We should all be proud and honoured as a community to see EMiC cited in Digital Humanities Quarterly for best practices in student research, labour, and training. The forthcoming issue (2016 10.1), now avalable in a preview online, features an article co-authored by EMiC alumna, Katrina Anderson. Here’s an excerpt from “Student Labour and Training in Digital Humanities” :
“The EMiC project presents a model that enables students to pursue their own DH projects. The EMiC community emphasizes the importance of student research by awarding stipends to graduate students who are working to create their own editions of Canadian modernist texts and by providing these students with the training they need to carry out this work [EMiC]. The “About Us” page on their site devotes space for profiles not only of their co-applicants, collaborators, and postdoctoral affiliates, but of graduate and undergraduate fellows as well, which demonstrates the project’s commitment to encouraging individual student projects. Of the 63 graduate fellows listed on the site, more than half of this number reference independent research in their personal profiles that their affiliation with EMiC has enabled them to pursue. While the EMiC community has embraced the collaborative ethos that transcends traditional academic boundaries, they have done so by building a group structure that ensures that students are an integral and recognized unit in the collaborative process. The level of support that EMiC offers to student research and training at universities across Canada could be taken up by a variety of projects hoping to encourage students to both contribute to the overall objectives of the main project while also learning new digital skills that they can apply to their own research.” Read the rest of this post »
I have been asked to reflect on my experiences as an EMiC funded RA. This post looks at my ongoing involvement with the critical edition of Dorothy Livesay’s Right Hand Left Hand. In my previous post, I thought through my work with Canada and the Spanish Civil War (CSCW).
In a panel last April called “What the eFs!?!: Why Our Research Matters Now,” Hannah McGregor talked about how digital humanities work taught her how to fail. If I recall correctly, she described the necessity of failing in digital work: errors in code can crash a website, or you can spend an afternoon trying to perfect a PHP script that still refuses to function, but at the end of the day its alright. You will start again tomorrow, with more help and new ideas, and move a little closer to success. In contrast, failure in the humanities is terrifying. I don’t want to write about what failure looks like in the humanities–it is the stuff of anxious dreams, and that is where it should stay.
What is essential about failing in digital humanities is the trying: each time you try something, you learn a little more about what doesn’t work, and inch closer to what does. When I began working as a research assistant for the critical edition of Dorothy Livesay’s Right Hand Left Hand, I experienced this failure with a great deal of frustration. A new scanner meant I had to rescan Livesay’s work. Errors in file naming meant a great deal of manual renaming, or wrestling with unreliable file naming programs. OCR readers, in all their imperfect glory, required me to carefully reread and correct text. And through it all, programs crashed, mistakes were made, equipment and files were (quite literally) stolen, and I did it all over it again. Every time I failed, I became more vigilant, until I was checking and rechecking obsessively.
As frustrating as this was, it was productive failure. By the time I advanced from RA to co-editor, I knew the material from every angle. I had read Livesay’s words again and again–I knew them so well that as I wrote my own thesis on literature of the Great Depression, I felt compelled to cite Livesay constantly, as all my research echoed her memories, poetry, and journalism. As I moved onto new DH projects, I was constantly surprised at how much all those failures had taught me about working carefully and effectively, about data management, and about digital research tools. All that failed work that had felt wasteful paid off in the long-term–at least for me, and I hope for the projects as well.
Now that I work mostly on Canada and the Spanish Civil War, I am confronted with another kind of failure: the failure of the international movement against fascism. It seems to me that this failure reverberates in the lives and work of so many Canadian modernist authors. I don’t have much to say on this yet. I know that addressing this particular failure has been the most challenging part of my thesis work. I know that failure will continue to be a challenge in every aspect of my life. But it is heartening to know that, in its own small way, DH work makes failure more familiar and less devastating.
Three years after I began my RAship, the Right Hand Left Hand text is almost ready for submission. When I look at the single document that lives in my dropbox, I think of all the documents, folders, spreadsheets, bibliographies, and files that brought this edition to life, and of all the work that was undone and redone to bring this single text to life. And, of course, building on my last post, I think of the team of people that made it happen: Bart Vautour, Dean Irvine, Emily Ballantyne, Leslie Gallagher, Karen Smith at Dalhousie Special Collections, the staff at the University of Manitoba Archives, and many others. Ultimately, their knowledge and support made this project a successful one.
