On the dangers of thinking you are indispensible: English professors’ edition

Apparently in 1917 people had a different view of the centrality of English professors…

When we consider our educational position, we teachers of English composition are in a fair way to become conceited. In view of certain featuresof our daily experiencethe dangerof becoming conceited may not seem imminent. But the outstanding feature of our position among pedagogues surely spells danger in that very direction. The practically universal assumption that our work is educationally indispensable is truly ominous (William Hawley Davis. 1917. “The Teaching of English Composition: Its Present Status.” The English Journal 6 (5) (May 1): 285–294. doi:10.2307/801590).

If you ever need an argument on why it is harmful to focus on mechanics in student writing…

From George Hillocks 2005, “At Last: The Focus on Form Vs. Content in Teaching Writing,” Research in the Teaching of English 40 (2) (November 1): 238–248. doi:10.2307/40171704.


Based on a review of “500 quasi-experimental studies of writing instruction between 1963 and 1983” concentrating on those with strong research design.


Journal Incubator Poster (Digital Humanities 2013)

There was a lot of interest in the Lethbridge Journal Incubator project poster yesterday at the Digital Humanities 2013 conference poster session at the University of Nebraska.

A thumbnail image of the poster comes below (there is also a letter-sized version). You can get the original PDF here


Those who can’t, teach…

Neil Gross, Why are professors liberal and why do conservatives care? (Harvard):

“One thing that higher education institutions do as they work to establish a niche is emphasize different aspects of the professorial role. This is not simply a matter of lower-tier schools emphasizing teaching…”



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Daniel Paul 0’Donnell
Department of English
University of Lethbridge
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Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities and International Partnerships

My post last week on Digital Humanities in a global context (In a Rich Man’s World) was derived from a proposal to the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations for a new Special Interest Group devoted to global development issues as they are associated with the Digital Humanities: Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities (GO::DH). I’ve had enough requests from people for the actual proposal, that I thought I’d link to it here (PDF). I’m also pleased (and very grateful) to say that the initiative has also just received funding from the University of Lethbridge through its International Initiatives programme to help get it set up and running. We hope to be arranging our first events very soon.

This is going to be an important area of activity, both within and without the proposed SIG. THaT Camp Caribe is being held this week at the University of Puerto Rico. INKE will be holding its 2012 meeting in Havana, partially out of an interest in these same ideas (Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age: E/Merging Reading, Writing, and Research Practices).

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In a rich man’s world: Global DH?

The following map is from Melissa Terras’s infographic, Quantifying the Digital Humanities.

Physical Digital Humanities Centres

The map shows the distribution of physical centres in the Digital Humanities (as this is defined by members of ADHO communities) across the globe. As Domenico Fiormonte has argued, it can also serve as a proxy for other types of activity in the field, including, broadly speaking, the residency of members of ADHO affiliated Digital Humanities societies (see Fiormonte, fig. 1).But as Fiormonte also points out, the “blank” areas on Terras’s map can serve as an inverse proxy for other data. Linguistic diversity, for example, or Gross National Income as mapped by UNEP. Read the rest of this entry »

Linked data, open data: Towards a semantic web of Anglo-Saxon England

International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS), July 29th-August 2, 2013, Dublin

The Visionary Cross would like to propose a roundtable or three paper panel on linked and open data in Anglo-Saxon studies for ISAS 2013. The goal of this panel would be to assess the current state of practice in the development of linked and open datasets and to explore future directions. This topic should be of interest to textual editors, cultural heritage curators, art historians, researchers working on dictionaries and other reference works.

If you would like to explore this topic contact, please contact Daniel O’Donnell (daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca) as soon as possible to discuss approaches. Session and paper proposals are due at the ISAS programme committee by September 13.

Call for Papers: Cultural, Textual, and Material Heritage in the Digital Age: Projects and Practices

The twentieth International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 1-4 July 2013

The rise of the Digital Humanities as an international, cross-disciplinary approach to humanistic scholarship presents exciting new challenges and opportunities.

Perhaps one of the most exciting of these is the convergence of interest among textual editors, art historians, archaeologists, museum and library curatorial staff, government agencies, and commercial entities in what can be broadly described as issues in the representation and research of Cultural, Textual, and Material Heritage.

This call is for papers addressing current and future practices and opportunities in this area. What are the interesting projects? What are the interesting technologies, methodologies, and business models? How will this convergence play out in the short and medium term?

