I delivered my paper, “New Media and the Forensic Imagination” downtown at MLA today, as part of the above session (the panel was chaired by Kate Hayles with super smart co-presenters Mark Hansen and Rita Raley). We had an excellent turn out and I think all three of our papers fit together well. My talk was a teaser from Mechanisms, my forthcoming book.
Tomorrow it’s back downtown again for a full day of panels plus an ELO happy hour at 5:00 in the lobby bar of the Marriott. Join us if you like, there’s going to be a surprise announcement related to ELO’s future. Tomorrow evening you’ll likely find me at one of several parties in departmental suites, including Maryland, UCSB, and Minnesota.
A Guide to Digital Humanities Sessions at the MLA, courtesy (as it is every year) of John Lavagnino.
John Tolva’s entry on his recent visit to the city is a sobering update. Go read it.
I quote from an email circulated by Peter Stallybrass:
Roger Chartier has just been elected to the Chair of History at the Collège de France. Election to the Collège is the highest academic honor in France and Roger’s predecessors include Jules Michelet, Henri Bergson, Paul Valéry, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bourdieu. The Collège was founded in 1530 by Francis I as the Collegium Trilnguae (College of Three Languages), so it seems particularly appropriate that Roger, who, in one of his normal weeks, teaches in French in Paris, Spanish in Madrid, and English in Philadelphia, should have been elected.
Chartier, who I had the privilege of studying with at the Folger last spring, is well known for helping create and define the field of the history of authorship, reading, and publishing. There’s a current article in Le Monde here.
I occasionally get asked where one should go for a Ph.D. in one of the above fields. I thought I’d offer up a general response to that question here. Please understand that this information is very subjective and far from comprehensive; if you feel there’s a program I’ve neglected don’t hesitate to make mention of it in the comments below (
at least until I have to close them because of spam UPDATE: I have had to close them; feel free to email me with comments and I will post them here manually). My remarks are also heavily biased toward opportunities in the United States since that is the academic community I know best. And they are heavily biased towards literary studies, as opposed to other humanities disciplines.
The problem is this: if you want to teach Victorian literature at the university level, the path to doing so, while not easy, is straightforward: you go to a Ph.D.-granting university English department, take a doctorate, and apply for suitable jobs in other university English departments. But because all of the various fields and subfields in the digital humanities are so new and by definition interdisciplinary there’s no one equivalent path to the appropriate credentials. I did my Ph.D. in a large, traditional English department that happened to have several faculty members and a number of institutional resources devoted to the field. That’s one model, and it’s viable in a number of places around the country.
As of this writing, the following English departments are all good places to be. All of them include one or more faculty working at a very high level in some aspect of the digital humanities, in addition to institutional resources in the form of centers, institutes, programming, etc. In no particular order then:
Plus there’s an awful lot of digital humanities happening up in Canada these days: McMaster, Alberta, Victoria, Waterloo, Toronto, and New Brunswick are all places to look at. To the best of my knowledge none of them offer a doctorate in the digital humanities as such, but all of them have faculty working in these areas and centers or other resources. (In the U.K., King’s College London has a Master’s in Digital Humanities.) Write to me if you like and I’ll suggest who you can contact at a particular school.
If you get a doctorate in English literature then you’ll be able to work in any English department that wants to hire someone with your expertise. That’s the advantage of a Ph.D. in a traditional field. I’m also aware of a couple of places that offer a doctorate in aspects of the digital humanities. They are:
Many humanities departments may be nervous about hiring people with new-fangled interdisciplinary degrees. That’s not intended as an absolute red flag, but before you enroll in a brand-new Ph.D. program in a field that didn’t exist ten years ago you should ask for some straight talk about the program’s placement strategy.
The disadvantage to doing your doctorate in a traditional field like English is that even at the institutions I’ve listed above you still won’t be in a program that’s fully tailored to your needs. You will likely have to complete coursework, perhaps even take qualifying exams or meet other requirements, in something besides your core interests. Here at Maryland many students combine a concentration in digital humanities with a literary period, for example 20th Century American literature. I started out as an Americanist myself and did most of my coursework in that before switching full time to digital media. This actually proved to be an asset on the job market. Ideally you will find a program where there are enough faculty who have interests close to your own that you can bounce from one of their seminars to another. And once you get to the dissertation stage you can essentially do whatever you like so long as you can assemble a committee who is willing to read your work. By the way, never go to a particular program because of the presence of any one single individual on the faculty: people go on leave or take fellowships, change jobs, and get hit by buses. Or else you might find you two simply don’t get along. Always think about whether there’s enough in a program to support your work should any one faculty member disappear tomorrow.
