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. Then, digital pedagogy became de rigueur, and I dove in headfirst for the fight that would ensue from all fronts.  I participated in everything, EVERYTHING. I even began advocating for permanent curricular changes in my department to reflect an acceptance of DH as a form of pedagogy as well as change to the retention, tenure, and promotion guidelines through the auspices of my work on the Open Access Task Force. Early on, I pushed Project Bamboo to consider teaching as part of DH research, and for awhile, they did. In effect, more universities could sign onto the project if it focused on teaching, especially small liberal arts colleges and community colleges. I also began giving a series of workshops about digital pedagogy after my appearance on the dais at an MLA Roundtable, a pre-conference workshop, and the first set of electronic roundtables for digital pedagogy. Even the Digital Humanities Conference  2011 let me in to do a poster on digital pedagogy. I was even part of the cast for the online version of Matt Gold’s wonderful Debates in the Digital Humanities. In between, I participated in the conversations surrounding, DH, feminism, textual studies, and digital editions. DH has always been, if not the center of my work, then on the cusp.

But, this is where it started to fall apart for me in the DH world. By the time I submitted my article to Debates in DH for open review, digital pedagogy had grown and become somewhat divisive (as all fields do eventually). The feedback on the article was intense, overwhelming, and divergent to the point that I pulled the submission from the online edition. It was clear that many points touched on gaps in the field and others incited arguments. Not wanting to be that touchstone, I revised the article and published it with an open access journal. In the meantime, I was invited to submit to another anthology, another worthy project, but am again faced with the same crippling hurdle of writing an article that would be heavily critiqued for lack of inclusivity, on several fronts, all of which are valid, but all of which can’t be included in a single article.

And, then the coup de grâce that sealed my withdrawal from much of the DH scene, including an active Twitter presence: after years of pursuing DH in my current position and after years of fighting for its inclusion, I got tired and looked around at the myriad of DH positions popping up at various institutions that held the promise of better resources (along with a consistency in leadership). I’ve always been open to the possibility of moving to another institution, as all faculty are. But, this particular year, my dream job opened up at a place that was, well, dreamy, complete with savvy colleagues, good resources, a commitment to DH in all sorts of forms and practices. In consulting with a colleague who was moderately close to the hiring source, I realized/was told that my teaching and digital pedagogy would count for nothing. And, to make it worse, I teach such a heavy course load that there’s no way I could put together what would be considered a serious research plan based on the expectations that were conveyed to me.

I felt betrayed. All these years. All of these presentations. All of these invitations. All of the networking. And I was still considered sub-par in my work as a DHer. Even my long struggle to introduce digital pedagogy into discipline-specific conferences would be challenged and somewhat erased by those eager to stake claims of their own.

This was a blow because I considered a great number of DHers to be good friends and mentors. But, in the end, my skillset as a DHer in digital pedagogy wasn’t/isn’t good enough to those doing the hiring. It’s a hard sell to the rest of a committee, this pedagogy stuff, apparently.

After I received tenure in 2011 and then promotion in 2013, I put my head down and worked. I no longer participated in the hand-wringing about who’s in/who’s out or definitions of DH. I just did it — and did it within the confines of my resources. The result has been wonderful, primarily because the work in the classroom for a long-standing project resulted in several graduate students authoring an unusual article for Journal of Digital Humanities which has inspired several other graduate and undergraduate students to ask about doing this kind of work for course credit. And, now, I’m the project coordinator/chair for the California Open Educational Resources Council and am directing 9 faculty members from the UCs, CSUs, and CCCs to create a library of low-cost, open-access textbooks that can be used in common courses across all three types of institutions. The funding from both state legislative and major foundation sources speaks to the commitment to this project; the participants, an incredibly engaging and passionate group, are making huge leaps forward in the project despite having been assembled only recently.

But, DH, with its fights on Twitter and its segregation of its sum parts and its erasure of its own history, well, I don’t have the time to elbow my way into the room any longer.

I’m working.


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.

An article ran in SJSU’s Spartan Daily, among other news venues, back in 2012 about SB 1052 & SB 1053 that highlighted the possibility of open access textbooks that are more affordable. In July 2013, with the hope of further progress on the project, Barbara Illowsky presented an overview of the legislation as well as the history of the project and all of the entities at the July 2013 Online Teaching Conference.

