When I started working at Hampshire, I had a reasonable idea of what anthropology was as a discipline; however, I was not aware of how it could be practiced locally, a misconception I quickly corrected through my engagement with Nancy Foster Fried’s and Susan Gibbons’ work at the University of Rochester. The biggest take away for me is that trends about user behaviors can be both local and universal; students are checking out fewer books more generally, the reasons for which have local reasons and implications.
At Hampshire, I began experimenting with ethnographies in small ways to learn about my student population, to understand their context for learning and living and how I could frame my outreach efforts to match their needs. For instance, I learned that many students live off campus. Many of those students in Northampton, and therefore have to rely on the bus to get to Hampshire. Instead of assuming that students would seek me out in my office, I decided to try my hand at outreach by taking the bus to campus at the times they frequently did. As one student exclaimed when we had a chance encounter, “I’ve been meaning to email you and you’re just HERE when I need YOU.”
Ethnography and anthropology helped me think about technology, too. Through happenstance, I read a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a book written about the culture of the free software movement. Reading this book helped me better contextualize and ground my perceptions about technology, culture, gender, and normative behaviors.
In combination with the Debates in the Digital Humanities chapter about “Why Are the Digital Humanities so White?” and a recent First Monday piece about gender imbalances in software development, it became clear to me that ideas about how to create and practice technology are still primarily male and white. This was again reinforced in another recent article about Feminist Hackerspaces “that is based on discussions and interviews conducted mostly with women and queers involved in hackerspaces and in the free/libre/open source movement in North America. Moreover, it draws from my own experience with FouFem, a feminist hackerspace in Montreal that aims at being a safer space for (self-identified) women and queers to demystify technologies, learn from peers, and create a core group of local women interested in technologies and hacking. FouFem grew from the desire to have more women and queers in the hacker/hacktivist movement in Montreal while evolving in an environment where feminist principles would be explicitly foregrounded. FouFem also stems from the desire to imagine feminist hacker projects to expand the hacker/hacktivist movement and make it even more inclusive.That entry into this world is about knowing the skills right away and practicing technology with ease rather than coming to the community with questions and learning as one goes along.”
Enter THATCamp ACRL.
I was really excited to attend a THATCamp in conjunction with a librarian conference, where I could road test ideas and programs discussed in traditional conference formats through more intimate discussions with THATCamp participants. Having attended a THATCamp in the past, I had some idea of what to expect. Moreover, my work in the digital humanities gave me confidence that I ‘belonged.’ While I am not an expert in DH, I still felt empowered to be in that makerspace. Unfortunately, other ACRL participants did not share my feelings of inclusion. Some confided in me that they did not feel comfortable. Some assumed that they needed some level of technology competencies or robust knowledge of digital humanities to properly participate. Moreover, the DH ethos of ‘hack’ over ‘yack’ can also alienate. Not everyone comes to a THATCamp ready to make, nor are all DH conversations necessarily about making; #dhpoco reinforces the necessity of ‘hacking’ about structural inequalities within DH and the academy.
I would argue that THATCamps can be valuable experience for the novice, the expert, and the full range of people in between. The experience of ‘yaking’ about digital humanities to orient a novice can introduce new sets of questions to the expert, and the intermediate can give back by engaging with the novice. For me, THATCamps allow us to grow together, build a community together, and part of that is creating spaces for multiple points of entry to include both the novice and the expert.
I owe a lot to THATCamp. In 2010, I applied to THATCamp New England on a whim and a hope that I could become part of digital humanities, and the experience of attending with a Bootcamp fellowship completely altered the way I think about my work as a librarian. With limited skills and endless desire to learn about ‘doing technology,’ I really grew after my experience there and now I am proud to say that ‘instructional technology’ is part of my new job title. I co-taught a digital humanities course at Hampshire this semester and am active in dh + lib,. I was excited to be able to give back at THATCamp ACRL by facilitating a ‘DH 101′ session. THATCamp gave me inspiration, tools, and human capital to begin working in DH. And I am so grateful for that. My experience in 2010 paved the way for me to work on digital liberal arts at some of the most exciting college campuses in the United States with some extraordinary people.
And I know that I can still grow, give back, and help figure out how digital liberal arts, digital humanities, and the humanities large will evolve. I want that process to be inclusive to many voices, not just the usual suspects, the talking heads, or the early adopters, but the skeptics, the critics, the people just finding their voices, and the librarians asking new questions and learning new skills. DH, libraries, the humanities, and higher education will all benefit from a more perfect union of participants.
