Working the Digital Humanities: Uncovering Shadows between the Dark and the Light

Last July, I received a welcome email from Wendy Hui Kyong Chun asking if I would be interested in responding to her 2013 MLA “The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities” roundtable presentation in an extended conversation that would be published in a forthcoming special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.  Wendy’s generous invitation led to what I feel to be a productive and convivial dialogue about the “cruel optimisms” of the digital humanities, and I’m delighted to be able to share widely the fruits of that conversation. I remain grateful to Wendy for asking me to participate and to Richard Grusin for the occasion that prompted this special issue, and I look forward to the conversations that follow.

Under our author agreements with Duke UP, Wendy and I can publish our own PDF versions of the article published in differences. Therefore, I have chosen to post one such copy here.  Aside from oddities caused by reformatting such as pagination, hyphenation, capitalization, and other surface discrepancies, the text of this pdf should be the same between the two versions.  For the purposes of citation, you may choose to refer to Duke UP’s copy and page numbering.

The full PDF of the article is available here: Working the Digital Humanities. An abstract is also available.

August Company

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the wet campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. –Don DeLillo, White Noise

In the academic universe, the end of the summer signals the beginning of our new year. Explaining that parents and students on move-in day at College-on-a-Hill “feel a sense of renewal, of communal recognition,” DeLillo’s narrator also channels his own ritualized response to the start of the academic calendar—the communal quality of the “back-to-school” ritual reinforces a sense of belonging and welcoming, as well as nervous energy about changes to come.

Personally, this year’s back-to-school ritual is different because this time I am one of the new arrivals. I am excited to say that I have accepted a Research Assistant Professor appointment at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason Univeristy. This academic year, for me, will bring a whole new set of projects, adventures, and challenges. For the last 6 months, I have worked on a part-time basis with RRCHNM as a project manager to produce the Institute of Museum and Library Services’s (IMLS) signature conference, WebWise. Working with Sharon Leon and Sheila Brennan for just these short months, I have learned an incredible amount about effective project design and development, and I’m looking forward to working with more of RRCHNM’s outstanding staff during what will be an exciting year for the Center.

In the coming year, I will continue as project manager for the WebWise 2014 conference, but I will also be working on other Center projects. For example, I will be joining Joan Fragaszy Troyano as co-editor of the Journal of Digital Humanities, and will begin working more closely with the Digital Humanities Now and Press Forward projects. I have admired Press Forward’s efforts to reconsider how we collect, edit, and distribute scholarly gray literature, and I am looking forward to becoming part of future conversations there. Other projects I will be involved in include scholarly outreach for Zotero, one of the center’s most widely used and recognized software applications, and consultation projects at the Center as they come along.

Joining RRCHNM promises to broaden my exposure to digital and public humanities projects, offering me opportunities to work with Alt-Ac professionals in the gallery, library, archive, and museum communities and to expand the scholarly audience for my own work revising the literary tradition of writing to, for, and about the visual arts to include women’s contributions to the genre.

The Center has long been a place that I have admired for it’s collaborative production, for it’s cautious optimism about technology’s benefits for humanists, and for it’s dedication to making humanities research, scholarship, and records openly and publicly accessible. Furthermore, this August is particularly exciting as the Center is in the midst of its own transition. Soon, we will be welcoming our new director–Stephen Robertson. I’m enthusiastic about what this year will bring both for me personally as I acclimate to a new(ish) community and begin to take on more responsibility, but I’m also genuinely excited about becoming part of the future shape of such a well-established and important center in the digital humanities community.