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 dayofdh2014.matrix.msu.edu). 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.