Tag Archives: academia

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Hacking Scholarship, Planned Obsolescence & the ACRL Framework

On Friday I went to a talk about the new ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) information literacy guidelines. The guidelines currently in place are officially titled Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and are a rubric of points, subpoints and subsubpoints that guide librarians in teaching and evaluating information literacy. The proposed new guidelines (still under review) are titled Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and are based on threshold concepts “which are those ideas in any discipline that are passageways or portals to enlarged understanding or ways of thinking and practicing within that discipline.” (line 26)

As they currently stand, the six threshold concepts in the new Framework are:

  1. Scholarship is a Conversation
  2. Research as Inquiry
  3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
  4. Format as a Process
  5. Searching as Exploration
  6. Information has Value

I found the talk and the new Framework ideas really interesting, especially in conjunction with this week’s readings, which I see as closely related to the concepts in the Framework, and the direction ACRL is trying to move information literacy in higher education. I like the movement away from a checklist of skills and towards a more encompassing platform that encourages thinking both critical and creative—core components of humanities education. Given that trends in higher ed (especially assessment, accreditation and concepts like ROI) are moving toward the quantifiable, I’m sort of surprised (though pleased) at the direction ACRL is taking with this.

I am including the longer explanation from the Framework with the three areas most connected to the readings. Most of these are not fully formed thoughts, but the start of some connections. Fortunately, Fiztpatrick is very support of the blog as a way to hash out ideas! (p 70-71)

Scholarship is a Conversation

 Scholarship is a conversation refers to the idea of sustained discourse within a community of scholars or thinkers, with new insights and discoveries occurring overtime as a result of competing perspectives and interpretations. (Framework, lines 138-140)

This is right out of Fitzpatrick (maybe it actually is). She states that we need to “…understand peer review as a part of an ongoing conversation among scholars rather than a convenient method of determining “value”…” (p 49) I agree that the traditional peer review model can be really limiting in terms of scholarly conversation, and the idea that it confers value or status is something I don’t necessarily agree with. Yet I have to explain it to students in that way, because that is the model their professors know and expect their students to learn. Trying to explain the peer review model and simultaneously offer ways to question it is hard in a 50 minute class period, where peer review is only one small aspect of what I have to cover.

Daniel J. Cohen says that “Writing is writing and good is good” (Hacking, p 40), and Jo Guldi, in thinking through an alternative wiki-process for review of publications, says that an author should “produce a stronger article then at the beginning [of the process]” (Hacking, p 24). Both of these come back to what gives value to a source. Who decides what good is good? Who decides if an article is stronger after the revision process? In both of these alternative models suggested still need someone to be an arbiter of the final product.

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

 Authority of information resources depends upon the resources’ origins, the information need, and the context in which the information will be used. This authority is viewed with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought. (Framework, lines 224-227)

Guldi says “The web suffers from a crisis of authority” (Hacking, p 20) and also points out that only 3 types of scholarship are highly valued (editorial, peer review, book review) and that other forms of scholarship have been excluded. Fitzpatrick also argues for a more expansive view of authorship, one that values collaborative efforts more than the current model.

 

The idea that authority is constructed is a way for me to push a little bit on the idea that scholarly, peer reviewed sources are ‘best’ or more valued. This week (inspired by Friday’s talk), I asked two classes of first year students what conferred authority. The first answers from both classes were ‘published’, ‘researcher’, ‘has PhD’. Only student said ‘lived experience’, and no one mentioned societal status as something that conferred authority. I didn’t see any obvious lightbulbs going off (or thresholds crossed) but hopefully they’ll continue to think about it.

