Over the past month or so, I've decided to shutter this blog. I don't think that I'll stop blogging, but I'll probably move to another platform or try to find better way to integrate social media into my daily observations. My reasons for shuttering this blog are not entirely clear to me, but I guess they reflect a combination of things:
1. Now that my tenure portfolio is in the pipeline, I've lost the visceral feeling of risk that comes with blogging while an untenured, assistant professor.
2. This blog is unattractive and I do not have the energy to redesign it.
3. I have this vague feeling that a blog should have a life span. I feel like blogs should come to an end at some point or to have some form of organization dictated by time. After all, a blog is a time driven genre or medium. Posts are organized chronologically like its early predecessor "the log". One of my favorite blogs on the web, Digital History Hacks sits on the web in archive form.
4. I want a new challenge. I think my readership on this blog has pretty much leveled off at a bit more than 100 page views a day. I run close to 1000 page views a week. This far exceeded my original goals for my blog and now that I have reached these goals, I just have this feeling that I should change up what I'm doing, go somewhere new.
5. My other blogs run on Wordpress. As dedicated readers of this blog know, I have a few other online projects that generally run on Wordpress (Teaching Thursday, Punk Archaeology) and I have come to like the Wordpress interface. So maybe I'll start up this blog again in some fashion on Wordpress.
This is not to say that I'm going to stop blogging today or that this is some kind of dramatic farewell post. I'll keep blogging here until the end of the year.
The bigger issue is what to do with the content here. This blog runs on Typepad. I chose this years ago without much critical thought. It's a paid blogging service and the service and uptime has been great. The downside is that, when I stop paying, they stop hosting. I am not sure that it's viable to pull everything on this blog down (images, links, text) and even if I did do this, I am sure that there are dead links throughout that would do very little good. Moreover, I was pretty careless with regard to organizing where supporting files live scattering them over a range of locations on the web with different lifespans and maintenance parameters.
Another alternative is just to grab all the text and put it into a single text file. Typepad does this more or less automatically. With all the mark up, this file runs to about 900 pages of text with full mark up. While this text based archive would obviously lose the actual hyperlinks between posts and to the wider web, it would preserve the mark up for these links making it possible for someone to reconstruct parts of the blog. We have an excellent University Archive here on campus. I think I'll offer them the text of my blog for their collection. The Internet Archive has captured several snap shots of my blog (January 13, 2008; December 12, 2007; November 10, 2007; October 28, 2007). It's pretty cool to know that some of my work is in the Internet Archive. Just to be clear, it's not that I think that my blog is so revolutionary or brilliant that it deserves a place in the history of the internet, but I am enough of a historian to realize that preservation of historical artifacts of all kinds is a voluntary process.
I guess I could also make an effort to import relevant posts to Wordpress or whatever service I plan to use in the future, but this seems like a time consuming and painful process.
So, I have a month to figure out what to do. As per usual, any tips, insights, advice, suggestions, and insults are welcome in the comments.
Readers of this blog know that I've been experimenting with Twitter in the classroom both online and as live backchannel while I am lecturing live. The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning has recently published one of the first academic articles on using Twitter in the classroom: R. Junco, G. Heiberger, and E. Loken "The effect of Twitter on college engagement and grades". The article argues basically, that Twitter improves student engagement (following the definition for engagement developed by the National Survey of Student Engagement) and, in turn, improves grades. Their data comes from a large (125 student) group of students enrolled in seven sections of a introductory level seminar for a pre-health professional program. The class met one day a week for an hour, focused in part on T. Kidder's Mountains beyond Mountains, and centered, apparently, on discussion. They also established a control group who did not use Twitter but the customizable social network service Ning to communicate. Twitter used in a number of ways including prompting students to consider discussion questions before class, organizing study groups, and engaging a panel of upperclassmen, public health majors. It appears that the faculty leaders prompted all uses of Twitter, although they do say that subsequent use of Twitter occurred without prompting.
They gird their argument with relatively careful controls and statistics. They also record qualitative data including several sample conversations between the faculty moderator of the Twitter feed and the students. These examples demonstrated how the faculty member prompted participation in Twitter discussion. The article shows that students not only were significantly (from a statistical viewpoint) more engaged (and there were no pre-existing variations in engagement between the groups). They also showed that the semester GPA for students who used Twitter was significantly higher (.5!!) than among those in the control group. Even accounting for the relatively small size of the sample, these differences are remarkable.