I’ve been named to chair the California Open Educational Resources Council on behalf of the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates — which just means that I’m chairing the Council created and funded by the State of California to create, review, disseminate, and publicize open access textbooks. The Council consists of 10 faculty members: 3 from the CSUs, 3 from the UCs, and 3 from community colleges, and 1 non-voting chair from the CSU (me). We have an ambitious plan to put into place a review process for open access textbooks that will be used in 50 courses across all 3 types of schools. This will also be part of the first version of the California Open Source Digital Library.

The funding comes from the State of California and a grant awarded by the Hewlett Foundation. The full explanation of the project is below (in the form of the official verbiage in the grant to the Hewlett Foundation):

The California State University, Office of the Chancellor is requesting $500,000 from the [Hewlett Foundation] and $500,000 from the Gates Foundation to match the State of California’s $1,000,000 funding designated by SB 1052 and SB 1053 to establish the California Open Education Resource Council (COERC) and the delivery of the first version of the California Open Source Digital Library (COSDL). The California State University (CSU) will administer the collaboration between the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS) and CSU, the California Community Colleges (CCC), and the University of California (UC) to design and deliver intersegmental services for the faculty and students of California’s public higher education systems. To quickly and productively deliver on the promises of SB 1052 and SB 1053, the project will leverage ICAS, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, and CSU’s MERLOT ( and Affordable Learning Solutions initiative (

Saving students money on the costs of high quality textbooks and increasing faculty adoption of open textbooks are the critical outcomes of the project. The project will start with the development of a showcase collection of existing high quality and reliably available open textbooks that are aligned with strategic courses in the CCC, CSU, and UC. COERC will develop, apply, and communicate the criteria for evaluating and recommending the open textbooks as part of the outreach and adoption processes. The COSDL will provide expanded catalog descriptions of the resources. Teaching ePortfolios for the open textbooks will be develop by faculty to capture the pedagogical and financial benefits of adopting the specific open textbooks and included in the library. Providing faculty with easy access to open textbooks, and information about teaching with these materials by their colleagues, as well as providing institutional support and recognition of their efforts will be instrumental in increasing faculty adoption of open textbooks.

A presentation by Barbara Illowsky at the July 2013 Online Teaching Conference supplies a great overview of the material and the various acronyms for all parties involved:

It’s a great cause and one that will build on many other institutional projects across all California public institutions of higher education. Soon, we’ll have a public page as part of the ICAS website:

Stay tuned!

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:


Well, I didn’t…for lots of things…and stuff happens when you don’t stop, whatever that may be. So here’s some non-professional good news that has nothing whatsoever to do with academic life (or does it?):



For the 2014 racing season, I’ve been selected for the Wattie Ink Elite Team along with over 100 athletes across North America. This sport keeps me going in the face of teaching too many students or the never-ending budget crises of higher education. Since I found triathlon training and racing in the NorCal Bay Area, my teaching has taken on a coaching aspect. And, if my students want to talk running, personal bests, achievements, I get to see that passion and encourage them to bring that to their studies. So, what does Elite Team membership mean? It means that the drive I bring to my training and racing, that drive to finish my doctoral work, the dedication to hang in there for tenure, the passion to finish that first book/scholarly edition, and the fortitude to get’er done for the second book, well, now it’s part of something bigger than me. Now, it’s the positivity of a massive group of athletes who push themselves and recognition of my hard work to get here, to this point in my life. When you read the other posts here, think about the fact that I’m outside running in the NorCal sunshine burning off the aggravations and daily strife of academia, that I can’t help but be congenial and generous if we ever meet at a conference or in the classroom.

Yep. This!!


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…

Defining Collaboration for my SJSU Colleagues

Below are the slides for my presentation, “Weaving Collaboration into Literature Courses,” for the SJSU Center for Faculty Development‘s Conference on Teaching & Learning Conference: High Touch, High Tech, High Impact (December 11, 2013). It was quick! I had 5 mins to convey all of this information and, of course, the slides went too quickly for the audience to capture the URLs.

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Our Students’ Successes are Our Successes

It’s been a difficult year to say the least. My university has been in the news about MOOC-mania, our President’s potential censure, an alleged roaming gunman that had us sheltered in place for 2 hours, and now hate crimes and harassment in our dorms. We’ve seen massive, disruptive construction of buildings on campus while our current teaching rooms have tiles falling from the ceilings and students with no access to computer labs in the College of Arts & Humanities. The general morale is at an all-time low, according to an emeritus faculty who says that he hasn’t seen this since 1969.

Can we all take a breath? Please?

Maybe get back to the pedagogy?

I am. Read more…

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