I have been asked to reflect on my experiences as an EMiC funded RA. In this post, I think through my work with Canada and the Spanish Civil War (CSCW). My next post will look at my ongoing involvement with the critical edition of Dorothy Livesay’s Right Hand Left Hand. A big thank you to Emily Ballantyne for providing feedback on this piece.
By the time I joined CSCW, I had already worked for EMiC for a couple of years. I came into EMiC when it was already well underway. In many ways, I felt I could never really catch up; there were so many acronyms to learn, so many scholars to meet, and such a range of digital and literary projects that I only ever glimpsed. I learned many technical skills, but never enough to keep pace with this rapidly evolving and expanding project. I was impressed, excited, and ultimately (necessarily) overwhelmed.
But for me, the real beauty of EMiC is that it facilitated so many smaller projects. I got involved in Canada and the Spanish Civil War fairly early, and I witnessed its development. Emily Robins Sharpe and Bart Vautour study social justice movements, and they ensure that social justice is the foundation of their project. I am grateful to see the inner workings of the project, to see how policies and communities take shape around certain collective values. There is a great deal of emphasis in the digital humanities on skill development, and for a while I focused on developing my technical skill set. Through CSCW, I saw how deliberately I needed to develop interpersonal skills. It takes a great deal of space and energy to practice effective communication, transparency, collaboration and respect. I am grateful to have all of these modelled for me through this project.
In my own research, I ask what productive collective action looks like in Canadian fiction from the Great Depression. One chapter of my thesis looks at the Canadian Spanish Civil War novel This Time a Better Earth, and the different forms of antifascist work that it portrays. This project has asked a lot of challenging questions about what labour looks like, how we value different forms of labour, how women and people of colour become sidelined or exploited in collective work, why this happens, and how to model more sustainable and equitable movements. It is fairly easy to apply these critiques to literature of the 1930s, but much harder to critique and remake the projects, movements and institutions that I am a part of. This is time-consuming work, and it can be daunting. I am a privileged individual completing my second, well-funded degree in an increasingly neoliberal university system; I am already complicit in and benefiting from a broken system. But when I scale down, to the small-but–growing projects and communities I get to be a part of, I start to feel more hopeful and more prepared.
One of the reasons I am writing about the interpersonal outcomes of my RA work and not the digital outcomes is because all of that digital and editorial work feels incomplete, though I recognize the necessity of sharing ongoing work. But ultimately, I feel like those tangible things – the Canada and the Spanish Civil War website, the growing bibliography of Canadian writing on Spain, the forthcoming (and already underway) book series, even my own thesis – are not mine to claim. They are inherently collaborative, and as such their success hinges on healthy community. In an earlier EMiC post, Andrea Hasenbank wrote: “The work I have detailed here is one throughline of the work always being done by many, many people. You do not work alone, you should not work alone, and if you are not acknowledging those who work with you, your scholarship is unsustainable and unethical.” This, to me, is the real unfinished work that is giving me pause. How do I ensure that my work is always in line with my values? How do I respect my collaborators, academic and otherwise, my research subjects, my supporters, and my audience? I am grateful to EMiC and Canada and the Spanish Civil War for giving me the opportunity to apply these questions. In her farewell to EMiC, Hannah McGregor wrote, “communities preserve and support us; they give us perspective on what really matters, back us in our struggles, keep us sane and human in the face of systems that threaten to break us down.” Looking forward, I am confident in the excellent communities EMiC has produced, and in the productive and supportive thinking that it has fostered in so many of us.
CSDH/SCHN Outstanding Achievement Award for Computing in the Arts and Humanities
Know a Canadian researcher or a researcher at a Canadian institution who has made a significant contribution, over an extended career, to computing in the arts and humanities? With your nomination, they could be receive the CSDH/SCHN Outstanding Achievement Award for Computing in the Arts and Humanities and be invited to address the society in a plenary session of the annual conference at Congress, which will be held in Ottawa in the spring of 2015.
