Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities, Week 1

okay, surprise, we’re back.

I’m here in Los Angeles for the NEH/Vectors Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities (and there’s something in the title about American Studies, but I’m here on Mellon money and don’t really count as an American Studies person as far as I can tell, so please forgive me that part). In comparison with my time at CASBS, about which I didn’t blog much but will at some point, the population is considerably younger, more politicized in that way of left humanists, and of course much more oriented to humanistic and interpretive modes of inquiry.

The projects fall across a wide spectrum. Some of us are trying to imagine useful digital companions for our books. In some cases, authors want to serve the communities they are studying, or reach a broader audience, facilitate conversation online, or contribute an archive or to an archive. Some of us are working with “born digital” projects that are blends of new media production and criticism. And some of us are trying to build archive or do other things that are more like the creative or productive projects one could find more frequently a couple generations back among humanists. Most of the scholars in the group identify as American Studies or Ethnic Studies, which is no surprise given the call here.

Our first week was spent introducing ourselves, learning some basic tools, and hearing talks from a variety of special guests. The talks will continue throughout the institute (I know I should be most excited for the more intellectual stuff but I am particularly itchy to solder my own synthesizer) but there will be fewer and fewer organized sessions as we turn to lab time.

There’s also been an active twitter feed, and part of the week for me is continuing to negotiate my relationship to twitter and tweeting. The feed was mostly descriptive, but I started trying to post somewhat critical comments when statements were made that I found questionable. I’m not sure it worked. I keep expecting to love Twitter since my favorite part of Facebook is the status update, but somehow I find brevity difficult, as evidenced by the length of my posts here.

But it’ll be an ongoing experiment. I’m also taking the occasion to work on my multitasking skills which are not as sharp as they could be. That is, if multitasking actually exists.

I’ll write more in my next post about the platform I’m working with and the issues I’m confronting, as well as some more general digital humanities reflections, since blogging seems to be a preferred platform for discussing this stuff.