I have had the great pleasure of visiting my alma mater Queen’s University and offering a keynote lecture as part of the Matariki Digital Humanities Colloquium. I have had an absolutely amazing time. I enjoyed returning to my old stomping grounds in Kingston and visiting my past mentors. The keynote lecture was great, but I don’t want to discuss the keynote here. There are slides for that and other venues to discuss the Social Knowledge Timeline. I just want to share some thoughts on how graduate students can meaningfully include Digital methods in their skill set, without necessarily taking on DH as a primary focus of their research.
The experience of returning after nearly five years has been a deeply nostalgic experience. I gave a chance to relive the feeling of being a graduate student again. The excitement and anxiety of building a unique research agenda was, I know realize, a thrilling experience. It’s an experience that reminded me of all the demands set before graduate students. Seeing my old graduate student office brought back memories that I did not know I had. I was reminded of an absolutely priceless poster that was hung on the door long before I arrived and will likely hang there for many more generations of Queen’s graduate students.
On my final day of the colloquium, I had the pleasure of participating in the English Department’s Speaker Series. I was asked to discuss digital humanities and the job market. I think it is pretty fair to say that many academic jobs require at least a cursory experience of DH methods. Even a causal perusal of the MLA Job Information List will give some sense of this normalization of DH for new hires. This sentiment has been echoed by others in the field. Most notable, in my mind, is Ted Underwood’s great blog post, “How Everyone Gets to Claim They Do DH.”
In the post, he suggests that graduate students need to be free to do DH in ways that complement their research and teaching. I’ll let Underwood describe the situation in his own words:
The problem we’re confronting now in DH is that people don’t feel free to claim a passing acquaintance with our field. If they’re asked about Marxist theory, they can bullshit by saying “Althusser, Williams, blah blah blah.” But if they’re asked about DH, they feel they have to say “no, I really don’t do DH.” Which sounds bracingly straightforward. Except, in my opinion, bracingly straightforward is bad for everyone’s health. It locks deserving candidates out of jobs they might end up excelling in, and conversely, locks DH itself out of the mainstream of departmental conversation.
I want to give grad students permission to intelligently bullshit their way through questions about DH just as they would any other question.
He is not, I would hazard, suggesting that we jettison demands of scholarly excellence or somehow remove the norms of academic rigor. Instead, we must admit that graduate students are still building their research agenda upon graduation. My story is a small example of this phenomenon. They are still refining their research methods and are often working to include those methods in their teaching for the first time. Today, I wanted to give this group of new DHers enough to be conversant with some of the canonical tools in DH. I wanted to suggest that teaching these tools can be a productive way to offer DH in an authentic way.
Here is a short list of the things we discussed at today’s session. I hope they are useful and offer reasons for graduate students to reach out to faculty and become part of the community. So, here we go (in no particular order):
- Text Analysis with Voyant
- Data Visualization with Raw
- Twitter Analytics with twExplorer
- Web Scraping with Google Sheets
- Text Collation with Juxta
- Open Access Publishing on Media Commons Press (Off the Tracks and its collaborator bill of rights)
- Creative Commons Copyright
- Building a website with WordPress or an online monograph with Comment Press
These were just some of the resources we looked at as we discussed DH, grad school, and the ever daunting job market. Of course, there is always the DIRT Directory if there is something missing from my list here. If you want still more info, the PSU DH Lab has a set of further reading and resources available. If you want to add a tool to the list, feel free to leave a comment below.