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Been there, done that: Art history as a model for the effect of technology on disciplinary development

Evidence of why it is useful to read outside your main areas of disciplinary interest…

I’ve been reading my way through Revisualizing visual culture (Ashgate 2010), on a number of titles I bought from the Ashgate stand at the the recent DH 2012 conference in Hamburg. Most of the chapter thus far have been relevant to work we are doing with the Visionary Cross project, especially now that we are starting to get usable 3D meshes (as time allows, I hope to post some other small posts about the various chapters in this and my other recent reading). Read the rest of this entry »

All should have prizes: Thinking about citation practice for the Visionary Cross Project

With the first meshes almost ready, and work beginning on writing up some of the results from our work on site in Ruthwell, authorship and credit questions at the Visionary Cross project are beginning to become more pressing.

Good practice, of course, would be to establish a system long in advance and stick to it throughout. The Visionary Cross project, however, has always operated as a relatively loose federation of scholars rather than a single project (more of a society, than a project in many ways) and, due in part to the long time it took to get major initial funding, crediting issues have until recently seemed quite far in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

“There’s no Next about it”: Stanley Fish, William Pannapacker, and the Digital Humanities as paradiscipline

In a posting to his blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education, William Pannapacker identified the Digital Humanities as an emerging trend at the 2009 Modern Language Association Convention.

Amid all the doom and gloom of the 2009 MLA Convention, one field seems to be alive and well: the digital humanities. More than that: Among all the contending subfields, the digital humanities seem like the first “next big thing” in a long time, because the implications of digital technology affect every field.

I think we are now realizing that resistance is futile. One convention attendee complained that this MLA seems more like a conference on technology than one on literature. I saw the complaint on Twitter.

The following year, he was able to say the discipline had arrived.

The digital humanities are not some flashy new theory that might go out of fashion. At this point, the digital humanities are The Thing.  There’s no Next about it. And it won’t be long until the digital humanities are, quite simply, “the humanities.”

As Pannapacker noted here and in yet another posting on the topic, these observations were met with some unease in the discipline. Some resented the perceived implication that the digital humanities were new; others were concerned about his observation that the field was beginning to take on the trappings of previous trendy topics, most notoriously the cliquishness and focus on exclusivity thought to be characteristic of “Big Theory.” Read the rest of this entry »

Does Project Muse help or harm scholarship by refusing to list freely available journals? On the role of the aggregator

Yesterday, I posted an essay reflecting on the stratification of content development and delivery processes in the music, commercial publishing, and scholarly and scientific publishing industries (Won’t Get Fooled Again).

At the end of the piece, I discussed the developing role of aggregators at the distribution and marketing end of the process. While there is no equivalent to iTunes in the scholarly publishing world, the aggregators fill a similar function to a certain extent with the institutional customers (particularly libraries) that are responsible for most of the purchases in this area.

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Won’t get fooled again? Why is there no iTunes for scholarly and scientific publishing?

In the inaugural BBC John Peel Lecture, The Who‘s Pete Townshend described the music publishing business as being historically like “a form of banking in many ways”:

In cooperation with record labels – active artists have always received from the music industry banking system more than banking. They’ve gotten…

1. editorial guidance

2. financial support

3. creative nurture

4. manufacturing

5. publishing

6. marketing

7. distribution

8. payment of royalties (the banking)

(A full transcript can be found here; video here (full) and here (excerpt))

Mutatis mutandis, much the same can be said for other forms of publishing as well: scientific/scholarly and commercial book publication, even film development and distribution. In each case, historically, the distributors of the content also generally have been responsible to a greater or lesser extent for nurturing and supporting its development. Individual segments of the market have dropped or added to Townshend’s list of functions (adding peer review, for example, in addition to editorial functions, or focus-group testing final product before distribution). But on the whole, Townshend’s list is pretty complete. In the pre-Internet era, publishing was generally the province of highly vertically integrated organisations: the same group tended to oversee the production process from the submission of the original manuscript, idea, or prospectus to the final distribution of sales income.

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Incubator talk, Canadian Association of Learned Journals, Waterloo May 27, 2012

Here’s a (slightly modified for coherence’s sake) deck from the talk prepared by Gillian Ayers and me for the Canadian Association of Learned Journals meeting in Waterloo ON on May 27, 2012.

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