I do sometimes wonder how we could bring back the emphasis on productivity, and I have an idea about that that we could try out here. I’ve scheduled in a half-hour demonstration (aka “demo”) session on Sunday for people to show off what they’ve built in the hackathon, but here’s the idea: we make that longer, say an hour at least, and open it up to anyone who’s produced something, anything, this weekend — including a blog post, a web site, a wiki, a bibliography, what have you. Could also be open to people who’ve expanded on existing resources (added a bunch of entries to the DiRT wiki or the Digital Humanities Glossary, for instance). I’m basically thinking of it as another round of Dork Shorts (2-minute lightning talks), but limited to things done this weekend at THATCamp. I came up with a cutesy name for it: “The Submit Bit.” As in, the bit where people submit what they did this week for public admiration. If it works, we could include it in the THATCamp documentation as a way to increase the emphasis on productivity.

I know not everyone’s staying through Sunday, but folks could send me a link to their thing (via email or a comment on this post) and I could show it for them. We could rejigger the Sunday schedule so that there’s one 90-minute slot for breakout sessions in the morning from 10-11:30 and then an hour for demos in front of all THATCamp from 11:30-12:30 before we wrap up. Or do a 10-11 breakout ssessions and then The Submit Bit from 11-12 and wrap up early around 12:15.

What do you think?

open peer review in practice

This is really a selfish proposal: I want to take advantage of Jack Doughtery being at THATCamp by having a conversation in which we rigorously analyze and critique the experience of conducting open peer reviews. Jack, with Kristen Nawrotzki, co-edited Writing History in the Digital Age, a volume of essays that was open peer-reviewed and that will be published by Univeristy of Michigan Press. I’ve guest-edited an issue of Shakespeare Quarterly on Shakespeare and Performance that went through an open peer review and, as an Associate Editor of SQ, have been involved with our earlier open peer review of an issue on Shakespeare and New Media and am currently involved with a soon-to-be-announced open-peer-reviewed issue. As far as I know, Jack and I are among the very very few people to have edited open peer review projects in the humanities (we are all, of course, indebted to Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolesence, and maybe if the session happens and we tweet loudly enough, she’ll be able to be part of the conversation too).

I’d like to take a hard look at the actual practice of open peer review. What worked well and what didn’t? What changes would we make to the model we used? Is it sustainable, or under what conditions might it be sustainable? I’ve written about my experience, but I would benefit from a conversations with others about the nitty-gritty details and the larger questions about the value and use of open peer review in the humanities.

For some analysis that’s already out there, I recommend Jack et al’s recent post “Conclusions: What We Learned from Writing History in the Digital Age.” There’s also a cluster of essays at the Postmedieval Forum on “The State(s) of peer review.”

Technology and International Scholarly Partnerships Across the Digital Divide

As a THATCamp newbie, rather than propose a session I would like to discuss with other participants some questions and issues related to content produced online by international networks of scholars and practitioners. I have some experience in this area as an academic involved in various Africa-related digital projects, including the Africa Past and Present podcast (see my recent journal article here), the Overcoming Apartheid web curriculum, and the Football Scholars Forum. Generally, I am interested in knowledge production and circulation; costs and accessibility; and the challenges posed by “digital imperialism.” A bit more specifically, how can technology generate and enhance international scholarly collaborations in the humanities and social sciences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Skype, Zotero, WordPress and other tools to create and disseminate knowledge in and about the Global South? What are the principles and/or models more likely to bring about long-term sustainable access to information resources in mutually beneficial ways across the digital divide?



THATCamp is nigh

Some brief final THATCamp CHNM reminders:

  • There’s lots of information on — most of your questions (we hope) will be answered there.
  • If you are new to THATCamp and don’t know what’s expected of you, here it is: 1) show up, 2) bring a laptop, and 3) propose a session by the end of the day on Friday 6/15. Read our page about proposing sessions for guidance with that.
  • Traffic will probably be very bad on Friday morning. Leave extra time if you’re driving to GMU, and plan on parking in the Shenandoah Parking Deck — see our Travel page for more travel information and advice.
  • If you haven’t already signed up separately for workshops on Friday, please do so at Note that there are new workshop descriptions for “Unlocking WordPress” and for “Interesting Things You Can Do with git.”
  • This year, we’re going to have Dork Shorts during the initial scheduling session on Saturday. I’ll write more about that on the blog, but just quickly, for those who don’t know, Dork Shorts are 2-minute “lightning talks” in which you show off your latest best project. There’ll be a signup whiteboard available Saturday morning.

More: dress is casual (as in t-shirts and shorts), there will *not* be fireworks (officially), there *will* be free breakfast all three days and free lunch on Friday and Saturday, and people of all levels of technology skill are utterly welcome. Any questions? Email me at gro.p1544652084macta1544652084ht@of1544652084ni1544652084.

Can’t wait!

Launching a Center/Initiative + Archaeology and DH – Ethan’s Mixed Bag of Topics

In typical fashion, I can’t contain myself to one topic.  So, here are a couple of ideas.  Also, be sure to check out the Just Playing Around session that Brian Croxall and I co-proposed

I proposed this first session last year, and there was a fair amount of interest in it….so, I’m offering it up again

Launching (and sustain) a DH Initiative/Center/Research Group/SiG

There are a lot of people self organizing into groups (formal or informal) at institutions in order to collaborate, connect, and GTD.  Being the Associate Director of MATRIX: The Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and Director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative at Michigan State University, I’ve got some experience in this domain – and would love to talk with people who are thinking about launching something at their institution, and give them some thoughts from my perspective (what worked, what didn’t, what I’ve had to do, etc, etc, etc).  Likewise, I would love to talk with others who’ve successfully launched something at their institution.

Archaeology & DH: Two Great Tastes That Should Taste Great Together (so why the hell don’t they)?

Everyone in DH is talking about “the big tent” as a metaphor for constructing the boundaries of DH (who is in, who is out – who is a digital humanist, and who is not).  In the meantime (and to continue the metaphor), archaeologists (specifically anthropological archaeologists) are so far away from the “tent” that they don’t even know it exists.  Why is this?  You would think that archaeology and DH would be natural (and very happy) bedfellows.  Many of the disciplines that self identify as being part of DH (history, classics, etc.) articulate very nicely with archaeology (and have done so for many years).  On top of that, archaeology has long been invested in a wide variety of digital practices (since as early as 1954).  So, what is the problem?  As someone who has a foot in both of these worlds (and who things and writes about these questions a lot), I think there are a few fruitful things to talk about:

  • Why is there a separation between archaeology and DH?
  • What can DH learn/gain from archaeology (there is quite a bit, actually). This is probably the most important point here.
  • For the DH’ers, how can you work with archaeology and archeologists (lets call this the “The DH Handbook of Archaeology and Archaeologists”)?