The analog program cover.
I just returned home from my most digitally enhanced annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) yet, so it only makes sense that I capture my reflections on that experience in digital form.
As always, I am impressed by what a generous group of scholars has been drawn to SHEAR’s flame. With a few exceptions, the official comments and audience questions were gentle, constructive, and aimed at enhancing our understanding of the past rather than scholars’ egos. And I think this spirit is extra impressive in a group of people who study a period in which the American ideology of competitive individualism was first finding its footing and its ideological power. Read more
My Tiny Tiny RSS installation.
As part of the Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative this spring, I began to explore the world of RSS feeds. Perhaps my favorite part of the DoOOFI was its focus on managing incoming flows of digital information. The immersive sense of information overload was always the hardest part of living a digitally-engaged scholarly life for me, and in our group we discussed lots of technological and cognitive strategies for managing that information flow to make it useful rather than overwhelming. As a part of this discussion, I installed Tiny Tiny RSS, an open source RSS reader, on a partition of my domain. I’ve been using TTRSS for about a month now, and I have some observations about RSS as a technology for managing your digital life. Read more
Category: Digital Life
/ Tags: fi
The technology of media utopianism, 1560s-style.
This week’s readings on the future of the internet seem deeply steeped in the utopianism of internet culture. This utopianism has always struck me as the most salient feature of writing about internet culture, especially by those authors who are more comfortable with the label “futurist” than I am. What we had, what we lost, what we could have, what are the threats … these are all questions that only make sense if you fundamentally assume that the internet has the potential to be a radical change agent. I know that this is a drum I’ve been beating all semester, but as a historian of print culture, I can’t help but seeing very strong echoes of much older conversations about the relationships between ideas, media, power, and social change. Read more
A chart by Leah Tams that shows the changing proportion of one-off and serial guidebooks across the first half of the nineteenth century
Reading through the Weller piece for this weeks’ DoOO discussion, I realized that I have become something of a digital scholar without entirely intending it. When I began to form my scholarly identity in my early graduate school years, “digital humanities” was not yet a blip on my radar, and as I approached mature independent scholarhood, I became acquainted with the term without much context, which led me to experience it more as a buzzword than as a rigorous way of working. But thinking back over it, my scholarly work habits grew and shaped and shifted over the course the last five years of my career, to the point where digital methods inform much of what I do. Read more
On Wednesday, I will be leading a discussion in my undergraduate History Practicum seminar about learning to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources on the wide-open Internet. The students have been assigned to bring in an example of a good and a bad historical website on their topic, but I would like to have my own examples of some spectacularly bad history websites to pick apart in class. I want websites that are factually wrong, absurdly presentist, politically problematic, and straight-up plagiarized. So what’s your favorite example of bad historical website? Email it to me or post it in the comments below.
Oh, and I guess I’m also interested in your favorite example of good history websites, too. Thanks, collective cloud-brain!
Virginia Snowpocalypse 2014: digital humanities or analog humanities?
This week’s assignment to explore “personal learning networks” through social media came at an auspicious time. Unlike Jason and Dave, last week’s snow days freed up some time for me, because of the particular moment I was in for each of my courses. (I’m screwed this week, but that’s another story.) That meant I had a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday to play with Twitter and RSS. Read more
Category: Digital Life
, The Aspiring Handyman
/ Tags: Analog Humanities
, Digital Humanities
, historic district
Screen shot of the wiki in progress; click to enlarge.
This semester I am experimenting with using MediaWiki as a platform for the students in my History of Manhood in the US course to build a collaborative set of reading notes. After being less than completely satisfied with my Twitter experiment last semester, I was looking for a new way to integrate an online component into my courses. One of the problems I had with student tweeting is that it generated a lot of noise; there was a lot of talking and very little listening. I had a hard time keeping up with all the tweets, and it seemed unreasonable (as well as unproductive) to expect the students to do so. In previous years, I had found that response-blogging suffered from a similar problem; there was an awful lot of expression and not a lot of contemplation. So I found myself searching for a different kind of online community, one in which the students wrote less but more thoughtfully, and actively engaged with what the others were contributing. Read more
Is it a siren song that I sing?
This week’s assignment for the Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative is to explore online scholarly communities. I spent some time racking my brain trying to think up Early Americanist communities online, until I realized that I have been an active user of just such a community for years, H-Net. I belong to several of their groups, and I get much of my information about fellowships, conferences, and new work from interacting with their email listservs and their newly renovated web portal. The size and breadth of its user community makes it an invaluable resource for me. Read more
Rural school near Milton, North Dakota, 1913. Courtesy of Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo.
This week’s readings were all about using technology to open up teaching and learning and to take advantage of the “abundance” of teaching materials, expertise, and networks. These pieces all strike me as fine, as far as they go, but they mostly reveal an understanding of what makes for good teaching that is fundamentally different from mine. Read more
Time waits for no man.
Today I discovered another virtue of the Faculty Initiative on Digital Identity: it provides deadlines. This is a truth I have long understood about writing, about the academy, and about myself: it’s really hard to produce anything worthwhile without a deadline to focus your thinking. When I’m productive, it’s because a deadline is looming, and when I’m unproductive, it’s because I have all the time in the world. The need to build out my digital identity forced me to undertake some (small) writing tasks that I might otherwise have put off. Today, I wrote a brief intellectual autobiography for my “Scholarship” page, a task that I had put some idle thought into but which I had never bothered to actually complete. The necessity of filling in that blank white page with something forced me to finally be rigorous in thinking about and writing down some of the unifying themes of my various scholarly projects. So if nothing else, the deadlines inherent in this initiative (as much as they seemed tediously quotidian to me yesterday) are forcing me to think more clearly.