Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weeks 14 and 15: Presentations

We are winding up the semester. In our last two class sessions, students will present their papers and projects to the class.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Week 13

Readings from Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, Letting Go: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World (Philadelphia, PA: Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, 2011).

What we have seen throughout this semester is that historical knowledge roles that used to be fairly distinct (professor/researcher; librarian/archivist; museum professional; journal editor) appear to be getting all mixed up in the 21st century in the context of the web. This week’s readings introduce in an explicit way how the public as consumers can merge into those roles as well. What are the implications of these developments for how we should training graduate students (and the public) and for how you think about your own careers?

  • There is a wealth of opportunities in the digital age to make history meaningful to a wide variety of audiences. How do you pick your focus?
  • You personally, in managing your career and avocation as a historian?
  • A given museum, library, nonprofit organization, for-profit business, or other organization that you might work for/with?


  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of publicly curated museum content? Are there any special considerations for the web that are different from in physical museums?
  • Why do they say that public curation demands more work rather than less from museums? If public content is professionally edited, then how public is it? What parallels with “reality TV” might reasonably be drawn?
  • Ask someone with public history background to talk about Frisch’s idea of “shared authority.”

Nina Simon, “Participatory Design and the Future of Museums”
  • If the web remains an open free-for-all, why shouldn’t museums continue to carefully select and present objects within an interpretive framework?
  • What is a “folksonomy”?
  • What is the difference between gatekeeping and curation?
  • Why isn’t soliciting participation enough? Why must one also use the fruits of that participation?
  • What is the “proximate model”? What are the shortcomings for taking such a business concept and applying it to a museum?
  • The Human Library catalog

Steve Zeitlin, “Where Are the Best Stories? Where Is My Story?—Participation and Curation in the New Media Age”
  • What happens if you invite participation and then don’t post what people share?
  • http://www.cityofmemory.org/map/index.php
  • Do you approve of reviewing and editing public contributions before posting? Should contributors be consulted about the edited version?
  • Does the collector have an obligation to store the originals?
  • What’s the difference between collecting the best stories and getting everyone telling stories (Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger story that ends the essay)? Is there room for both?

Matthew Fisher and Bill Adair, “Online Dialogue and Cultural Practice: A Conversation”
  • What are the practical implications of running an exhibition “that never ends”?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of relying on the wisdom of crowds, for example to recommend books through a “favoriting” system?
  • P. 53: “mini curatorial interventions”: commenting, blogging, bookmarking, and favoriting

Matthew MacArthur, “Get Real! The Role of Objects in the Digital Age”
  • You can’t collect and curate everything, even though everyone might have access. How can we make choices?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Week 12

Writing History in the Digital Age

Fred Gibbs and Trevor Owens, “The Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing”
  • What is the difference between data and evidence?
  • Why don’t historians talk more about their methodologies?
  • 162: what kind of experience with “negative results” do you have?
  • What steps/tools are needed to make data available?

Ansley T. Erickson, “Historical Research and the Problem of Categories: Reflections on 10,000 Digital Note Cards”

  • What solutions do you use for notetaking? For organizing your ideas?
  • How do purposeful systems affect what you can think about your topic? How you can find a specific piece of information in your notes?
  • What role does the writing process itself play in the organization and clarity of your ideas?
  • Is a relational database more than just a shortcut to proper footnotes?
  • 142: what if finding aids were constantly updated? Unit recently most have not even been collectively searchable?
  • How have you used keywords and tags in your own research?

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, “Africa and Africans in the African Diaspora: The Uses of Relational Databases,” American Historical Review 115 (1) (February 2010): 136-150.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of using data that you did not gather?
  • Why is ethnicity important to Hall’s critique?
  • How does data get into a databse? How does one access it?
  • What is “unquantifiable data”?
  • What can you tell about the original article without having been assigned to read it? What does Hall think the problem with it was?
  • http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Week 11: Hacking Scholarship

General questions

  • Why do these questions arise in the context of digital history?
  • Do these calls for change comport nicely with the AHA’s approach to assessing the place of DH?
  • Is DH really a continuity with the past of the profession, or something new?
  • What’s wrong with traditional publishing? What’s right about it?
  • What kind of gatekeeping would you like to have for the stuff you need access to in order to produce your own work?

