My research explores production and dissemination of knowledge within the arts & sciences, focusing especially on sociologies of the humanities as understood through and as part of of technological change. I am interested in how cultural expression–stage, print, film, new media— and knowledge making are materially enacted, and how such media is preserved, accessed, and used within the academy. Increasingly, cultural and intellectual work takes place in interconnected, collaborative ways facilitated by the creation and emergence of what many refer to as Web 2.0. My work seeks to understand how collaborative authorship, remix culture, peer to peer production, and socially inflected ways of interacting with and creating artistic and intellectual works are changing how historians, literary scholars, and humanists of many varieties encounter and study culture works. I have presented and written, for example, about historical and contemporary practices of social authorship and collaborative peer production, the nature and practice of academic crowdsourcing, and models of social editorial production.
This research program is inherently interdisciplinary, taking shape as it has at the intersection of sociology, science and technology studies, media studies, literary studies, and library & information science. I consider myself a digital humanist, in that I am a researcher who seeks to both discuss and to build, combining the best of traditional humanities methods with innovative platforms and possibilities. Although DH is an area of research in flux, I find my home in the wide-ranging and sometimes idiosyncratic area where computation meets the modern disciplines of the humanities, informed heavily by research into knowledge making practices of past & present. I believe that digital humanities is best situated to effectively grapple with structures of making and understanding emerging from pervasive computational technologies; it is an agile and fundamentally syncretic approach that encourages gathering insights from many areas of knowledge to produce cohesive and relevant critique. Within DH more broadly, much of my research begins from the following premises:
- All knowledge is material, and this is fundamental for analysing communication, cultural production, and systems of understanding
- Academic knowledge making is a fundamentally social set of processes, involving multiple individuals, organisations, materials, and standards
- Digital works are developed within and emerge out of specific, localised contexts of material and social interaction
- Historicising sociocultural inquiry is vital to a full understanding of contemporary knowledge making practices
- Reflexive critique of intellectual practices, as evidenced in disciplinary and institutional practices and norms, should be explored and bought to bear on multiple areas of inquiry
Social Knowledge in the Humanities
Increasingly, grappling with knowledge making practices in the humanities means thinking through how intellectual production has become transparently collaborative in nature. Scholars, especially those working in book history and textual studies like D. F. McKenzie and Jerome McGann, have for decades argued that a rich understanding of textual production, dissemination, and interpretation should approach such materials as social objects. With the near ubiquity of digital technologies and social connectivity in creative and knowledge industries, this can now be tracked, analysed, and understood in better ways than ever before. McGann has claimed that within a generation or two we will face the task of digitising the entirety of Western print culture; I take that seriously, and see editing—the scholarly remediation of historical materials to contemporary forms—as a vital intervention in this evolution. My engagement with electronic scholarly edition has largely occurred through my involvement with the development of a social electronic edition. Based in the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at UVic, A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript (BL Add. 17,492) is a long-running project to build, publish, and monitor a public, open edition of the Devonshire MS. Coauthored and compiled by nearly two dozen individuals in and around the court of Anne Boleyn, The Devonshire MS is the first sustained example of men and women writing together in the English language, and served as an ideal test case for investigating what impact developments in social media and the advent of Web 2.0 might hold for the academic production of early modern texts. I have been a part of the team behind publishing this project since 2011 (as a part of the Devonshire MS Editorial Group) and have given several presentations on the topic at the DHSI Colloquium, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference. My current position as a Marie Skłowdowska-Curie Fellow at King’s College London is located within the wider European community of scholarly editors, and I am increasingly thinking through the role of social media, digital interconnectivity, and an open source ethos in relation to traditional practices of scholarly editing.
Platforms for Humanities Research
Key to facilitating these types of social knowledge production are cyberinfrastructure and intentionally designed platforms for doing so. In line with the assumption that the best way to effect scholarly fields is to intervene in how knowledge is accessed and used within them, I am Project Manager of the Renaissance Knowledge Network, an effort to build a high-profile, comprehensive digital scholarly resource for the field of Renaissance studies. This project is meant to address three key problems facing researchers of the Renaissance hoping to use digital resources in their scholarship. First, and most importantly, with very few exceptions, digital resources are isolated, standalone efforts that fail to provide any affordance for interoperability, portability, or aggregated search and discovery. Second, if appropriate resources are located, it can be difficult to assess scholarly quality, technical standards, editorial responsibility, peer review status, or indeed any expectations that print-based scholarly resources take for granted. Finally, scholars are faced with a profession being transformed by the usage of digital technologies in scholarly communications. Historical models of scholarly publication, research dissemination, authorship, funding, and pedagogy are in flux. More than ever before, robust scholarly communities of knowledge and practice are a necessity not only routine professional activities, but to produce new insights and knowledge. Spaces that facilitate building and maintaining such relationships are in their infancy, and many orient themselves towards broad swathes of academia rather than committing deep levels of support and infrastructure to specific areas of research.
ReKN will take shape at the intersection of the initiatives, projects, and trends outlined above, providing a single point of entry into an entire galaxy of scholarly activity, specialised for and oriented to scholars of the Renaissance. It is a resource for searching & discovering, for analysing & exploring, and for publishing & writing. ReKN is being developed from its inception to encompass the ways that not only researchers interact with each other, but the many ways in which digital resources and tools benefit from interoperability and cross communication. ReKN is at once a unique technological resource, a focal point for diverse digital resources, and a community—of individuals, of practice, and of scholarly work. It is a social, scholarly working environment and a community of users, researchers, developers, the public, datasets, projects, publications, and networks.
Training & Professionalisation
Too often, the labour of academic work is elided or ignored in discussions of mentorship and professionalisation. As a doctoral student in a field that is only now finding its footing within the academy, issues of graduate training are of great importance to me. To encourage conversations amongst graduate students working within and adjacent to digital humanities, I organised a roundtable at the 2012 meeting of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities / Société canadienne des humanités numériques. Entitled “Conversation, Collaboration, Credit: The Graduate Researcher in the Digital Scholarly Environment,” our conversation sparked a vibrant discussion about the rights and responsibilities of graduate students in today’s digital academy. I, along with a number of other graduate students, have presented on these issues at MLA 2014 in Chicago; “Beyond the Protomonograph: New Models for the Dissertation” featured six graduate students from different institutions and across three countries who are blazing new trails with non-traditional dissertation projects. Inspired by The Praxis Network project, I organised an ETCL-sponsored discussion group in 2013: “Digital Praxis and Graduate Education in the Humanities” provided a forum for those interested in learning more about related issues, exemplary programs, graduate reform, and the role of praxis in humanities education. More recently, Melissa Dalgleish and I co-edited and published the first cluster in a larger project, Graduate Training in the 21st Century. As part of the MediaCommons project, contributors focus on the challenges, the potential, and the pragmatics of contemporary graduate school in the humanities.