A parting (sniff!) shot, in re DH ‘Types’, PoCoDH, etc.

Just in case this horse isn’t quite dead yet, a final post: this morning I had what seemed at the time like a ‘moment of clarity’ on the whole boundary debate. Whether I can now recreate it on this blog with the same degree of pellucidity that it had in my 5 a.m. inner monologue is doubtful, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

On Wednesday the point that I was trying, largely unsuccessfully I think, to bring across in our final discussion stems from a realization that I have made over the past year or so, namely that, to put it rather glibly, the humanities are long and life is short.  Yes, I know that there are big issues at stake for those who are struggling to forge an academic career in a time of shrinking budgets and large-scale adjunctification of the professorate, but I just don’t have the patience for, or see the value in, squabbling over territory.  I think there are really exciting things happening right now in the humanities around open, accessible, and processable information structures, things largely made possible by a growing spirit of collaboration among cultural heritage institutions, government agencies, universities, and even commercial (gasp!) technology companies — and to spend time carding people at the entrance seems like a colossal waste of time.  As someone who at one point poured a fair amount of himself into seeking a tenure-track academic job, I have come around to this viewpoint less easily and willingly than did Andrew Prescott (see: http://digitalriffs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/small-worlds-and-big-tents.html), but I think I largely share his view that the current debate seems rather parochial, and once you no longer have a dog in that fight, the fight starts to seem pretty boring.  It’s a bit like reading the comments section attached to articles on the Chronicle website — a little goes a very long way.

That having been said, reading comment flame-wars is often entertaining, and once in a while the products can even be useful. I actually liked Steven Ramsay’s type1/type2 piece (http://stephenramsay.us/2013/05/03/dh-one-and-two/) — which I think goes a long way toward explaining the current shape (and frequent disconnects) of the DH field.  I am myself rather partial to building things too, and I like code, but that doesn’t mean that I would dismiss TransformDH or the Dark Side conference as mere “silliness” (as one commentator — not Ramsay — has done), though I think no one can deny that they are, in part at least, ‘silly’.  Does anyone think TransformDH is meant purely in earnest?  And powerful ideas are, by virtue of their potency, also easy to parody.  To say that Gravity’s Rainbow is often silly — indeed, it is one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read — does nothing to detract from its greatness as a work of literature, nor from the power of its ideas.  It is also, just like Joyce or Hemingway, easy to make fun of.  Of course critical theory should be applied to DH — of course it should.  But it doesn’t follow from that that building something or winning and directing a grant cannot be equally valid scholarly achievements or that they are merely “managerial” (cf. http://www.danielallington.net/2013/03/the-managerial-humanities-or-why-the-digital-humanities-dont-exist/).  Anyone who thinks you can effectively manage a team of software developers without yourself knowing at least something about programming is kidding themselves, and anyway would we criticize the biochemist who wrote a grant to undertake groundbreaking medical research as a mere ‘manager’ who just got the funding to hire postdocs to do the real work?  Sure, there have been some poorly conceived and poorly executed DH grants.  No doubt there have been DH grants that got funds that could have been better spent elsewhere. There have also been more than a few bad pomo/poco monographs over the years. With any research project, funded or not, the proof is in the outcomes, not the method, the theory, the label, or in whose tent it was carried out.  Enough with the sour grapes!

PS: Having gotten that out of my system, I’m adding this postscript, mainly because the preceding phrase would be a very unfitting way to end this course, the spirit of which has been precisely the opposite!  Thanks to you all for a fabulous semester, and hope to see you on the Dark Side!


In order to fool around with interactive nonfiction, I did Public Writing Audit #2 in Twine! Here it is.


I wanted to do something fancy where it would add up the total number of words in the order that you click on each post, but that wasn’t happening just yet.

Note: this doesn’t include Tweets, which have dropped off sharply on my end as the semester’s progressed due to not paying my phone bill…..