Format as a Process

Format is the way tangible knowledge is disseminated. The essential characteristic of format is the underlying process of information creation, production, and dissemination, rather than how the content is delivered or experienced. (Framework, lines 279-281)

This element is slightly more obscure than the others, and the title of it has actually been changed in the upcoming draft, although I didn’t write down what the new title will be. There were discussions of format in the readings, and the two that most appealed to me were David Parry and Jo Guldi’s essays. Parry says ‘Books tell us that one learns by acquiring information, something which is purchased and traded as a commodity, consumed and mastered, but the Net shows us that knowledge is actually about navigating, creating, participating.” (Hacking, p 16) Moving away from the scholarly monograph or article as primary and working to include other formats as relevant and valuable is huge. Guldi offers several suggestions as to ways that journals can reposition themselves to take advantage of the potential changes in scholarly publishing. Most students entering college now have been raised in an information environment that encourages participation and would take easily to a wider and more flexible view of what constitutes a scholarly source, and how format can inform the scholarship.

I am very much looking to hearing Kathleen Fitzpatrick this week!

Pedagogy vs. Research: Possibilities Beyond Hierarchical Approaches

As Steve Brier’s “Where’s the Pedagogy” demonstrates in its appraisal of CUNY’s diverse digital humanities and reform projects, “digital pedagogy projects and strategies offer an alternative pathway to broaden the impact of the digital humanities movement,” and in part are able to do so because they negotiate the relationship between traditionally-conceived academic research and university pedagogy practices.

I’d assert that the distinction between research and pedagogy, and the values attached to each of these activities at the institutional level, is central to the discussion of how we collate and disseminate information at the foundational level of digital scholarship. Broadly conceived today, the relationship between teaching and research is often viewed as hierarchical, whereby teaching functions to facilitate “new or better research” (Mahony and Pierazzo). The idea that instruction should predicate research seems to not only useful, but necessary: teaching creates the groundwork to understand theoretical and methodological practices, to use them correctly, and to produce scholarship that is meaningful, accurate, and relevant.

However, the conception of teaching–>research can easily place teaching in a subservient position, especially when viewed in the round with labor and educational policy practices. Service-related labor in the university structure (the “ugly stepchildren,” to use Steve’s term) such as classroom instruction, course design, and even committee service or community organization, often receives significantly less attention in coursework topics, job applications, and even consideration for tenure. This privileging of research over instruction at R1 institutions has vast structural consequences for expectations of both students and instructors of undergraduate and graduate education, as well as definitions of academic labor and reasonable work expectations. Katherine Harris’s idea of teaching as “invisible labor” even extends to the other arms of the university that facilitate research, and the invisibility of this labor can be attributed to complex structural issues as Roxane Shirazi (at CUNY!) discusses in her excellent blog on feminized labor, librarianship, and DH.

There’s a lot to unpack in the concept of this hierarchical labor system of teaching and research—what effect does this have on students? How does this connect to the rise of adjunct labor and its invisibility? To what extent does emphasizing the false dichotomy of research and pedagogy create structural inequities in academic labor? Or equal pay? However, I hope you’ll forgive me if I leave those questions for discussion, and shift gears to address how the digital humanities have tended to position themselves on this debate (according to this week’s syllabus readings).

I’ve noticed thus far that the digital humanist approach to pedagogy and research offers a less hierarchical structure in its very acknowledgement that pedagogy, rather than research products (books, projects, articles), shapes the field to some extent. Perhaps this is caused in part by how quickly the field is transforming—there’s just not time to publish books, peer-reviewed articles, and traditional research projects with the old publication models. Perhaps also, digital humanities believe that the field itself is shaped by pedagogical practices and not just the research products that they spark. That is, the teaching environments that Mahoney and Pierazzo describe are not just a means to creating digital humanities—they help to define it. As Tanya Clement’s observes in “Multiliteracies in the Undergraduate Digital Humanities Curriculum,” “any program that identifies itself as digital humanities is in fact inflected by a version of digital humanities that is situational and irreproducible.” These programs are situational and irreproducible because they are humanistic pedagogical experiences, and perhaps even research projects in and of themselves.

When the classroom is a research project, then, how does this change the relationship between pedagogy and research? Can research inform instruction, and instruction inform research? Sure–but I think that digital humanities pedagogical practice often transcends the idea of permeable boundaries or a mere back-and-forth model. Can we theorize a new pedagogy/research hybrid, particularly in light of newer collaborative publishing platforms?