While the credentials path to teaching in the digital humanities is not yet as straightforward as that for Victorian literature (and may not be for a while), the general advice is still the same: think about the people you admire in the field, find out where they are, look at what their graduate programs have to offer, see if you can get a sense of whether they’re an isolated maverick or if they’re at a place where there’s a critical mass of institutional support for the field, cross index this information with your own personal, financial, and geographic variables, and try to arrive at some options. Find out about funding, teaching (will you be able to get a teaching assistanship in your field?), fellowship support, and placement records. Try to get an inside scoop on what individuals are like to actually work with (often the best way to do this is to talk to graduate students who are currently in that program). Is so-and-so already swamped with dissertations to supervise (maybe not a good sign). Does so-and-so not have any dissertations to supervise (also maybe not a good sign). Common sense and a little backchannel checking will go a long way here. Finally, if at all possible, visit any place you’re serious about attending before accepting their offer. Good luck!
Update: Stéfan Sinclair add somes suggestions.
This is big, folks. A major instance of digital archival preservation. Please help Alan and his team at UCSB get the word out. (The site includes a brief excerpt on the source of the widely circulated online text from the AGRIPPA chapter in my book.)
ANNOUNCING: ~ THE AGRIPPA FILES SITE ~
Launch Date: Dec. 9, 2005
AGRIPPA (A BOOK OF THE DEAD) appeared in 1992 as a collaboration between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and publisher Kevin Begos, Jr.
THE AGRIPPA FILES is a scholarly site that presents selected pages from the original art book (with the permission of the publisher); a unique archive of materials dating from the book’s creation and early reception; a simulation of what the book’s intended “fading images” might have looked like; a video of the 1992 “transmission” of the work; a “virtual lightbox” for comparing and studying pages from the book; commentary by the book’s publisher and scholars; an annotated bibliography of scholarship, press coverage, interviews, and other material; a detailed bibliographic description of the book; and a discussion forum.
BACKGROUND: Originally published in 1992, AGRIPPA (A BOOK OF THE DEAD) was a limited edition art book that contained double-column pages of DNA code laid out to allude to the Gutenberg Bible, copperplate aquatint etchings by Dennis Ashbaugh alluding to DNA gel patterns (some overprinted with antique newspaper advertisements of technological artifacts), and a “disappearing” poem about memory, family, youth, and mechanisms by William Gibson (on a read-once-only, self-encrypting diskette). During the rise of the Internet and Web in the early 1990s, the poem and book were read as marking a symbolic transition from the codex book to digital media. But in all this time, the physical book itself has rarely been seen.
THE AGRIPPA FILES was developed for the Transcriptions Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, by a team from the English and Comparative Literature departments: Alan Liu, Paxton Heymeyer, James Hodge, Kimberly Knight, David Roh, and Lisa Swanstrom.
The launch of THE AGRIPPA FILES coincides with the anniversary of the Dec. 9, 1992, simulcast (“The Transmission”) of images and readings from the original work at The Kitchen in New York City and other locations.
I’ve been fascinated by the Titanic for as long as I can remember. While the Cameron movie never had any particular hold over me (I saw it once) the archeology of the wreck itself, since its discovery by Robert Ballard some twenty years ago, never ceases to fascinate me. The thought of something that big, that deep—on trans-Atlantic flights I’ve often caught myself wondering whether it was right below.
So when the news appeared a couple of days ago that a recent expedition determined the ship broke into several more pieces than was first thought, my ears perked up. And I was taken aback by Ballard’s dismissive comment, “It hit an iceberg and it sank. . . . Get over it.”
I’m not sure why this rubs me so wrong. In one sense of course it doesn’t matter how many pieces the Titanic is in: the victims are long dead, their worldlines and ours permanently altered by the event. But as humans we leave remains, mortal and material—our works are our remains too. That’s one difference between us and the icebergs melting in the shipping lanes. And I wouldn’t want to live in a world where the question didn’t matter either. So Mr. Ballard, I’m disappointed in you.
It looks like I’m going to be a guest on Open Source, a blog-based PRI radio show. The topic is Google Print. Rather than legal and IP issues, my segment is meant to focus on how Google Print will change the way we read books and use libraries.
The show will air Monday, at 7:00 Eastern (station listing). It will also be available as a PodCast.
Once, in a previous life, I ran a site that collected links to electronic dissertations finished or in progress. This is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind.