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Roundup: Community, Scholarship, and Digital Archives

Each Roundup, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Anne Donlon.

Reminder: Submissions for short, blog-length sections in The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy are open year-round on a rolling basis. If you would like to share a teaching fail, an opinion, a project blueprint, a tech tool, an assignment, or a review of a book or event, please see the short section submission guidelines.

I find myself re-reading Jerry Watts’s Open Letter to My Students and Anyone Else seeking a way to get unstuck. He first sent it out via the Africana Studies listserv at CUNY in 2010 and it was published soon after in the Graduate Center Advocate. Since his death from a stroke a few weeks ago, the letter has recirculated and was republished in Warscapes. Jerry was a mentor from my first days of graduate school, a member of my dissertation committee, and a person I expected to be in my life for a long time to come. As I struggle through processing the loss while trying to keep up with work I’ve committed to, I keep returning to Jerry’s letter for guidance, mostly ruminating on “The reasons why we become stuck are numerous and vary in complexities […] IN THE MEANTIME HOWEVER, WE NEED TO GET SOME WORK DONE!!!” I’m living in that balance between exploring the psychic roots of my relative stuck-ness and the more urgent directive to get down to the real intellectual work.

Jerry’s commentary on navigating academia and sustaining the life of the mind transcends discipline, and I’ve tried to suggest some through lines below for digital humanities and digital libraries. Thinking about his role as an advisor (formal and informal) to so many black students at the Graduate Center, and his scholarship on black intellectuals, I’m thinking about how to work for digital humanities that sustain scholars of color, refuse racism, and address intellectual questions that affect African American life. The demands of black student activists, initiatives to archive student activism such as this new project at Princeton, and this compilation of Chicago police disciplinary information suggest some recent contributions to this conversation.

“Any and all graduate students need support communities”

While the following resources won’t provide every kind of support a person needs, I’ve found they are good places to find community and learn about current digital humanities goings-on.

  • The Digital Humanities on Slack offers a venue to pose questions, ask for help, and share lessons learned. I’ve learned about a number of tools, publications, and DH projects in the few weeks I’ve been a member.
  • The just-launched Digital Library Federation Digital Library Pedagogy group promises to be a meeting place to ask for help and share knowledge. The group will host a #DLFteach Twitter chat on January 12, 2016, at 8 PM EST.

Newsletters offer a way to “plug in” to various conversations happening in online fora and on the ground conferences, helpfully curated by knowledgeable colleagues and arriving to your inbox.

  • I learned about Miriam Posner’s newsletter on the DH Slack. If you want incisive information about projects and tools arriving in your inbox, you can subscribe or browse the archive of previous newsletters. Miriam Posner’s students’ DH101 projects were also making appearances on my social media feeds this week, which are worth checking out for a model of assignment design as well as impressive examples of undergraduate student DH work.
  • I also recently learned about the HASTAC newsletter, which sends monthly updates about HASTAC initiatives, upcoming events, projects that have launched, as well as upcoming opportunities for employment, publication, or presentations.
  • I’ve been subscribed to the MIT Hyperstudio newsletter for a while. It includes links to recent publications, upcoming conferences, jobs, and publication opportunities, as well as recently launched project.

“the productive/creative scholar must immerse himself/herself in a body of literature”

Jerry was a seriously well- and widely-read scholar. I aspire to the scholarly immersion he urged in his letter (and embodied in his life). Instead, lately, my own immersion takes the form of fifty browser tabs open for days at a time. You may have a better system for managing your readings (feel free to add your tips in the comments), or undertaking immersive study, but in the mean time here are some recent readings I’ve found thought provoking:

I have also had a cluster of readings related to digital archives at hand. I realized, while attending Modernist Studies’ Association conference in November, that despite being on the Digital Archives team at the Rose Library, I am not always sure what “digital archives” means. In the archives world, I understood it to mean born-digital material (for instance, the contents of Alice Walker’s hard drives) or digitized materials belonging to a certain collection–photographs, digitized videotapes or records, or texts digitized for access in the reading room, and, when possible, to a wider community, with deliberate standards for security, access, and preservation. However, I picked up that “digital archives” is a term used more loosely in humanities contexts, to mean, seemingly, any collection of digitized materials.

Trevor Owens shared a draft of a forthcoming book chapter on Digital Sources & Digital Archives; the section “What are Digital Archives?” offers some clarity on “what the term means in different contexts.” Charlotte Nunes led a post-conference workshop on Modernism & Digital Archives at MSA, and the participant-annotated google doc is a rich collection of links to digital collections, tools, projects, and readings related to digital archives. In a pre-conference workshop, Shawna Ross shared a helpful workflow, “Archive by Smartphone: From Book to OCR with ScannerPro and Google Drive,” for creating digital OCR-ed texts from physical paper materials.

For the longer term aspirations of being productive, creative, and immersed in scholarship, I’m eyeing the playlists for focusing and meditation app recommended in ProfHacker’s 2015 gift guide; working on a simple daily routine; growing trees on the Forest app; and making time for reading in quiet and solitude. Here’s to resolutions.

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