As ever, no firm answers yet, and looking forward to discussion,

Mary Catherine.

Eversion, Conversion and the Role of DH?

As I was reading ‘Eversion’ by Steven Jones, I couldn’t help but engage the subject with my personal experiences in South Korea, where I was born and raised, until I moved to New York in 2007. South Korea has the fastest average internet connection speed (AICS) in the world. In a report by Akamai Technologies in 2014, South Korea recorded 21.9mbps AICS with an average of 68.5mbps at peaks speeds, which is almost twice as fast as Japan (2nd) and China (3rd). AICS in the U.S. recorded 10.0mbps, which has generally improved over the past few years. (http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2014/04/23/u-s-10th-in-average-internet-speed-rankings-s-korea-still-no-1/) I still clearly remember the emergence of the internet, and its development to its current ultra-high-speed broadband service in Korea, which is why I could relate the reading to my experiences. The reading raised the question: What is the relationship between the internet speed (based on broadband service) and eversion?”

I was about 12 years old, which was approximately 1997, when I first noticed that my classmates and friends were consistently going to a place called PC Bahng (literally a computer room).” As soon as school ended, students ran off to PC rooms near school. I was never drawn to video games, but I too visited these rooms to meet with my friends. My first impression was not so pleasurable. It was a small, smoky dark room with rows of computers lined next to each other, facing the wall. There was also a huge stack of routers by which high-speed internet was made possible. A bunch of teenagers in their school uniforms were playing “Role-playing games”, like Warcraft and Starcraft, or “Simulation games,” mostly involving warfare. Regardless of the genre, I noticed something they shared in common; gamers were communicating with each other through online “chat rooms”. Besides the games, cyber chatting had become very popular among the students. Often times, online chatting would lead to in person meeting, which became socially controversial. In this respect, “eversion” was already occurring in South Korea, Yet, most adults viewed using computers as distraction until then. The culture of PC rooms, however, was much more prevalent than the adults had imagined. Despite the skepticism, the numbers of PC rooms have increased tremendously, and have become hyper-mature, mainly for its monetary value (it became the most promising entrepreneurial opportunity), and soon I could see PC rooms on every other block. It had become ubiquitous in a couple years since its emergence. With its expansion, adults’ perceptions on internet had gradually changed in a positive way. They started to see the possibility of productive uses of internet for education. Consequently, AICS in Korea had become even faster around 2001. People were able to play their video games at home without experiencing any connection issues. The only reason students continued to visit PC rooms was to keep their parents from finding out that they were playing games. However, the development of high-speed broadband internet service did not occur autonomously. The Korean government started its subsidy on high-speed-internet from 1995, and by 1999, 10 million people were using the internet. It was only a little less than one quarter of the entire population. Also, with the government’s support, Korean mega-corporation, represented by Samsung, L.G., SK Telecom and etc., started investing a preponderance of money and dominating this industry.

