[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.]
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
I’m writing this from a lovely little coffee shop in downtown Vancouver, Washington called Torque. The space is large and open, with a number of old dining room tables scattered about and a big, U-shaped bar in the middle. The shop lies at the foot of the I-5 bridge that crosses the Columbia River to Portland, Oregon, in an area that seems to have been mostly railyards or light industry. The building itself was obviously a garage of some kind, and they still have the original doors on. It’s great. They serve the best espresso, roasted in house, that I have ever had. And I live in the Pacific Northwest, so we know coffee.
Torque is right across the street from the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, location of the just completed Rocky Mountain Modern Languages Association conference. In its 67th year, RMMLA (pronounced ‘rim-la,’ I have learned) brings together a number of language and literature academics from (theoretically) the western regions of the United States and Canada; in practice, presenters arrived from as far away as South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, and New York.
A few weeks after returning from the Early Modern Digital Agendas Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I feel like I’ve settled back into my routine: get up, bus to campus, work on dissertation prospectus, take a walk at lunch, work some more. Repeat. What returning to this normal process has really underscored for me is how very different the EMDA experience was from my normal professional life.
As a doctoral student, I spend my time doing doctoral student things: reading, writing, emailing (my god, the emailing), applying to conferences, grants, etc. As a research assistant at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria, I spend my hours emailing, building digital projects, writing (different) grants, writing (different) conference papers, etc. As President of the English Graduate Students Society at UVic, I keep track of TAs, help to plan social events, keep our department as honest as possible, and so on. At EMDA, I sat in a seminar room for eight hours a day, five days a week, discussing digital tools, early modern studies, cyberinfrastructure, graduate training, and Shakespeare. Lots of Shakespeare. My daily routine in DC was metro, Folger, walk to Penn for lunch, Folger, metro home (or drinks :). All of which is to say that my experience at the Folger was a strangely wonderful alternate reality close to what I assumed (as a freshman in college) graduate school and the professoriate would be like. That’s not to insult my grad experience, which has been more or less great, but to underscore the very strange pocket universe Folger institutes seem to operate in. So it’s taken awhile to get my thoughts together
Those thoughts are, in list form:
Surprise I was even there.
- Gratitude to the Folger and Institute crew for putting the whole thing on.
- Perpetual recognition of how intelligent and knowledgeable literally everyone in the room was about something we were discussing.
- A newfound focus on the media archaeology of early modern studies.
- An interest in how linguistics (especially corpus linguistics) can prompt and/or support ‘traditional’ literary & cultural analysis.
- The extent to which technological infrastructure (from the Renaissance to present) influences how we think of our disciplinary concerns.
- An appreciate at the sheer number of article ideas, dissertation components, disciplinary concerns, and large scale project ideas that emerged from EMDA.
- Mild surprise at how much professional networking, project genesis, and the like take place over alcohol. While this doesn’t bother me per se, the unofficial importance it seems to have in career development gives me pause.
I mean, I am a doctoral student just entering my third year. To be in a room with folks like Joe Loewenstein, Lynne Magnusson, Jacqueline Wernimont, Brett Hirsch and pretty much every other participant was humbling. I’m not being falsely modest when I say that these folks were regularly throwing out authors, plays, poetry, and entire cultural movements in literature that I had never even heard of. At the same time, I (think) I brought a rather more hardcore digital humanities and media studies vantage point to the group. Next to that, folks like Dan Shore often gave me, and the group, pause by dropping what I liked to think of as “philosophy bombs” into the middle of our discussions. Jacob Heil seemed to always base his contributions in his very real, and current, large digital project management experience. I could write a sentence like that for every person at EMDA (and said most of them out loud during our final night of banqueting & drinks until I wandered home with friends and partner along the Mall).
Overall, the most valuable takeaway for me personally is a new sense of community, one centred on a group of early modern digital humanities all explicitly concerned with asking the types of question and pursuing the types of projects I’ve come to think of as ‘my type’ of research. Which is of course nonsense, since it is obviously *our* type of research. And that’s no small thing.
Today at #emda13 (as Early Modern Digital Agendas has become, bowing to the necessity of a convenient hashtag), we discussed Early English Books Online and the English Short Title Catalogue with Ian Gadd (of Bath Spa University) and Deborah Leslie (Folger Shakespeare Library). Although our discussion began with the English Short Title Catalogue and EEBO as a jumping off point, we quickly went down the rabbit hole of both EEBO history and the very odd corners both scholarly resources contains.
EEBO and the ESTC both have complex and tangles histories (and sometimes an entangled history as well) that was so complex I’m sure I missed half of it. Perhaps most intriguingly, when we consult about the seemingly very digital ESTC, we are actually consulting a resource that began with Edward Arber’s 1875 Transcript of the Register of the Company of Stationers of London; this project morphed into the Catalogue of Books in the Library of the British Museum (1884), which eventually turned into Pollard & Redgrave’s Short Title Catalogue printed in 1926–since revised later in the 20th century. This STC was followed when University Microfilm International (UMI) began photographing early modern texts in the 1930s and 1940s, in the face of World War II. Eventually, the STC morphed in to the ESTC (which originally stood for *Eighteenth* century STC) in the late 1980s. Continue Reading