My dear readers, it’s been an intense few months. I traveled to Indianapolis to attend ACRL, I taught classes, I tweaked my slips plan, and, most notably, I accepted a new position at Mount Holyoke College, where I will begin work as a library & instructional technology liaison on 13 May.
In 2009, I started work as a project archivist at Yale University. It was a
collections-focused job, with some outreach and teaching thrown in, too. That experience inspired me to look for positions that were more student-facing, ultimately bringing me to Hampshire in 2011. While at Hampshire, tThe work that I’ve done in digital humanities inspired me to think about positions where I could have a greater hand in the back -end technologies that fuel digital humanities projects. Working in a merged IT/library organization like LITS at Mount Holyoke College will provide me that opportunity.
I don’t have a dream job; I continually seek out positions that challenge me to grow as a librarian, whatever that will mean as the years go by. For me, stasis isn’t an option, because the goal posts keep changing – the landscape in higher education is evolving to meet new demands, and libraries are moving in new directions. I’ve said this before and I will say it again; the job I want in five years doesn’t exist yet , something that is both terrifying and exciting to me.
I remain committed to working in higher education. I love working with students and faculty. College campuses continue to energize me, especially the ebbs and flows of the academic calendar. And I want to be part of the solution to push higher education in new and exciting directions. I am lucky to have worked in the dynamic environments that I have since 2009, with amazing colleagues who support, inspire, and challenge me. I have no doubt that will continue in my new role in South Hadley.
Happy end of the semester!
If 2012 was my year of the iPad, then 2013 is my year of automation. I credit ProfHacker for many things in my development as a technologist, and I am going to add automation to the list.
I started my automation journey slowly. Last year, I began using an online calendar tool called Lizibot to cut down on the number of emails I passed back and forth with students about arranging appointments. It changed my life in a small but measurable way. I wrote fewer emails, students knew right away when they could meet with me, and now – for the class I co-teach – I have a link right to my calendar, so there’s no more messing around with weekly, mercurial schedules for me. Following my foray into Lizibot, I began experimenting with text expansion tools, specifically by downloading TextExpander for iOS. Again, It’s a pleasure to be able to write drafts of emails without having to type my phone number, email address, or standard closing salutations for email.
The next automation wave crested after reading a Profhacker post about IFFT. IFFT is essentially “if this, then that” moderated by a third party. It’s dead easy. The Profhacker post breaks it down well. Since that’s been published, many more time-saving ”recipes” have been added to the voluminous library. I especially like the “if I change my profile photo on Facebook, then it changes on Twitter, too,” recipe. But the recipe with the most impact on my working life is the once which states: “if @en appears on my Google calendar appointment, then a meeting note template in Evernote is created.” Thanks to this blog post, I now have a powerful tool to take meeting minutes easily.
Automation might make me sound like a robot, but it allows me work smarter. The meeting notes template is a great example of that. I realized that having a template for taking meeting notes wouldn’t just make me more organized, it forced me to take more effective notes, making the task of acting as minute taker less tiresome. By having predetermined fields like ‘attendees’ to fill in immediately and ‘action items’ to fill in throughout the meeting, I could listen more actively and my notes ultimately would make more sense. And I added a section called ‘to do’ that allows me to remember complementary activities long after the meeting is done. Gone were the panic moments when I didn’t know what was talked about or remember action items I needed to add to a list. Awesome.
Here’s my take on Rubin’s original recipe that I referenced in the first paragraph.
Automation saves me time, but it also gives me something else: headspace. By automating parts of my working life, I have the headspace to think; I have a few extra minutes to daydream, an ability to carve out an outlet to think about my work in new ways. By having those few moments to take a step back and reflect, I can actually think about what’s next, what’s coming, where I want to go, where we need to go. Automation allows me to sit back like the West Wing‘s president Josiah Bartlett and ask: what’s next?
Since February, I’ve been wrestling with William Pannapacker’s Chronicle piece about digital humanities, in which he suggests we should call it digital liberal arts.
On the one hand, I am all for inclusivity: if we want to thoughtfully integrate technology and digital projects into liberal arts classrooms, we need to think across disciplines, between disciplines: all over the curriculum. On smaller campuses, with smaller staffs, it makes sense for all teaching librarians/instructional technologists to be fluent in the digital.