For a list of previous recipients, see http://csdh-schn.org/activities-activites/outstanding-awards-prix/
Nominations of up to 500 words must be submitted by October 31, 2014. Only current members of CSDH/SCHN are eligible to submit nominations. Nominations must be sent by email to the chair of the CSDH/SCHN Awards Committee (email@example.com).
IMAGINATIONS, 46th Annual Conference of the College English Association
The College English Association, a gathering of scholar-teachers in English studies, will have its annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 26-28, 2015.
The special panel chair for Digital Humanities welcomes proposals for papers and panels addressing the following topics:
Please submit your paper title and abstract (200-500 words) to http://cea-web.org/ by 1 November 2014.
ELO Conference: The End(s) of Electronic Literature
(For anyone who happens to be in Norway August 5-7, 2015)
The 2015 Electronic Literature Organization conference and festival will take place in Bergen, Norway. This year’s theme encompasses the following topics: what comes after electronic literature, what purposes do works of electronic literature serve, international practices in electronic literature, electronic literature and other disciplines, and digital reading experiences made for children.
The deadline for submissions of research, workshop, and art proposals is December 15, 2014. More information can be found at http://conference.eliterature.org/.
We are pleased to announce that Editing Modernism in Canada will once again be partnering with the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) in order to offer opportunities for project members to participate in DH courses offered over three weeks at the University of Victoria: June 1st-5th 2015, June 8th-12th 2015, and June 15th-19th 2015.
Registration for DHSI is now open. This year will see an expansion from the regular 1 week institute to 3 weeks of courses, in part to support those enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities at U Victoria. Participants may choose to attend 1, 2, or all 3 week-long sessions. In 2015, 40 courses ranging from old favourites to exciting first-time ventures will be on offer. Each week of DHSI will include a week-long training workshop, and the core week (June 8th-12th) will also include morning colloquia, lunchtime unconferences, and Birds-of-a-Feather sessions. Throughout the institute, keynotes will be delivered by Malte Rehbein (U Passau), David Hoover (NYU), Claire Warwick (UC London), and Constance Crompton (UBC Okanagan). Tuition scholarships are available for students, and other EMiC participants (co-applicants, collaborators, postdocs, partners) can register at a discounted cost of $300.00 for students and $650.00 for non-students (for registration before April 1st 2015).
EMiC Director Dean Irvine will be teaching “Digital Indigeneity” at DHSI 2015 during the core week. For a full list of courses, to register, to apply for a tuition scholarship, or for more information, please go to dhsi.org. Make sure to register with an EMiC discount code (EMiC-Student or EMiC-Non-Student).
Please note that although we can offer discounted registrations for DHSI 2015, we cannot offer subventions for travel or accommodations. There is no application process this year. You should register directly through the dhsi.org website and arrange for your own transportation and accommodations. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the generous DHSI tuition scholarship program.
In the meantime, keep posting your DH stories on the EMiC blog. And watch out for the public launch of the Modernist Commons later this fall. We’re in the process of trying to arrange on-site workshops for early adopters of the Modernist Commons; if your institution may be interested in hosting a workshop, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIBERAL ARTS SCHOLARSHIP AND TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT
Penn State is hosting its annual Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit (LASTS) next month, an event that brings together liberal arts faculty, graduate students, librarians and education technologists to share and explore digital pedagogy and scholarship. Co-sponsored by the College of the Liberal Arts and the University Libraries, the event includes workshops, presentations, breakout sessions, and featured keynote speakers.
LASTS will take place on Friday, September 12 and Saturday, September 13 in the Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium.
If you would like to participate, please see our current call: http://sites.psu.edu/lasts/present/
BIRDS-OF-A-FEATHER GATHERING, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Call for Proposals
Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age: Emerging Reading, Writing, and Research Practices
An INKE-hosted Birds-of-a-Feather Gathering
8 December 2014 | State Library of New South Wales | Sydney, Australia
Proposals due: 15 September 2014
Digital technology is fundamentally altering the way we relate to writing, reading, and the human record itself. The pace of that change has created a gap between core social/cultural practices that depend on stable reading and writing environments and the new kinds of digital artefacts – electronic books being just one type of many – that must sustain those practices now and into the future.