While the experiments did attempt to control for basic variables and appear to have a sufficient degree of internal rigor, one variable did not appear in their discussion. Nowhere do they discuss how the students access Twitter. In my (completely unscientific) experience, students require a significant level of technological engagement in their everyday life (smart phones, laptops, active engagement in existing social media and online communities) to grasp the potential benefits of a service like Twitter. While the authors do cite a recent report that 94% of students use social networking site and, at one school, as many as 85% use Facebook, they offer little in the way of explanation for how students use these services. My expectation would be that students do not see all social media in the same way (and this tends to be backed up by the work of social media researchers like danah boyd), and have markedly different patterns of engagement with a service like Twitter when compared to Facebook, email, or the informal networks produced through sms messages.
While I do not have quantitative (or even systematic qualitative) data to back my point, I can offer some informal observations derived from experiences. I made an effort to use Twitter in a class that met one a week similar to the class studied in the survey. My class was a lecture class with 140+ students rather than the more intimate discussion sections, but I actually think this would be a more fertile environment for a social media service like Twitter to produce functioning sub-communities within the larger and relatively impersonal lecture. I reckoned that this class would require students to check their Twitter account and participate in various activities at least twice a week. To do this, since Twitter is a stand alone site, it would require the student to log into Twitter as a separate place from Facebook, Blackboard, or other course management software. This is something that many of us do as part of our daily routine at our desks, on our laptops, or on our smart phones, but for many of my students, the deep and regular engagement with technology is not really part of their world. Moreover, there was a significant investment in becoming comfortable with the technical language of Twitter, which, while not difficult, is unfamiliar and intimidating to students who only follow well-trod paths on the internet (from Facebook to email to Blackboard and to content driven sites like ESPN, CNN, or (for most students) Wikipedia). In other words, Twitter is unfamiliar in part because most of the web is unfamiliar to students whose use of the internet is largely passive or limited. As a result, many students simply lurked on Twitter; those who participated regularly only engaged when explicitly prompted with points (and then only in a very superficial way). In short, students struggled to understand the advantages to Twitter for keeping them in touch with their classmates and faculty when not in class.
The notion of students are digital natives and that Twitter provides a familiar way to extend the classroom into the space occupied by students in their everyday lives rests upon problematic assumptions. Students' engagement with the internet and with technology tends to occur in a much more limited or particular way than many of these studies imagine. The assumption that "social media" represents a cohesive body of technology and applications for most students appears to me to be problematic. Twitter for an undergraduate is foreign while Facebook is familiar.
Despite these difficulties, this study provides a good foundation for future study on how to leverage common technology to improve student engagement.
The conversation continues on the relationship between blogging and published scholarship. Increasingly, the central issue tends to be peer review. Blogs are not peer reviewed; academic publications are. This dichotomy is important and represents the core generic difference between working papers and the final publications of result. Unfortunately, these ideas have been twisted somehow (and I fear that scholars in the humanities have been responsible for this) to mean that only peer reviewed works have value and blogs and other informal types of "correspondence" (in the broadest sense) are not valuable, a waste of precious academic time and creativity, and, at very worst, a contribution of the glut of uncritical opinion that clutters the internet and threatens to crowd out careful, reasoned, thought. (For more on these perspectives see here.)
Just this week, Michael O'Malley wrote a provocative blog post on the value of peer review entitled Googling Peer Review, Part Two on his Aporetic Blog. He suggests that good or unorthodox work does not necessarily benefit from peer review and, in some case, might be good and unorthodox despite the peer review process.
I am not sufficiently brilliant to write good and unorthodox works. At the same time, I am not completely sold in the universal value of peer review. While I'll be the first to admit that peer review has significantly helped several of my published articles, I'll also concede that most of the central ideas in my articles were unaffected by peer review (well, except those ideas that died in the peer review process, never to be heard from again!). Most of the critiques offered by various peer reviewers focused on the clarity of our argument, provided references that we had overlooked, or identified different implications for our conclusions. These were all helpful and meaningful contributions to our work, but ultimately none of these reviews changed the basic content of our contributions.