On the other hand, digital humanities is a THING, a discipline, a frame of reference. For students who want to move onto graduate school, understanding this THING, this discipline becomes more important to participate in the conversations underway at centers like CHNM and Scholars’ Lab. Digital humanities as a THING has particular grant opportunities; it’s a discipline in its own right. It is also has a history we can trace back to the 1980s and to humanities computing; this history, this heritage impacts how conversations happen, who gets included in these conversations, and shapes important debates like #transformdh to trace back structural decisions that impact what has been digitized, what gets recognized, and how the current debates get framed. That context, that backstory is equally value, and extremely important. As a [recovering] historian, this backstory matters; to understand where we are, we need to know where we’ve been.
I work at a liberal arts college. I graduated from a liberal arts college. I need a button that reads ‘I <3 liberal arts colleges’; they are high touch educational experiences for the lucky students who attend them. In our current age of pronounced market segmentation within higher education, it’s important to realize that the context in which we practice librarianship is important and impacts what’s possible, what we can do, and what we should do. Many liberal arts colleges represent the best of higher education; small, interactive classes, summer research opportunities, diverse student bodies, generous financial aid, and dynamic communities. And given the particular organizational strengths and values that liberal arts colleges possess that Pannpacker points to in the piece, "…DH is not a "disruption"—it is an enhancement of the core methods of an ideal liberal-arts education."
I agree that liberal arts colleges need not create smaller, ‘scaled-down’ versions of a digital humanities centers found at places like UCLA; liberal arts colleges have an opportunity to build on their successful educational experiences of small classes and close collaborations with faculty to produce original research. Keep doing more of that, I say, just in the digital context.
Liberal arts colleges struggle to find ways to sustainably support these digital initiatives, but I am confident that we will forge new paths leveraging collaborations with faculty, technologists, and librarians While pushing scholarship towards the digital, I also hope that these collaborative teams can consider the history and the context what makes these ventures so exciting, and participate in the conversations that are happening in the digital humanities at research institutions to broaden the field/discipline’s horizons towards the next phase after ‘digital humanities,’ just as practicionters pushed humanities computing into new realms. Who knows what how ‘dh’ as we know it will be identified in five, ten years, but I do think ‘digital liberal arts’ can and will inform the path towards the next horizon.
Either way, in my practice, I will toggle between ‘dh’ and ‘dla’ with equal enthusiasm and care, as the terms of digital scholarship change and evolve into the next big thing.
What a spring it has been! Between teaching intro to Digital Humanities and participating in energizing committee work, I’ve only begun processing some of my recreational reading.
One Saturday morning in Febuary, I spent the better part of the morning alone in my office at Hampshire going through my pile of periodicals, which included one of my favorites, the Harvard Business Review.That might seem strange coming from a librarian, but HBR has given me a lot over the years, knowledge that I leverage everyday. This month’s issue included an exceptional article about big-bang disruptions. Talking about disruption in the context of higher education almost feels like aphorism, but thinking through the implications of ‘disruptions’ like MOOCs and digital humanities are not to be ignored at the community college, the research university, nor the liberal arts college. The authors define ‘big-bang disrupters’:
“But the strategic model of disruptive model of disruptive innovation we’ve all become comfortable with has a bling spot. It assumes that disrupters start with a lower-priced, inferior alternative that chips away at the least profitable segments, giving an incumbent business time to start a skunkworks and developed its own next generation products…That kind of innovation changes the rules. We’re accustomed to seeing mature products wiped out by new technologies and to ever-shorter product life cycles. But now entire product lines-whole markets-are being created or distorted overnight…We call these game changers “big-bang disrupters.” They don’t create dilemmas for innovators, they trigger disasters.”*
What happens in business is not necessarily what does or should happen in higher education, but I will draw a parallel to higher education. While I don’t think that big-bang disruptors (DH, MOOCs) in the context of higher education will necessarily trigger disaster, I do think they are harbingers of creative destruction. DH or DLA and MOOCs will radically change old paradigms about what students learn in college, where they learn it, and how they learn it. With governors in Florida, Wisconsin, and Texas accelerating development of MOOCs while simultaneously cutting spending for higher education across the board, Pannapacker’s call for liberal arts colleges to embrace the digital liberal arts – and the White House’s call to for accountability for colleges and universities higher education as we know – is about to change broadly. Big-bang disruption is here. But how do we respond to these changes? How do we continue to create spaces where active learning can happen, where we not only focus on what students are going to be doing for the first two years of their lives post-graduation and then arm them with the tools that they can lean on for the rest of their lives?