This gathering explores research foundations pertinent to understanding new practices and emerging media, specifically focusing on work in textual and extra-textual method, leading toward:
· theorizing the transmission of culture in pre- and post-electronic media;
· documenting the facets of how people experience information as readers and writers;
· designing new kinds of interfaces and artifacts that afford new reading abilities;
· conceptualizing the issues necessary to provide information to these new reading and communicative environments;
· reflecting on interdisciplinary team research strategies pertinent to work in the area;
· and much more.
Presentations addressing these and other issues in relation to emerging and/or transforming (digital) infrastructures, in regional, national, and international contexts are welcome.
We invite paper proposals that address these and other issues pertinent to research in the area. Proposals should contain a title, an abstract (of approximately 250 words, plus list of works cited), and the names, affiliations, and website URLs of presenters; fuller papers will be solicited after acceptance of proposals, for circulation in advance of the gathering to registered participants. We are pleased to welcome proposals in all languages in which our community works, and note that the chief working language of past gatherings has been English. Please send proposals on or before 15 September 2014 to Alyssa Arbuckle at email@example.com.
CALL FOR CHAPTERS: READING MODERNISM WITH MACHINES
From data mining and visualization to mapping and topic modeling and beyond, digitally enhanced studies of literature and culture offer a series of computational methodologies for use in literary and cultural criticism. Using these approaches, scholars can ask new questions of literature and culture, while also intervening in existing debates. And with the publication of a variety of anthologies, handbooks, and treatises addressing the Digital Humanities in general, we now have the opportunity to focus attention on specific periods and movements in literary and cultural history. Reading Modernism with Machines aims to bring together the most rigorous and exciting modernist criticism to have been conducted using computers.
Each submission should offer a case study of modernist literary and cultural analysis conducted using a computational approach. While methodologies should be outlined, the majority of each submission should be reserved for humanistic discussions, which should be based on, or supplemented by, any electronic analyses. Submissions will be judged based on 1) the innovation and sophistication of the digital tools used in the analysis, 2) the essay’s broader impact on modernist studies, and 3) the degree to which computational analysis and literary/cultural interpretation merge cohesively.
Submissions: Initial proposals of ~500 words are due by September 31st, 2014
(Where appropriate, sample graphics, tables, tools, or datasets may also be submitted with proposal.)
Final submissions of ~6,000 – 8,000 words are due by January 31st, 2015
NEW PROJECT: GRADUATE TRAINING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
MediaCommons and #Alt-Academy have just launched a new project, Graduate Training in the 21st Century, which focuses on the challenges, the potential, and the pragmatics of the graduate school years that precede the move into one of many academies.
Its editors, Melissa Dalgleish (York University) and Daniel Powell (King’s College London and University of Victoria), are especially interested in the changes to graduate education that are already taking place, or that should take place, in response to the proliferation of post-PhD pathways.
The project’s front page can be found here: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/alt-ac/cluster/graduate-training-21st-century, while the longer introduction can be seen here: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/alt-ac/pieces/building-alternative-academy.
We are seeking contributors to our first cluster of essays, entitled “Beyond the Proto-Monograph: New Models for the Dissertation.” This cluster seeks to explore how the prototypical graduate project in the humanities—the dissertation—is changing in the face of the digital turn, shifting job markets, and new visions for the academy. The call for papers can be found here: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/alt-ac/pieces/call-papers-beyond-proto-monograph-new-models-dissertation
We also welcome proposals or contributions on any aspect of graduate training, higher education reform, and post-degree careers, especially from current graduate students. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m something of a newcomer to DH, but what I enjoyed most about TEMiC 2014 was the alternation between practical matters and more abstract, wide-ranging theorizing. Workshops on specific sites and tools such as Spoken Web, the Modernist Commons, and Audacity gave way to discussions about the ethics of editing or reissuing a variety of texts. While some initiatives — such as several participants’ work disseminating Canadian poetry readings and other phonotextual materials — seem to be largely unproblematic examples of preserving work that could otherwise be lost or neglected, projects involving Indigenous cultural materials could be substantially more fraught (as Dean Irvine pointed out during his talk on Tuesday).
