Current Happenings in DH

Several weeks before the end of the semester, I gave the students in this class the assignment of collaboratively curating a site that documents what happened in DH since the day before our class began, on January 22, 2013. And so they did: Current Happenings in Digital Humanities. And they immediately grokked my logic:

“Thus, we are defining digital humanities not by what we believe it to be (as we did at the beginning of the course), but by what it actually does and continues to do.”

Yes. That. That really nails it; for me, “digital humanities” as a discipline, hashtag, or “big tent,” may finally only be sustainable as a documentary rubric, that is by the kind of collecting, gathering, organizing, and aligning that they’ve done here. This site strikes
me as a “cabinet of curiosities” in the best tradition of the Web, that is rather than a unified, coherent body of content it is willfully (and necessarily) partial, eclectic, diversified, and subjective. This is manifest in so many ways: the plurality of platforms and voices, the loose connective tissue of the links, and essential but ultimately I think futile attempt to impose an external organizing structure in the form of WordPress’s hierarchy of pages and sub-pages.

Highlights for me include the amazing archives visualization and the already voluminous Zotero Library, whose neatly ordered entries function as the skeletal discursive underpinning for much of the content manifest here. Oh, and the Easter egg that reveals our, ahem, *cheesy* class contribution to the world of @kfitz scholarship. But it’s all wonderful and smart. Go look.

And maybe someone wants to pick up the idea behind the original assignment and continue it in their own class next fall?


For those who like to tinker…

If you haven’t heard about the Raspberry Pi microcomputer (which retails for around $35), I thought this would be of interest. People use them to create all sorts of cool homebrewed tech projects: robots, home automation, etc.:

PS: The Pi was created as an inexpensive computer for schools in the UK, so there’s a “digital equity” angle to the project.  There’s a “what girls dig” (to paraphrase B. Nowviskie) angle too; see:

What has William Morris to do with DH?

A brief recommendation: UMD Libraries’ Special Collections is currently featuring an exhibit  (“How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris,” Sept. 2012-July 2013) on the life and works of William Morris, the 19th-century English author, designer, socialist, and — arguably most famously, though perhaps I’m not objective on this point — founder of the Kelmscott Press and printer of the Kelmscott Chaucer.  As a medievalist with a particular interest in manuscript studies, I’ve long found Morris’s work appealing and admired his taste — for example, what lover of books would not appreciate the discussion of the relative aesthetic merits of various typefaces and guidelines for margin widths found in his “The Ideal Book“?  That having been said, though, I never found Morris particularly relevant to my own work — that is, not until I read Bethany Nowviskie’s very thoughtful MLA talk, “Resistance in the Materials” (posted here on her blog).  Nowviskie uses a quotation from Morris as a jumping off point for discussing the role of craft and collaboration in DH, as well as for some reflections on the casualization of the academic workforce.  Not only is her essay directly pertinent to our discussion of making and building in DH, but for me reading it also gave new relevance to UMD’s Morris exhibition.  In particular, it got me thinking about the tension between the hand- and machine-crafted object in Morris’ work, and about the resonance of his attempts to translate both the aesthetics and the ethics of the hand-crafted book into the technological context of printing. In that sense his work now strikes me as particularly relevant to our moment, when at times the future of books as physical objects seems to be in doubt — not to mention the viability of a career devoted to writing and studying them. But rather than take my word for it, why not read the essay — and take in the exhibition — for yourself?


Greetings! Welcome to the course site for Matthew Kirschenbaum‘s ENGL 668K: Introduction to Digital Humanities (Spring 2013) at the University of Maryland. If you’re ready to start looking around, I suggest you first read the Introduction to get a sense of what the course is about. You’ll also want to know about Requirements and Policies. (This course will be different in some key respects from others you may have taken as part of your graduate work.) It’s very important that you get a hold of some books sooner rather than later, or at least learn how to find the open access editions of them online. Crucially, you’ll want to know my sense of the Outcomes and Expectations for the class. And don’t forget to have a look at how to contact me.

The next thing to do is to take a look at the pages for the first two class Meetings, January 23 and 30. All of the meetings will follow a set structure, which you can read about here (this will give you a clear sense of how the class is intended to work on a week to week basis).

This site is still very much a work in progress. The Readings, Exercises, and other materials for the classes after the first two are still to be added. While the Introduction gives you a sense of what’s ahead, it’s likely that the particulars of the subsequent modules will only get roughed in as the semester progresses. Likewise, the Resources section will evolve over time. Please keep checking back often; in the meantime, there should be plenty here to get you started. I look forward to seeing you Wednesday evening in Tawes 3132!