ADHC Talk: Collaboration & Failure: Must-Haves in Digital Humanities Projects

Tom Wilson invited me to speak at the Alabama Digital Humanities Center in November to my great glee. I had a chance to dive back into the Beardstair Project and graduate course under the guise of teaching collaboration in DH courses (presented Nov. 11, 2014). Special thanks to Emma Wilson for shepherding me around so I could experience her Day in DH.


In 2011, I resolved to reveal my Digital Humanities roots to my students in a more explicit way. But, first, that meant clearly defining the foundation of Digital Humanities, an amorphous field that had become a catch-all for anyone doing anything remotely “digi-savvy” in the Humanities. Armed with Stephen Ramsay’s notion for “screwing around” and experimenting with teaching and assessing collaborative practices, the result became a long-standing, on-going, student-driven project that allowed both graduate and undergraduate students to succeed, fail, and collaborate on a real-world digital project, The Beard-Stair Project. (See below for narratives about the initial guerrilla project and eventual programmatic validation as a graduate course.) By providing students with the opportunity to craft the entire project, from initial Humanistic inquiry to public digital scholarship, the Beard-stair Project illustrates the value of diverse collaboration, diverse approaches to teaching, pedagogy, interaction with physical and digital humanities resources, and the role that special collections and archival programs can play in supporting the growth of Digital Humanities study, research, and scholarship.

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It’s HERE! Catalog Copy for Forget Me Not!

After years of research, writing, revising, scanning, searching, connecting, and just plain smelling old books, it’s here! The catalog copy for Forget Me Not! The Rise of the British Literary Annual 1823-1835. Slated to be available with Ohio University Press by June 2015 and will include 60+ images from my collection of literary annuals, almanacs, and more. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

I have to admit, though, I *have* been thinking about what’s next:

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Being a Traditional Scholar

My last post, DH Alienation, questioned the direction of Digital Humanities and was a reflection on academia in general. Since then, there have been quite a few challenges, the most difficult was the passing of my stepfather from a 2-year battle with cancer, a happening that occurred a mere week after my older brother returned from his active duty in Afghanistan. During that time frame, I tackled training for and the successful completion of an Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run) — a feat that requires intense focus and commitment not unlike the long haul of completing a dissertation. I did it to allay some of the anxiety that was starting to close in on me through the last year or so. And, being an intensely private person about my family to my f2f colleagues, I didn’t discuss these happenings with anyone in my department, at least not in any official capacity until I was forced to do so during one or two meetings. I was reminded during that year of the importance of being focused on goals — and I returned to the reasons why I got into this business of being a professor. In the end, and this is clichéd but true, the journey is always greater than the result.

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DH Alienation….?

Today is Day of Digital Humanities, a day when Digital Humanists are encouraged to provide a snapshot of their day.

Welcome to Day of DH 2014!

A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities (Day of DH) is an open community publication project that will bring together scholars interested in the digital humanities from around the world to document what they do on one day.  This year, Day of DH will take place on April 8th. The goal of the project is to create a web site that weaves together a picture of the participant’s activities on the day which answers the question, “Just what do digital humanists really do?” Participants  document their day through photographs and text, all of which is published on a community online platform (which, for this year, lives at Both during and after the day, people are encouraged to read and comment on their fellow participant’s posts.  Eventually, all the data will be grouped together, undergo some light semantic editing, and released for others to study. We hope that, beyond the original online publication, the raw data will be of use to those interested in further visualization or digital community ethnographic research.

The project started in 2009, and I participated from the beginning through 2012 ( March 2009, March 2010, March 2011, and March 2012). In the first year, I was excited — it was an opportunity to demonstrate that my work was valuable. My stake in DH turned very quickly to working on pedagogy through DH methods because my institution, a comprehensive master’s-granting state university, required that much of my focus be on my 100+ students each semester. Read more…

Open Access Textbooks & COERC

It’s been a good year so far with announcements! I’ve taken on a larger public role this year, both with my amateur athlete self and the Digital Humanist who advocates for open access.

This week, I interviewed for and was offered the Chair/Project Coordinator position for the California Open Educational Resources Council, a result of SB 1052 and SB 1053, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012, that calls for the creation of affordable digital open-access textbooks (CC BY!) in conjunction with the creation of the first version of the California Open Source Digital Library. Read more…

And now for something completely different (so stoked!)

Most of you know (and I say this in my bio) that I also do some sports on the side. I’ve long believed that sports offer a sense of camaraderie and collegiality that’s so very welcome in this sometimes harsh career. My moniker here and on Twitter reminds me to keep going in the face adversity or in the blessing of success. That, and a well-creased fortune that I keep squirreled away in my wallet on top of my driver’s license:


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Drowning & No One Cares?

Alright, that title is certainly hyperbolic.

Here I am, at the conclusion of another semester. This Fall brought some great experiments in the classroom with TechnoLit and some sobering reflections about the need for exams in my upper division literature courses. The semester also heralded leftover news from previous semesters: as often happens, academic publishing takes time and over the Summer a few of my grad students took their work to the next level with a peer-reviewed publication. Huzzah! Another Humanities student (whom I don’t know) won one of the Norton Recitation Context prizes for her rendition of a Shakespeare sonnet. Another hearty Huzzah!

But, the end of the semester and the last day of my grading frenzy for 105 students brought me some frustrating news to which I felt compelled to jump back into the political fray of SJSU and respond through official channels. Our President is under… investigation? censure? I’m not sure what, but the Academic Senate asked the CSU Chancellor to step in to investigate the draconian budget practices being enacted on our campus. Seriously, people. We can’t have at least two good years before the shit hits the fan again? Boo! Read more…

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