Around 2000 or 2001, a good portion of high school students possessed mobile phones, and the mobile connection speed was significantly advanced as well. Soon, virtually every area was provided with cellular data and WiFi service. People were even able to stream online television on their phones underground on subway stations and even in trains, and this was nearly twelve years ago. In comparison, New York has just started to provide WiFi in select train stations, and is still unable to provide connection in most areas underground. Already by this time in Korea, noticeably less people read books or newspapers in the trains, and more people looked at their mobile phones, playing video games, watching TV shows and messaging their friends. When I visited Korea in 2008, I remember I was quite surprised to see people video chat so casually on their cell phones without any kind of lag, even in high-resolution. Independent Korean IT companies have developed their own search engines and blogs, represented by NAVER(http://www.naver.com/), which, according to Korean people, is still used more frequently  than Google in South Korea. I also noticed that popular social media platforms in the United States, like Twitter and Facebook were unable to gain the same popularity in South Korea. This is because Korea has developed their own media platforms and systems which they believe to be more effective and ergonomic. South Korea currently seems to be rather “converted” than “everted”. The people’s daily lives heavily depend on the internet; they are simply lost without it. According to CNN’s article, In 2010, 94% of the population has access to high-speed in South Korea (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/03/31/broadband.south.korea/). Except for their times of labor and sleep (although most times they use computers at work), they spend their lives online via their computers, tablets or phones. Socializing, entertaining, cultural or intellectual cultivating, and etc. all happen online these days. To me, it seems like its world’s leading AICS and the characteristic of the citizens (which I need to talk about) resulted this converted phenomena. The mixed reality has become replaced by the substitute reality. They’ve created alternative egos and personas in their cyberworld (or rather the real world to them) with different social que and culture, feeling more comfortable and secure than when they are in the external world. It seems their actuality is compromised by the virtuality; it’s converted. Another interesting concept is that the public spaces are not limited for public usage anymore. As long as people have computers or phones, the public areas become their private/personal (online)spaces. Korean citizens mostly communicate via texting and messaging. I’ve met a number of young people who claim that they experience a slight phobia of speaking on the phone or having conversation in person, especially when speaking strangers. The youth in South Korea have difficulties speaking formally because they are so accustomed to communicating through a specific manner and abbreviations commonly used online. Soon people began to use these terms and abbreviations while their conversations in the real world. At first, it seemed to be started as a joke, but over the past few years, it’s become quite common to speak, especially among younger generation, in this manner.

Instead of looking at the history behind IT development in South Korea to me, it seems more imperative to analyze the socio-economic influences that results from it. South Korea, from my experience as a native, is a highly implicit, domesticated, and conformed society. The people tend to be very self-conscious about different opinions or lifestyles as opposed to the norm. Being “different” means often times being “wrong”. For the same reason, debating culture is an alienated concept among the general public and even among intellectuals and politicians. The education system and pedagogy are heavily geared to recitation and memorization, rather than a more progressive and creative form of learning. The people consider art as a substitute to scholarship. Their prejudices and stereotypes overpower their rationality, conformity is a virtue, critical thinking is a vice, the efficacy of the humanities is ignored, and women are still repressed in a patriarchal society as they are objectified as (sexual)commodity in the media. Additionally, the gap between the minority of opulent and the majority of the rest continues to  increase. What i’m trying to say is, due to the characteristics of their repressed culture, as the cyberspace has prevailed among their lives, Koreans have been developed cultic and almost dogmatic cultures in their online world. Most major online platforms including social media have been dominated by vulgar talks and series of meaningless images among citizens. Online platforms and mobile phone applications emancipated their regressed emotions and expressions. We can also look at the phenomenon in a psychological lens, and it seems quite plausible to say it is a neurotic symptom that is massively and gradually emerged among the general public in Korea, prompted by their long-time-repression, and released by the advent of the anonymous world of cyberspace. And as I’ve foreseen, fanatic culture in South Korea has become like a secularized religion to the point where watching a bunch of almost naked 16-year-old girls dance to the psychedelic songs on a television and internet has become the norm. Even more shocking thing is they export this culture to other parts of Asia (now even in Europe and America), supported by the government, saying “It’s our great cultural asset.” I see it’s no different from subsidized exported pornography. It is, so-called, K-pop. Slovenian marxist philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, once warned Korean people about the danger of undermining quality of K-pop and trance music during his visit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8kzbsT8e_k – It starts at 14:00). However, this kind of political topic, unfortunately, does not usually disseminate on their online platforms. Even if it does, they’ve lost the objective and critical eyes to look at political issues.

Although I point to these extreme cases of conversion in South Korea, this phenomena is present in many other cultures, varied by the distribution of the internet technology. An everted world seems irresistible. The problem is how we can deviate this subversive culture into a productive and progressive one. In my opinion, not because I’ve been taking this class, but I think Digital Humanities is the key to it. Utilizing advanced internet technologies and channeling people’s conforming characteristic to the interest in academia would be a great challenge of DH to accomplish. We can also utilize digital platforms to replace the old reciting and implicit education system (especially for the case of Korea) to a discursive one, provoking participations from the students who are more comfortable on the online platforms. Practices and discussions online will draw more attentions from the young students. And, of course, the primary nature of DH,  egalitarian pedagogy will be necessary for this process so the students from various fields (including myself) such as art and design have more opportunities to be involved with interdisciplinary  praxis, collaborating with the students from the scholarly fields.