I'll admit that the argument that I am making here comes on the heels of a particularly pleasant and uncontroversial peer review process for an article that, at its core, is little more than a glorified archaeological site report. But it may be that this kind of article is the least deserving of peer review. The formal publication of the article slowed down the circulation of information to colleagues and added little significant academic value to the basic results of our field work. In fact, peer review strengthened our interpretative conclusions, but hardly made them unassailable.
So at least some of the issue is not peer review per se, but the nature of genre in academic writing. As O'Malley's post points out many of the most significant works of scholarship in the last 70 years were not peer reviewed in a traditional sense (and the same could also be said of many of the least significant works as well). The works identified by O'Malley tend to occupy unconventional academic genres which are least likely to benefit from traditional peer review; even today works like M. Foucault's Discipline and Punish upset traditional disciplinary critiques, and E. P. Thompson's Making of the English Working Class stands apart from nearly any work of history writing up until that time (or since). In a more modest way, data driven archaeological reports fit into this category as well. There is little that a peer review can provide a scholar aside from reminders of archaeological conventions and advanced copy editing.
To prove my point, I can offer as a case study a recent publication of mine. Over the past two years, I blogged most of the content that appeared ultimately in our peer reviewed publication that appeared this past week. I've appended a copy of our final article at end of this blogpost. Of course, some of the final product reflects the hard work of the Hesperia editorial team who in many ways serve as another level of peer review because nearly all of them are practicing archaeologists with advanced graduate training the field. So, I am fudging a bit with this example.
Here are links to my various blog posts, conference papers, and working papers that led up to the final publication our work. These received no formal peer review:
July 20, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: The Site of Ano Vayia
July 23, 2008: New Research on the Corinthian Countryside: Vayia Microregion
August 5, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: Distributional Data from the Site of Ano Vayia
August 12, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: The Lychnari Tower
August 19, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: The Passes of the Eastern Corinthia
August 25, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: Classical Vayia
September 1, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: History and Archaeology
September 8, 2008: The Corinthian Countryside: Some More Contemporary Thoughts
January 12, 2009: Three New Sites in the Eastern Corinthia (W. Caraher and D. Pettegrew)
July 27, 2009: Viewsheds in the Eastern Corinthia
August 10, 2009: Working Paper: Towers and Foritfication at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia (Caraher, Pettegrew, S. James)
The final publication:
Over the last year I have become more and more committed to various social media applications, and over the last six months, I am completely obsessed with Twitter. (Facebook, not so much, but not for any ideological or practical reasons; I just prefer Twitter run through Hootsuite). Recently I have been enamored with the spate of historical figures on Twitter. The first that I recognized was the brilliant Cry for Byzantium which sent out creative Tweets in the name of various Byzantine Emperors who have particular interests in politics, military campaigns, diplomacy, and palace intrigue. The blog is run by the author Sean Munger who explains the set up for Cry for Byzantium on his blog. At present he has over 550 followers and has sent out over 2000 Tweets!
Since then I've also begun to follow iTweetus, who is a Roman soldier on campaign in England during the winter of 72/73 AD. His feed is curated by the Roman Frontier Gallery at Tullie House in Carlisle. Tweetus is poetic and has a keen eye for the rugged landscape and the worsening weather. I hope he survives the winter. At present iTweetus has made 53 tweets (he's on campaign for heaven sake and who knows what the Roman mobile phone coverage is like at the borders of empire!) and has 495 followers.
Finally, iHerodotus has begun to push out tweets from his great work on the Persian Wars. He has 172 followers and has pushed out 95 tweets. Laura Gibbs has been tweeting Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar since the summer. She has over 100 followers and has made over 1000 tweets. Various authors whose works are being tweet are aggregated into several lists like Classic Writer's Words.
The idea that these real or fictional ancient figures are part of my "social network" certainly stretches the notion of a social network and its virtual existence to a new place. To be sure, Herodotus or even the Byzantine Emperor's do not respond to my Tweets as a colleague might, but at the same time their stories and personalities emerge over the course of their twitter feeds. Like college classmates or rarely seen acquaintances, the names of historical figures and the text of classic literature roll out across my twitter feed sharing space with various automated tweets from tech-bloggers, various companies, CNN, athletic teams, et c.