Public Writing Audit #1

I decided to use the first Public Writing Audit as a chance to do some Storifying. I’ve seen people use Storify, but I don’t think I ever quite understood how it actually worked. Going through all my tweets from this semester, which required a fair bit of searching through twitter with Storify’s functions, made me realize that this can be a tedious and time-consuming process. But I also think it holds great potential.

My Storify is organized around DH Events, What I’m Reading, PDA 2013, #TransformDH, ENGL 668K exercises and tweets, and Miscellaneous. It’s several pages long, so be prepared. It’s here:


Going through these tweets, I realized a few things.

1) I could create a Storify of all my tweets related to Star Trek and chronicle the exact dates and times I was watching certain episodes!! This would be fun but it would also reveal (to a number of eminent academic twitterists, including my adviser) just how much time I spend watching Star Trek….a lot. But, it would also be a fun way to write that mini-essay on Star Trek that’s just been itching to come out–I could annotate all my Star Trek tweets, which are usually quotes or “#wisdom” from my favorite characters, delightfully out of context. But you’re not here to read about Star Trek, so moving on….

2) A chronology of tweets reveals something different than a Storify of tweets organized around certain topics. I thought that first I would just put all the DH-related tweets in chronologically, but my immediate inclination while doing this was to group tweets together. Topics started to emerge. “#TransformDH” and “What I’m Reading” are the biggest categories. “Miscellaneous” tends to contain my (and others’) twitter snark.  And there are usually clumps of tweets showing up right before and during our class time for ENGL 668K. BUT, these topics can also be plugged into a timeline. Rearranging them and putting them chronologically in order WITHIN the topics felt like putting together a narrative puzzle–”Oh right, that was the night I stayed up till 3am…twittering. Oh right, that Saturday six amazing conferences were going on at the same time…while I was home writing.” It made me think about my own story (and chronology) differently, which is exciting for a n4velg4zer errrrrrr ahem, autobiographer.

3) I thought my “public writing” on Twitter would be ME, writing, publicly. However, I’m a big retweeter. In fact, as I once observed on Twitter, retweeting is my jam. It often frustrates me to tweet from my computer as opposed to my phone, because my phone app allows me to easily quote other people’s tweets when retweeting, while I haven’t quite figured out how to do this on the computer. [Suggestions for useful PC twitter apps are welcome.] Often I retweet folks sharing snippets of events that I couldn’t attend, or pithy twitter poetics that are probably very decontextualized. So, I had to make a Storify decision as to whether I wanted this story to be just about/by me–impossible in the public writing context of Twitter.

4) I’m twitterpaited. The description on my Twitter profile, which I created more than a year and a half ago, suggests that I try not to be. And I really did try hard not to like Twitter. But then I found myself falling into Twitter holes all over the place, discovering all kinds of things. In fact, it has changed the way I do research. For example, I have a list entitled “Zine Love” that enables me to see all my zine-lovers’ tweets about things, zine-related and not. I also have an “Academia” list that enables me to see all tweets from the theory badasses I follow. But the problem with this is that I can’t be on Twitter all the time–it’s impossible. So as twitterpaited as I am, I will never be able to see ALL THE TWEETS. I have to be resigned to dipping into the stream when I have the time. [Which doesn't mean I resist the urge to endlessly scroll until I've caught up on all the action that happened since the last time I took a dip.]

I wanted to add up the total number of characters I tweeted, or figure out how many words it actually was since the Twitter gauntlet was thrown down early on in the course (What is a “significant” number of tweets? Is it the quality of the tweets or the quantity? What subject matter counts as public writing for this course?), but the Storify exhausted me. It will have to do on its own.

In terms of my blog posts for this class and for my own collaborative project, SqueakyWheelCollective.wordpress.com, the word count totals at least 4,573 (not including our exercises or words written after this sentence).

Dang. Now if I could only write that many words for that draft due in two weeks….

Stay tuned for the text of my Personal Digital Archiving Talk, “Public Displays of Affection: Digital Zine Archives and the Labor of Love.” [heh, c wut i did there? PDA, snicker snicker.]