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MLA 2017 – Knowledge Infrastructures in the Humanities

[The deadline for submissions to MLA 2017 has passed. Additionally, and embarrassingly, I misstated the deadline for submissions, which should have been 18 March rather than 18 April — since the deadline for submissions to MLA 2017 was 1 April 2016. I apologise to anyone who may have been waiting to submit a proposal.]


Knowledge Infrastructures in the Humanities

What are the knowledge infrastructures, both material and social, that underlie the everyday work of knowledge creation that we undertake as scholars working in the humanities? How do they function? What are the infrastructural “things” and “relations” that influence or determine the nature or scope of our thinking and the forms of our outputs?

In their introduction to a special issue of Science & Technology Studies, Karasti et al. write that

Because knowledge infrastructures always embody some kind of political agenda, because they ‘grow’ on a pre-existing installed base – ‘piggybacking’ on other infrastructures–they pose multiple sources of friction, conflict, or resistance activities . . . . Of particular importance for the study of . . . knowledge infrastructures . . . are the processes by which pieces of knowledge are produced, circulated, repurposed, boxed, contested, or validated. This may imply looking at, among other things, how ‘raw’ data become ‘cooked’ to produce information, how a standard is enacted, in what ways a system gets repurposed, or how new representations are constructed to quantify risks for the environment.

This panel is an attempt to explore the material and social aspects of knowledge work in the humanities in ways that are often taken for granted or de-emphasised in favour of theoretical abstractions or critical distancing.

Proposals might (for example) discuss the organisation of space and people in universities, including classrooms, campus layouts, libraries, etc; the materials of knowledge making, including notebooks, computers, writing utensils, server farms, etc; sites of collaborative creation in the humanities, including wikis, Google Docs, or perhaps whiteboards; or the role of shared software infrastructure in university administration via platforms for managing enrolment, courses, human resources, records, etc.

Particularly welcome are proposals that discuss material infrastructures in terms of contested power or political identification.

If accepted to MLA17, this panel will be non-traditional. Papers will be pre-written, circulated internally, and published on MLA Commons prior to the session. During the panel, participants will present 5-minute synopses of their work, with the remainder of the time devoted to discussion and questions.

Please send a 250 – 500 word abstract and a brief biographical note (2-3 sentences) to daniel.j.powell[at]kcl.ac.uk by 18 April 2016.

Do not hesitate to be in touch informally about a proposal, either at the above email or on twitter @djp2025. 🙂

NB: This is not a guaranteed session at MLA, but will be packaged and submitted as a Special Session proposal. Participants must be  MLA members (or have their membership waived) by 7 April, and no more than two participants (including the session leader and respondent) may be from the same institution unless the institution is a key aspect of the session.

MLA Executive Council #3: Statement on Matters of Professional Concern

Continuing with the idea of using this blog to expand, even slightly, the process of my running for MLA Executive Council, I’ve posted some materials below. The first round of information requested by MLA was a biographical statement, a sort of highly compressed CV that I tried to expand upon in my last post. The second chunk of information was this–a Statement on Matters of Professional Concern. I found this to be an odd genre, as it is basically your only space as a nominee to

  1. Situate yourself politically
  2. Give a personal history of yourself divorced from byte sized, academically parseable accomplishments
  3. Zero in on any specific accomplishments in any detail
  4. Lay out a plan for your time at the MLA Exec, if elected

That’s a lot of weight for 250 words to pull!

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MLA Executive Council #2: Expanded Biographical Summary

As part of running for a spot on the MLA Executive Council, I was asked to furnish a Biographical Summary:

*Daniel Powell. Grad. student English, Univ. of Victoria. MA, Univ. of Victoria. Current appointment: Early Stage Researcher and Marie Skłowdowska-Curie Fellow, Digital Scholarly Editions Initial Training Network, King’s Coll. London. Institutional service: grad. student conference planning comm., 2010; ch., Academic and Professional Comm., English Grad. Students’ Soc. (EGSS), 2011–12; pres., EGSS, 2013–14; PhD representative, Dept. of English, 2013–14; Grad. Representative Council, Grad. Students’ Soc., 2013–14. Mellon fellowship, THATCamp, 2011; NEH travel grant, 2012; Digital Humanities Winter Inst. scholarship (Maryland Inst. for Technology in the Humanities), 2013; NEH stipend, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2013. Mairi Riddel Memorial Book Prize (for best seminar essay), Dept. of English, Univ. of Victoria, 2012. Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory scholar, 2011– ; steering comm., Advanced Research Consortium, Texas A&M Univ., 2013– ; steering comm., Renaissance Knowledge Network, Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 2014– . Renaissance Soc. of America, Assn. for Computers and the Humanities, Canadian Soc. for Digital Humanities, Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO). MLA activities: Comm. on Information Technology, 2014–17. Coed.,Graduate Training in the 21st Century, 2014– ; ed. asst. (for digital publication), Early Theatre, 2012–15. Invited lectures: Univ. of Western Sydney, Mar. 2014; Natl. Univ. of Ireland, Galway, Nov. 2014. Conference presentations: Canadian Soc. for Digital Humanities, 2012; Digital Humanities Summer Inst. Colloquium (Univ. of Victoria), 2012; Pacific Northwest Renaissance Soc., 2012; Rocky Mountain MLA, 2013; MLA, 2014; ADHO, 2015. Publications include coed., A Social Edition of the Devonshire MS (BL Add 17,492) (2015); contrib., Literary Studies in the Digital Age: A Methodological Primer (2012), Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications: A Collaborative Handbook (2013); articles in Scholarly and Research Communication, Digital Studies / Le champ numérique, Religion and Literature.

As is probably obvious, this is not how I usually write about my achievements, nor how things are usually abbreviated in literary studies, the digital humanities, or many other academic fields. In fact, it is pretty obvious that these biographies are designed for print, for appearance in a media with sever constraints on the length of print included. So I’d like to take advantage of this digital space to expand those abbreviations, drawing in part on the full CV on this site.

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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.]