This week’s Twitter success, and how it affects (academic) conversation

Note to future twitter readers: start from the bottom & work your way up.

I’m having a really good week on Twitter (and not just because I have 30 or so new, wonderful followers from our DH praxis class, though that certainly helps).

Look at that: FIVE favorites, ONE re-tweet, and the re-tweet came from an Open Access related association/company/group that I don’t even know! Of course I followed them back.

The problem with Twitter, and specifically the tweets shown above, is that they’re difficult to document (or read) after the fact. These two in particular happened in succession as part of a conversation between me, myself, and the Wall Street Journal. They will live forever on the Internet, backwards. As a person that prides herself on subtle jokes and one-liners I find this deeply troubling.

  • Should I have tweeted backwards for the benefit of future readers, but to the disservice of active twitter users?
  • Should I delete?
  • What if some high ranking administrator at my institution sees my Tweet and doesn’t get it?
  • Should I make my Twitter private? What’s really the point of Twitter, then?
  • Should I have hyperlinked the article in question? What if it had been behind a pay-wall?

(When my worries about Twitter use turn into a bulleted list, I know it’s time to slowly back away from the computer…)

The Library of Congress has begun archiving tweets, so I am inclined to believe that the present conversation is not what matters but rather the conversation’s future impact. Despite my better-than-average week on twitter – combining popular media with my profession in a concise-less-than-140-character package – I’m not sure if who actually matters actually cares.

Academia is beginning to care. I think. Emerging products such as Altmetric (and specifically I’m talking about Altmetric the product from Digital Science, not altmetrics the concept) enables researchers and scholars to quickly see the active conversations happening around article-level content. Such information happens in real-time, just as twitter intended. This function is contrary to both the current rate of publishing – super, super slow – and well curated article citations that have historically defined academic conversations. The traditional academic conversation has seen criticism of late, with the emergence of peer review scams and bogus scientific articles, which to me indicates a serious flaw in the publishing process, available resources, and the resulting competitive nature of academia. Despite the emergence of such concepts and products that may very well be helping to subvert the traditional process I am brought back to Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s reference in regards to academia and the Silicon Valley. With my altmetrics/Altmetrics example, the concept emerged as a possible solution to collect and display scholarly conversations, but the product (capital “A”) has been monetized.

In my daily work – I’m the E-Resources Librarian at Queens College – I receive cold-calls (industry term: “Inside sales”) on a schedule: at the end of each quarter, so that representatives can make their numbers and receive bonuses (for speed boats, etc.). Library vendors (publishers, mostly) want to sell me stuff, and yes, I’m very disillusioned about it. Before joining the ranks of faculty librarianship I worked for a vendor and I know well what’s happening behind-the-scenes before I’m called.

So how does this relate to DH? I’m not convinced that citing social media and related sources are DH. I do think that DHers, or those inclined to accept it as a discipline and perhaps learn and use its methods, are more likely to follow along via such outlets. I’m also curious about the monetary aspects of DH. When I join the ranks of those that can claim DH scholarship and practice, will I have to add names to my digital rolodex of “reps to dodge lest they try to sell me something”?

A Process Model for Design

I think that the chapter, “The Internet and It’s Users” by Charlie Edwards provides a valuable approach to Digital Humanities by considering the degree and quality of “user” engagement. The notion of a user in partnership with a coder/builder to create/design an object/system/application is crucial in the success of any digital project. However, when Edwards asks, “If we were to propose a design for DH, then, where might we look for a model?” she seems to suggest that there is one design that may apply to the entire panorama of DH projects. It only takes a quick glance at the sample projects on the CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide to realize that these projects all have different goals and therefore require different designs.