Such discussions, along with Karis Shearer’s and Jordan Stouck’s comments on the politics and ethics of dealing with correspondence containing contentious subject matter, made me reflect on some potential difficulties in my own work with EMiC. I pitched my project — a digital edition of Laura Goodman Salverson’s fascinating yet fairly melodramatic novel The Dove, in which a village of Icelanders is captured by Muslim corsairs and taken to Algiers — with the intention of disseminating what I thought was a richly bizarre iteration of the internationalist and imperialist concerns central to much modernist and Canadian literature. During TEMiC, I came to be aware of a range of possible objections to such a stance. Would those with a close connection to Salverson’s autobiographical writings or earlier novels consider her foray into historical romance to be in poor taste? If the edition’s target readership consists of a body of scholars with a particular set of interests, could the novel in fact be better off shrouded in some degree of obscurity? More practically, who would benefit from an elaborate genetic edition that incorporates many extra-textual features? Would it be wisest to prepare a very basic yet widely accessible edition? During one discussion I found myself arguing in favour of critical editing that produces sufficient collective enrichment — whether knowledge-based or aesthetic — to make the project more than an arbitrary digitalization of one’s research interests. And while many of the week’s readings and demonstrations of digital tools contributed to an atmosphere of limitless possibility, perhaps it is naïve to think in terms of a vast sea of lost texts that would be best served by preservation as digital editions or databases. Maybe Dean’s ideas about beginning a process of recovery and leaving open the possibility of walking away are relevant not only for projects involving sensitive Indigenous texts; perhaps truly responsible editing practices have to involve a surgical use of well-selected technologies for carefully thought-out purposes rather than be based on enthusiasm for the possibilities opened up by emerging digital technologies. I’m the kind of person who frets about most things, but last week’s discussions have nevertheless encouraged me to think more deeply about how to proceed with my edition.
Thankfully, however, these worries dissolved in waves of screen prints and sushi and seasonal beverages, not to mention the literal waves of Okanagan Lake. Much as my brief swims provided valuable respite from the patrons of the Centre of Gravity music festival (see also: the Bro-nado), I hope my use of digital editing methods results in a useful, if necessarily modest, final product.
On day 2 of the 2014 TEMiC Institute, Julia Polyck-O’neill presented on Susan Brown’s article “Don’t Mind the Gap: Evolving Digital Modes of Scholarly Production Across the Digital-Humanities Divide.” Following the presentation, our group discussed what Brown identifies as the dialectical relationship between the computer sciences and the humanities aspects of the digital-humanities. Having explored the dialectics of collaborative work in the “A Collaborative Approach to XSLT” course as part of DEMiC at DHSI, and previously blogged on the pedagogical nature of this type of work, I believe it to be useful to synthesize some of the ideas that surfaced during our talk.
Below are the core questions from this morning’s conversation:
1) How can a collaborative digital editorial project’s team, which consists of literary scholars and computer scientists, gain the most from this type of relationship?
2) In a project that includes members with different expertise and expectations, can/should hierarchical relationships be avoided?
3) Since every member contributes differently, how do we try to ensure the satisfaction of each team member?
Following our discussion, here is what I have learned, if not been reminded of: Dialectical work should be exactly what its name suggests, dialectical. That is to say, a project should not be dominated by any individual, but rather should encourage a team effort where alternative ideas and approaches are welcomed. I am not suggesting that designating a leader is an unproductive strategy, but that the leader, as a member of the group, should not be above the team. Instead, its members should recognize that everyone depends on each other for the success of the project, and should understand the potential value of varying perspectives and differing expertise. In addition, a team is a living organism, it should be willing to adapt, and should always remain dynamic. However, what must remain constant is that the many relationships within the team should always be mutually beneficial for each member; and, perhaps most importantly, credit ought to be given when it is deserved.
Although these core ideas might appear to be obvious, it is often easy (especially in the heat and chaos of editorial projects) to lose track of what makes the team aspect of these collaborative projects so useful. For this reason, I am thankful to be here at TEMiC where I am reminded of the importance of collaborative work, and how to efficiently maintain productive relationships.