Alex Galarza, Jason Heppler, and Douglas Seefeldt, “A Call to Redefine Historical Scholarship in the Digital Turn,” Journal of Digital Humanities 1 (4) (2012): http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-4/a-call-to-redefine-historical-scholarship-in-the-digital-turn/.
  • Are you persuaded that the digital turn in history is a “revolution”?
  • We have talked about obstacles to the acceptance of DH before. What kinds of solutions can you imagine?
  • Do you accept the suggestion that coding and building platforms should count as scholarship for historians?

All of the “Hacking Scholarship” essays in Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities, edited by Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013): http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12172434.0001.001/1:2/--hacking-the-academy-new-approaches-to-scholarship?g=dculture;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1

Jason Baird Jackson, “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps”
  • What is the criticism of for-profit publishers?
  • If you conduct peer review for them, are you really working for free? Is this bad?
  • How do you know if you are working with a for-profit rather than a non-profit publisher?

David Parry, “Burn the Boats/Books”
  • What’s wrong with the book?
  • What do you think of the phrase “the Gutenberg Parenthesis”?
  • What is “librocentrism”?
  • How is knowledge a commodity?
  • What does he mean by “closed system”?
  • Is a PDF really just a book on the web?
  • What would it mean if scholars were aggregators and curators instead of producers? What would librarians do?
  • Are books locked behind a paywall?

Jo Guldi, “Reinventing the Academic Journal”
  • What does she mean by “Web 2.0”? We haven’t talked about this term so far.
  • What do you think of her recommendations? We will spend all of our time curating our bibliographies or conducting our research?
  • Is she proposing that journals give up publishing and instead become authoritative linkers?
  • Would people really spend a lot of time commenting on other people’s unfinished essays? What was your experience with the times we did that this semester?
  • Would you indefinitely revise a paper?

Michael O’Malley, “Reading and Writing”
  • Is it your experience that the word processor has had little effect on academic writing?

Voices: Blogging
  • How does blogging relate to published writing, in your view? Have any of your ideas about this changed over the course of the semester?

John Unsworth, “The Crisis of Audience and the Open-Access Solution”
  • Is it true that no one is reading the scholarly books? Do you write so you can have an audience?
  • What is open access?
  • Who is going to keep track of all the new publications floating around online?

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Open-Access Publishing”
  • What are the costs of publishing?
  • What is wrong with traditional publishing?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of open-access publishing?
  • Is the claim that the public is not interested in scholarship a straw man or a red herring?

Open Access and Scholarly Values: A Conversation
  • Cohen suggests that failure to publish digitally, for free, is a contradiction for scholars who “champion…the voices of those who are less privileged and powerful.” Do you agree?
  • Is work published in gated journals really invisible?
  • Do scholars actually read their colleagues’ work?
  • “Open access—which is an ethically superior form of dissemination on its face, and a moral obligation for public institutions”: Do you agree?

Voices: Sharing One’s Research

Mills Kelly, “Making Digital Scholarship Count”
  • To what extent are you as graduate students thinking about the prestige hierarchy of scholarly publishing?
  • Definition of scholarship: “In almost any discipline, scholarship has the following characteristics: it is the result of original research; it has an argument of some sort and that argument is situated in a preexisting conversation among scholars; it is public; it is peer-reviewed; and it has an audience response.
  • Is argument essential to counting as scholarship? In Kelly’s Teaching History in the Digital Age, he suggests that mashups make arguments.
  • Why is he skeptical of the value of gatekeeping?

Tom Scheinfeldt, “Theory, Method, and Digital Humanities”
  • What humanities arguments does digital humanities make?
  • “I believe we are at a similar moment of change right now—that we are entering a new phase of scholarship that will be dominated not by ideas, but once again by organizing activities, both in terms of organizing knowledge, and organizing ourselves and our work.”
  • Is it too early for digital humanities to make arguments? Is that why we have spent much of the semester thinking about websites’ “big ideas” rather than their arguments?

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