What does Edwards mean, then, by referring to a single a model of DH design? Perhaps what she wants is a template or a model for the process of design. She suggests elsewhere in the piece that the Open Source community offers a template for how that process should work. She emphasizes, rightly, that users have to feel that their voices have been heard in order to invest in what the builders are creating. The open source community of volunteer user/developers does a good job of fostering that environment.

However, perhaps paradoxically, corporate software development offers another worthwhile template or at least a vision of what is required for builders and users to work together productively. This vision is hard won over many years in the corporate world with thousands of projects (both successes and failures). Successful corporate software design has a number of crucial elements. First, corporations expect that business units specialize both via their expertise and through the work that they are asked to produce. In this light, the Marketing Department consists of individuals highly trained and experienced in marketing. They are not expected to know anything about programming or databases, which remain the purview of the IT department. A successful project requires a high degree of collaboration between the two groups, with a mutual respect for their diverse expertise. Most importantly, though, if the ultimate corporate users of the system are not given (or do not take) “ownership” of the final result, the project will likely fail. After all, it is the users who have defined the business problem that needs to be solved. Since they own the problem, they must also own the solution. Further, they must convey to the coders the day-to-day context in which the software will be used so that the design reflects all of the required use cases that might occur.

I think this corporate model could work in the Digital Humanities world. Like the Marketing Department, not every Humanities scholar wants to learn how to code. They would rather remain devoted to their research. However, if scholars abdicate the building of tools to the few members of their profession who do want to play with bits and bytes, they risk being left behind. Humanists can still participate in the Digital Humanities, in fact, by forming partnerships with coders (who may not be humanists at all) in the same way that corporate marketers partner with their IT departments. By recognizing the possibility that digital tools can enhance their academic work, Humanities scholars would provide the leadership necessary to instantiate a DH design process that gives them exactly what they want.

Hacking+Yacking

I started off Week 2’s readings with the belief that I belonged to the ‘hacking’ group. It has always seemed to me that actions speak more eloquently than words do; if something existed, that, validated its presence, there was no need to probe further. There was also social conditioning – probing was considered the prerogative of the affluent or the premise of the indolent; only those who had no need to labor (manually or mentally) were free to theorize. Then, while reading Tim Sherratt’s ‘It’s All About the Stuff: Collections, Interfaces, Power, and People’, I found myself agreeing that every act(creating/building/hacking), in fact, the very structure (physical, social, material, etc.) of our lives is instigated by the questions asked by those before us and with us. Probing questions and their motivations, theorizing in general, seems essential for interacting with information and shaping knowledge.

To develop from Geoffrey Rockwell’s contention that DH is a craft, if DH as a craft is a way of doing/bringing our ideas to life, then theory pertaining to DH is the thought that arises post production. It is the formal assimilation of ‘knowing’ into a body of knowledge for later use. Thus DH projects are the knowledge base from which theory springs. When a large body of projects come into existence, invariably, theorizing begins; I believe DH has reached a stage where the knowledge base is large enough to support strong theorizing. Once a discipline reaches such a stage, the ‘yacking’ and ‘hacking’ begin to coexist and feed each other. Each will become strong enough to question the other and even perhaps proclaim independence of the other.

The ‘hacking vs yacking’ debate continues to exist because of the separation of academe from ‘industry’, where technology workers ‘craft’ projects into existence away from the academic spotlight. When scholars make ‘commercial/industry-driven’ projects their objects of exposition, they do so in the company of and for the consideration of their peers, quite oblivious of the ‘craftspeople’. Self-initiated scholarly projects are just as insular, carried out as they are with graduate students and ‘alt-ac’ staff. In my opinion, the values of DH (openness, collaboration, diversity, collegiality and experimentation), will serve it best when not limited to the field but rather extended to the ‘external’ world as well. Scholarship which collaborates with ‘craftspeople’ in the quest for knowledge advancement is an ideal Digital Humanities can aspire to. In this sense, I would like to see more of ‘hacking + yacking’.

Digital Humanities: Instilling Optimism in Academia

House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. Text no longer moves in one direction.

House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. Text no longer moves in one direction.