Hannah’s recent post about staying energized has prompted welcome reflection on timing and pacing.
As a strategy to stay energized, I recently met with a colleague to create a 5 year plan and to chart out the years leading to tenure review. I find that meeting with colleagues in person helps to keep me motivated in the wake of energizing events like Congress, DHSI, and TEMiC. With a full teaching load from September to May, I always welcome the summer as a time devoted to research and writing; by July, however, something strange happens: I miss the structure and timetable that teaching provides. In the process of creating a 5 year plan, I realized the following:
1) I really need a 3 year plan as I prepare for tenure review.
2) I really really need a 5 week plan in order to accomplish key tasks before I go back to teaching in the Fall.
3) I also realized just how long major research projects take.
I ended up writing the same 3 research projects in years 1-3 in order to take into account revision and unforeseen inevitable delays. This process of rewriting the same goals helped me to focus on the long-term plan and . . . wait for it . . . to be patient.
Yes, patience was my take-away from the 5-year plan exercise: research projects take a long time from inception to realization, and that is ok.
In a way, my motivational exercise made me realize that it is important to stay energized but that it is, to borrow a tired metaphor, a marathon and not a sprint. And in the spirit of “energizing” old habits, let’s run with this metaphor, shall we?
I have been increasing my running mileage lately in preparation for a Midsummer Night’s run, which brings together my love of Shakespeare and running; these morning runs are done at conversational pace, a wonderful mix of enjoyment and challenge. This is the pace that I seek to set for my research: a pace that enables me to engage in dialogue with peers, colleagues, and fellow Canadianists; a pace that enables me to take the time out from my precious writing schedule to attend TEMiC; a pace with a run-talk, work-life balance.
To echo Hannah, how do you stay energized? Have you tried the 5 year plan? What are your strategies for staying on target with work goals?
“Meeting people, all the people, all the time” makes Anouk Lang’s list of “Thirty-three ways of Looking at a DHSI Week.” Similarly, DHSI is all about networks for Hannah McGregor. Reading through the many posts about DEMiC 2015, I am reminded about what I missed most about DHSI—the people. That’s right, I did not attend DHSI this year, but, in a fit of nostalgia, I am thinking about my past experiences. Last year, I wrote about the Digital Databases course. This year, I want to talk about what I left out: the qualitative research.
DHSI is, at least in part, about meeting people. Last year, I met “all the people,” which included two scholars who had worked on Carroll Aikins. As a bit of a recap, I am working on a critical edition of Aikins’s play “The God of Gods” (1919), which premiered in Birmingham, England, and involves Nietzschean intertexts, theosophy, an Aboriginal reserve, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and anti-war sentiment, to name a few. DHSI brought me to Victoria, B.C. and to the stomping ground of James Hoffman (Thompson Rivers University) and Jerry Wasserman (University of British Columbia). Jerry offered to send me photographs of the first Birmingham production, which were waiting in my mailbox upon my return from the West Coast. James met with me several times to discuss his past research of Aikins, he lent me the manuscripts of Aikins’ unpublished plays, he shared theatre reviews of The God of Gods (some of which I had not yet uncovered!), and last but not least, he regaled me in stories about meeting Aikins’s family. Qualitative research, it seems, also played a major part in James’s work. I should probably mention that all of this wonderful research and sharing was unplanned: I met Jerry and James at separate talks, introduced myself and my work, and they offered the rest.
As if DHSI 2014 wasn’t already a gold mine of learning and of scholarly networks, it was also during a DEMiC social event that I connected with Melissa Dalgleish. As a result of that meeting, Melissa (who writes a series of posts about alt-ac work) is now working as a RA on the Aikins project (more about her RA work to come in a later post).
I can’t help but feel how indebted I am to qualitative research and to the generosity of scholars like Jerry, James, and Melissa as well as to networks of people like EMiC.
Figure 1Hart House Theatre: The God of Gods was performed at Hart House Theatre in 1922.
Qualitative research is important in the field of drama because the form relies on theatre reviewers or people’s personal notebooks to record production details. Do you engage with qualitative research in your work?