Archive for January, 2012


Collaborate and Revolutionize

January 31, 2012

Whoa, hold the new vocab, Roger, and let’s hark back to that which the humanities are still chewing on: collaboration.

In 2006, the MLA (yup, back to that) Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion issued a report whereby it listed 20 recommendations to forestall a crisis of concurrently increasing and narrowing demands for research. Recognizing that “[t]he percentage of departments ranking scholarship of primary importance (over teaching) has more than doubled since the last comparable survey (1968) […] from 35.4% to 75.7%,” and that “the monograph as a gold standard is confirmed by the expectation in almost one-third of all departments surveyed (32.9%) of progress toward completion of a second book for tenure” (Report, 10), the Task Force calls for “a more capacious conception of scholarship” (#3), the appreciation of “scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration” (#4), and for departments and institutions to “facilitate collaboration among scholars and evaluate it fairly” (#14). This was 6 years ago. Are we there yet?

‘Tis a glacial pace out there for us humanists, despite all forkers and skywriters and Elsevier-bashers! Let’s face it, to a great many humanists, information sharing (aka, proto-forking, forking, remixing, or skywriting) looks like this:

And just in case anyone gets too excited about new technologies, innovative thinking or blasting everyone’s blinders, here’s one for the vast majority of academics to digest:


Whither the scientific journals, thither. . .

January 31, 2012

I think, the humanities journals. An article from Forbes about the revolt against Elsevier. We all know it’s unsustainable; it never was sustainable–it was just that there was no alternative. Hello, digital world!

I have a feeling that this [revolt] will indeed lead to some fairly major changes in the way that Elsevier is able to run its journal publishing division. At least, I rather hope so, for the entire cost base and financial structure is outmoded in this internet age.


Proto-forking is the past, apparently

January 29, 2012

Via the awesome Bethany Nowviskie, a fascinating 1990 article by Steven Harnad about “Scholarly Skywriting” seems to anticipate the forking strand of dig hum:

On the brink of intellectual perestroika is that vast PREPUBLICATION phase of scientific inquiry in which ideas and findings are discussed informally with colleagues (currently in person, by phone and by regular mail), presented more formally in seminars, conferences and symposia, and distributed still more widely in the form of preprints and tech reports that have undergone various degrees of peer review.


Forking is the future

January 28, 2012

Almost sounds like a Zen koan, but it’s actually the rather Zen process of building knowledge by iterating on the knowledge of others. I happen to think it’s the future of scholarship, too, and our way out of the morass of peer-review of all kinds.

Here’s my favorite recent piece on it, a post by Rachael Hodder, a master’s student at Michigan State, working with their awesome CHI initiative (Cultural Heritage Informatics): link. Pull-quotation:

Greenberg’s metaphor describes a scholarly culture that embraces collaboration, innovation, and remix. This is an upheaval of the current paradigm of academic work where single-authored scholarship is most valuable, “definitive” works rule, and ideas are personal property. By changing the scholarly workflow as Greenberg proposes, academia can become an even more fertile ground for cutting edge, revolutionary work.


Anke intro, e-lit, plus def of Digital Humanities I actually find helpful

January 24, 2012

Well, hello, Roger (and world). This is Anke, the media studies part of digital culture and media studies. I do all things interarts and intermedia (mix in a bit of Flusser), after wrestling for some years with that modernist beast “Gesamtkunstwerk”. Happy to move from dynamiting the old notion of unified arts (see intro in Johns Hopkins volume) to igniting discussions in the blogosphere. Total network theory anyone?

Ok, but I am supposed to report on the e-lit presence at the 2012 MLA. Heck, does anyone remember a 1991 Mac? Flying toasters and all?  Not only did this exhibition mark the first-ever presence of e-literature at the MLA (question: why was it not housed with all the analog material in the exhibition hall?), but it also proved an unexpected guide into the history of the genre. Hence the Mac box. With black and white screen. Without hyperlinks. Was it Jackson’s Patchwork Girl in its pre-21st-century form (dare I say original…) on display? Given today’s easy access to e-literature compilations, I appreciated the exposure to 90s products and codifications (code poetry!) of literature in the digital realm on a – yes – haptic level. A short conversation with Dene Grigar, one of the curators, revealed that several years ago she would have been laughed out of the convention, posing as an e-lit scholar. Figure that… So, waiting for the first-ever collaboration between the ELO and the MLA.

On to DigHum (Roger, not sure about quick-hit posts here). Many who begin to find the area of Digital Humanities of interest (believe you me, many do not), wonder what it is.  Alas, here’s the pithiest definition I’ve come across so far, thanks to Victoria Szabo: “Application of digital tools and methods to objects (analog and digital) of humanist study (media objects, buildings, people…).” There you have it. And no, no one wants to bomb or dynamite the humanities.


Roger: introduction, takeaway from MLA2012

January 17, 2012

Hello world, I’m Roger Travis. I do games, and classics, and everything digital in between that looks the slightest bit ludic.

My plan for this blog, which Anke and I are hoping to use to spark conversation about what digital culture and media studies will look like at UConn, is to do quick-hit posts, one step above tweets and social media status-updates, and one fuse short of bombs. I’d rather ignite than explode.

At any rate, my first quick-hit: the two things that struck me while watching the Twitter feed on the #mla12 hashtag were the prominence of e-lit and the anguished debate about the future of scholarship. Since e-lit is one of Anke’s specialties, and because that topic struck me as a “had to be there” kind of thing, and because Anke was there (about which I’m incredibly envious), I’m going to talk briefly about the latter.

I agree that peer-review as we knew it is moribund, not only because of the inherent corruption of the system, but also and more importantly because given the subject of this blog, and of our shiny new program at UConn, the scarcity of publishing resources upon which it was founded no longer exists. The amount of exciting inter-disciplinary stuff going on on blogs and social media has already made the journals in which I was trained to publish relics, full of things that could be much better and more efficiently said in a different, digital model.

I think that model might be “forking,” a model that comes from the world of computer code. More on that next time.


Debating Digital Culture and Media Studies at UConn

January 16, 2012

Welcome to another blog! From academics! At a university! Here it goes:

Digital Culture and Media Studies
The PhD concentration in Digital Culture and Media Studies prepares students to work in a wide variety of interdisciplinary fields such as Game Studies and Media Philosophy and to undertake research projects in Media History. Topics of study may include video games, social media, digital film culture, electronic literature and interactive fiction, virtual worlds, and the relation of all those topics to media archeology and the products of earlier discursive technologies such as non-digital artistic forms (i.e., traditional art and literature), film, radio, and the tabletop RPG. Students are encouraged to apply their expertise in New Media to the classroom and to artistic endeavors. The application of media theory and history to the burgeoning digital culture presents a unique opportunity to merge practice with theory and to pursue work in the humanities with a scope that extends from the classical world through our immediate contexts. Ultimately, students learn to participate as scholars and teachers in the discourses springing from the integration of digital computer technology and multiple media into world culture.

This is the boring part. Debates are about to be posted. This week. Promise!