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MLA Executive Council

As some of you might have seen, I’ve been nominated to stand for election to the Modern Language Association’s Executive Council.

The Executive Council “has fiduciary and administrative responsibility for the association,” according to the official description. Basically, as I understand things, the Executive Council advises the Executive Director (Rosemary Feal) on a variety of topics, and is designed to provide a breadth of viewpoints and to reflect a variety of constituencies within the MLA at the level of executive decision making and action.

My own nomination has come about because I tick some of those boxes quite well, namely, that I’m a graduate student at a non-US, non-R1 institution. This year, of the seven individuals nominated for the Executive Committee, the membership must elect one regular member of MLA and two graduate students. I am one of five students standing; two of us will be joining the council, however things work out. Of the folks standing, I am the only one not at a US institution and, I believe, the only one currently living outside of the US. All hail the Canadian incursion. 

I’ve pasted my official, MLA-produced profile here for folks to take a look at. As it’s a bit dense and full of abbreviations, I’ll be elaborating on a few different things over the coming weeks that I feel aren’t quite captured by this listing.

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Social Knowledge Creation and the Retransmission of Cultural Materials

[I recently presented at an Implementing New Knowledge Environments gathering in Sydney, NSW. The distances between London and Australia being what they are, I made a video rather than attending in person. I’ve embedded it below.]


Navigating Culture in an Age of Digital Abundance – Presentation

[updated 19 November 2014]

Today I am giving an Ignite! talk at the Being Human Festival, based today at Senate House at the University of London. The overall theme of today is “Too Much Information,” and I am excited to be taking part! As an Ignite! presenter, I will have five minutes and twenty slides to present on my topic–Navigating Culture in an Age of Digital Abundance.” Each slide will be on screen for 15 seconds.

I’ve done similar things before, but usually as Pecha Kuchas, where you get 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide, for a total of six minutes 20 seconds. Ignite is quite a bit shorter, necessitating some difficult choices with regards to images, talking points, and how best to get my point across.

In brief, my presentation argues that the best way to think about information overload in a digital age is to better think about how we can develop systems and networks to make information more usable. This information could be catalogue holdings, youtube videos, scanned books, music files, whatever. The important thing is that for this mass of content to be discoverable, usable, and enjoyable, it has to be organised and accessible. Trusting in crowdsourced networks to assess goods and media, to organise and catalogue, and to recommend content is perhaps the only effective way to grapple with the sheer numbers. As Clay Shirky says, “It’s not information overload–it’s filter failure.” And the best way to make filters is to join together in networks and do so as a community, a radical change from how culture and knowledge have been put forward in the past.

Given the time constraints, I’ve pasted my slides below in PNG format; those in the room might find it easier to revisit and/or follow along here than in real time!

[Edit: Since presenting, I have gone through and added text to these slides, giving a more accurate, though not word for word, account of the presentation and significance of each slide.]

 

ignite_talk_djpowell2.001

 

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DH 2014 – Roundup and Reflections

It has been about two weeks since the end of Digital Humanities 2014. Taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, the conference was a wonderful gathering of senior faculty, graduate students, #altac professionals, and the usual type of folks you find at a digital humanities conference or workshop. As my first DH (I missed Nebraska last year because of a scheduling conflict), I was suitably impressed at the range of topics on display, the projects that people were showcasing, and of course the keynotes.

Despite recently moving to London to take up an Early Stage Researcher position to explore digital social editing and the scholarly edition, I found myself (as always) drawn to panels and papers basically professional in their nature. In other words, rather than more esoteric topics. Regardless, here are some of my favourite presentations and sessions from the conference: Continue Reading


The London Job – An Introduction to DiXiT and Social Editing

[This post is cross-posted with the newly-created DiXiT Blog, on which all project participants will be posting about their research for the next three years.]

When one turns to the Pythia of our age, Google, and enters “textual editing” as a search term for images, an interesting set appear.

From left to right, they are

  • The logo of the Textual Editing Framework, a framework designed to create model editors for textual notations.
  • A still shot of a video of Elena Pierazzo, president of the Text Encoding Initiative Council, teaching a course on Digital Textual Editing at DH Summer School 2013 in Bern, Switzerland.
  • The cover of the book Electronic Textual Editing, an anthology edited by Lou Burnard, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, and John Unsworth.
  • A student with a Macbook laptop, an external monitor, and a towering microfilm reader (presumably editing some text).
  • A cropped medieval painting of a wizened old man, likely a monk, consulting a book placed on a pedestal in front of him.

These images, taken together, do a fairly good job of providing a snapshot of current debates, trends, arguments, and issues in what we broadly consider to be “digital scholarly editing.” After all, editors do something quite established (the monk & his book), often with cutting edge tools (the Textual Editing Framework, the laptop), sometimes with very old tools and materials (the microfilm reader), the results of which are often disseminated in seemingly dated forms (the scholarly collection on Electronic Textual Editing). Social_RedAt the same time, digital scholarly editing is a field of inquiry constantly in redefinition, in argument, and in propagation (the new media form of a video recording of a lecture devoted to changing ideas of what a scholarly edition is and can be). The manner of inquiry (querying Google) is also telling: it relies not on my personal knowledge of the field, but upon the collected “wisdom” of untold writers, image uploaders, programmers, software developers, scholars, and so on. The contours of textual editing as suggested by these images are fundamentally social.

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