I am skeptical about many of the new trends and developments in higher education. Personally, I don’t view MOOCs as cost saving saviors for the problems facing higher education. But I do think they might well have a place in a flipped classroom, continuing education, or a way for people who are not in school to try their hand or move towards transitioning back into a degree program. I don’t think Digital Humanities or Digital Liberal Arts will make every graduate the perfect candidate for next-generation jobs. I do think Digital Humanities and/or Digital Liberal Arts can make for interactive classrooms and give students an opportunity to build, to think about how to imagine a tool or new framework for studying images. There is no panacea, no easy fix, no fast reform. The transition from the higher education of yore and today into the higher education of tomorrow and the future will not be easy and not without casualties or collateral damage. But changes need to be made if there’s going to be a higher education landscape in the future. Rather than react defensively to these big-bang disruptions, I’d like to shift my practice to work within the new landscape, to find new ways to compromise, innovate, and ensure that higher education remains an exciting realmin which to practice librarianship.
Sometimes, you just need a moment of Zen; time to reflect while doing a more mindless task. Today’s moment of Zen brought to you by the Hampshire College Library Book Scanner.
I met one of my most trusted professional collaborators and dear friends at an orchestra camp when I was 16 years old. I hated high school and was generally dour, a surprise to those who know me post-college. Trying to make sense of my identity in a community that was not accepting of difference didn’t give me much to smile or laugh about. Playing classical music was my outlet and I met wonderful, supportive friends through that venture. But no one made me laugh quite like Carla Martin did between rehearsals in the middle of Maine in 1998.
We lost touch when we went to college, but thanks to a Mark Zuckerberg production called Facebook, we reconnected when we were both working in Cambridge in 2008. We talked a lot about teaching and higher education since we were both in graduate school, me in library school, Carla in a ph.d program at Harvard. As our responsibilities shifted towards classroom work, we both noticed on Twitter that we were experimenting at the intersection of humanities, social science, and technology. We started talking more about what works in classrooms and what doesn’t, what types of tools are available and how to recast products in an academic context. Talking about our work in the context of the digital humanities community has only put the uniqueness of our relationship into focus.
Last week, we presented a flipped session about faculty-librarian collaboration at Digital Humanities: The Next Generation. As Lindsay Whitacre noted in her presentation on Saturday, “DH is not just a new set of tools and methods, it’s a new set of relationships.” I and many others have said before that Digital Humanities is a team sport, a collaborative venture that cannot be sustained by lone wolves or solitary geniuses. Digital Humanists must be as serious about building and sustaining relationships as they are about building tools.
My relationship with Carla is one of those important ones. I am a better librarian for knowing her, for listening to her talk about the logistics of scaling up digital projects to larger classes, for asking questions about how to support first generation students with skillfully crafted assignments and syllabi, and for helping me better understand how librarians can support junior faculty with their institutional knowledge. She’s forthcoming with examples of assignments that work, for thinking about new ways of marketing courses, and for hands-on activities in classes that I can talk about in my local community. We don’t work for the same institution, so our conversations are casual collaborations, but we can practice communication strategies we can bring home and use in our local contexts.
Our presentation dealt with miscommunications between librarians and faculty. It’s an elephant in the room when we talk about how to thoughtfully incorporate technology into classrooms. Some faculty may have an expectation that librarians and technologists passively will enact whatever they want. Other librarians may have a fear that faculty don’t value them professionally. Some faculty may feel like librarians can be passive aggressive with them when talking about workloads. Other faculty may feel like librarians can be dismissive of their technology skills. Bad communication patterns are also reinforced by higher education hierarchies that put faculty at the top and librarians towards the bottom. In my experience, librarians and faculty have excellent, complementary skills that when put in service of students, learning and research can be a powerful force for good. Librarians are masters of process; the research process, increasingly in many cases, how to manage technology projects or experimenting with technology in their practice. Faculty are masters of the content, experts in their field. I read a quote on the Feral Librarian’s blog this week from Deborah Jakubs:
“…librarians are learned and talented and bring skills and attitudes and services to the university that most regular faculty both admire and need. So rather than constantly trying to compare ourselves to faculty, and often coming up short, let’s celebrate the differences and complementarity.”
Why not leverage these complementary skill sets to build a relationship to enable digital humanities, whether it be in a research or classroom setting?
In addition to providing tangible benefits to our students and to our faculty, I think individual faculty and librarians themselves can benefit from working in teams and from participating in engaged professional relationships. Beyond doing my job better, my relationship with Carla and other faculty members enrich my life and work generally, especially since we still laugh as hard together as we did in 1998.