“I consider this mutability of language a wise precaution of Providence for the benefit of the world at large, and of authors in particular. To reason from analogy, we daily behold the varied and beautiful tribes of vegetables springing up, flourishing, adorning the fields for a short time, and then fading into dust, to make way for their successors. Were not this the case, the fecundity of nature would be a grievance instead of a blessing. The earth would groan with rank and excessive vegetation, and its surface become a tangled wilderness”

-Washington Irving, “The Mutability of Literature”

Studying Digital Humanities is something I never knew I wanted. Years after beginning my undergraduate career I cursed myself for choosing an English degree. Sure, I loved reading and discussing literature, but aside from pursuing a life in academia , what real-world purpose did it serve that I could parse the connection between the sarin gas attacks in the Japan subways in 1995 and Murakami’s depiction of time in A Wild Sheep’s Chase? Sure, I have a handful of sonnets memorized, and while they might be fun to recite in front of girls, they most likely won’t get any potential employers in bed with me. I had so many interests growing up! Why did I choose the one that—based on my limited knowledge of the job market—seemed so fruitless? In my free time I studied digital rights management, so why didn’t I change my major to law? When I was 13 I learned HTML while playing Neopets, so why didn’t I change my major to Computer Science? After writing a research paper on digital media, consumer convenience, and the future of software models, why didn’t I go for business? Finally, why did it take me so long to find out that Digital Humanities was a thing?

After finishing my undergraduate English degree (get this… you’ll never believe it…) I applied for a doctoral degree in English. Unbelievable, right? Despite my utter pessimism about the efficacy of studying text, I decided to study text some more. I believed that I would either end up a professor of English, or quit academia and get a job working in new media and digital software, parallel, yet distant paths. One day I would stray too far in one direction and the other path would be forever obfuscated, lost in a sea of software or perhaps a forest of leaves. Before hearing back from graduate schools, I filled my time by recording a weekly podcast about video game sub-cultures. A friend and I bought recording equipment, learned audio editing, studied distribution methods via RSS feeds, built a website, and wrote a list of topics that would last us over a year. We got together every week, and recording the show became a labor of love. Not only did I get to speak passionately about a topic I was enthusiastic about, but I became a participant in active conversations regarding e-sports in America, online streaming, and the efficacy of new business models for digital software. I worked for hours every week drafting show notes, learning history, and gathering opinions from experts to discuss and refute. This solidified that reading and writing text could not be my sole future. When I was contacted by a representative from the Graduate Center, it was to tell me that I was not accepted to a doctoral program, but also that I should consider a Masters track for Digital Humanities, as it seemed better aligned with my interests and work. I wasn’t upset, just intrigued. After reading up on DH, I realized I wasn’t just interested, I was already a participant. In fact, many people with my interests were already unknowingly participating in Digital Humanities.

Not only did Digital Humanities as a concept renew my interest in academia, it renewed my interest and optimism in English and Literature as a viable track of study. While text continues to be an important facet of humanism, there are many alternative media formats, such as films and games, that can speak on similar subject matter, albeit, without the seniority. Digital Humanities not only grants us a space to re-examine texts in digital formats and tools, but creates a bridge through which English might become a more multi-faceted, interdisciplinary track. After all, being able to read and write at the highest academic levels seems attractive when you consider just how much you’re reading and writing through social media platforms.

I believe that Digital Humanities has the ability to alter the approaches and pedagogy of not just English, but any discipline held back by the trappings of academia. Lisa Spiro states in her essay, “This Is Why We Fight” that “emphasis on specialization and professional authority clashes with the collaborative, crowdsourced approaches of the digital humanities”, and I believe this to be the definitive attraction to DH: it truly encourages an iterative, interdisciplinary approach, whereas many tracks and individuals intentionally alienate themselves in an attempt to gain absolute authority over their ideas. How does that better the medium? How can one learn and innovate if they shut themselves out from all that is available to teach?

There’s so much more to say, but this is already far too long. I have so many questions and so many ideas, all I can say for certain is I’m optimistic about the future.