My social media space, then, extends the notions of the social to include a wide range of products, services, individuals, and texts. Or, to see it another way, my social media space represents the commodification of personal relationships as much as the personalization of products and services. I am not sure how historical figures fit into a network of commodified social relations, except by observing that historical figures have always contributed to the production of social capital. If Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services provide new ways to visualize and deploy the diverse range of social capital, then there is no reason why historical figures, texts, and other works of so-called "high culture" should not appear.
My wife recently attended a conference on marketing and higher education hosted in part by Google. There as a low buzz about QR codes at the conference. For those who don't know, QR codes are funny-looking, square bar codes, and QR stands for "quick read". They are designed to be read by little applications on a mobile phone that use the phone's camera like a bar code reader. QR codes are most frequently used to display a URL (a web address), but they can contain a number, a v-card, or even instruction to send a tweet to a twitter account. Over the past year, QR codes have moved into mainstream marketing, appeared in popular culture (e.g. a Kyle Minogue video!), and have even attracted the interest of academics.
I've been thinking about QR codes for six months now. Yesterday, I had a great chat yesterday with a colleague from our Working Group in Digital and New Media, and we began bandying about ways to use QR codes on campus to install art, historical information, subversive (in a polite North Dakota way) messages, and challenges to the barrier between the internet and real space on campus.
After the conversation, I struggled a bit to understand what made using QR codes unique or interesting. On the one hand, I understood that they are a gimmick and fad, but that didn't bother me. I like gimmicks and fads. (After all, I love the interwebs!). Finally, after I mulled over this discussion ever more, I realized that I like QR codes because they are archaeological. Here's how I am thinking about them:
1. They are mysterious and demand action. Like an archaeological artifact (imagine a sherd of pottery), QR codes beg to be understood or contextualized. They demand action on the part of the viewer or, at least, the viewer who recognizes a QR code as something to be deciphered. Just as an archaeologist is almost compelled to figure out the context for an artifact (and anyone who has ever walked across an archaeological site or any complex landscape with an archaeologist knows how powerful disciplinary training can be!), people "in the know" feel compelled to scan and understand a QR code. In fact, if you don't read the code, the QR code is meaningless.
2. Codes are objects. The form of a QR code communicates meaning. Like most archaeological objects, a QR code does not communicate in an explicitly textual way (except in the sense that all objects can be read as types of texts). Within the discourse of archaeology and, presumably, QR code-ology, the form of the object prompts the action required to understand it. Archaeologists are obsessed with the materiality of objects - shape, texture, size, weight - and recognize that to produce meaning, it is necessary to compare one object to another to create a context for archaeological material and, ultimately, to create meaning. QR codes have the same material character. Codes are things which must be understood in a non-textual way and placed within a particular context to produce meaning. Only people familiar with the code and who recognize the action required will understand the message.
3. The are mobile. Like many artifacts in an archaeological context, a QR code is mobile meaning that there is tension between its present physical context and its the meaning embedded (by the code's creator) in its form. In archaeology we like to think about formation processes; these are the processes that led to an object being discovered by an archaeologist in a particular place or condition. Formation processes recognize our environment as constantly changing and almost infinitely mutable. A QR code printed on a sheet of paper, or a sticker, or t-shirt can travel from one place to the next while still retaining a formal link to another context. Even if a QR code is designed for a particular place and time, because they are material and mobile, they will travel and endure.
4. Codes provide a link between the real and the virtual. As a historian I spend much of my time in a "virtual" environment girded about by the rules of my discipline and embedded deep within my imagination. The past is something that obeys particular rules and, in a particular sense, does not exist except within my imagination. At the same time, as an archaeologist, I am constantly challenged to recognize the past as real by the physical nature of archaeological artifacts. QR Codes can bridge this same gap between the virtual world of the internet and the physical world of the code itself. The real world context of the code creates a physical point of departure into the virtual world of the internet. In short, the code locates the internet in physical space.
QR codes are easy to generate through any number of sites on the internet. (Here's a basic list.) And most mobile phones have QR code reader applications available for them. Phones with better browsers, of course, provide access to far more robust content.
X-posted to Teaching Thursday.
This blog post is an effort to understand the fairly lackadaisical interest in participating in the Teaching Thursday blog among my colleagues at the University of North Dakota. It got me thinking about the nature of teaching conversations and whether they are suitable to a blog.
Anyone who follows the happenings on the internets is probably familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's recent article in the October 4 New Yorker: "Small Changer: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted". In this article, he argued that the connections produced by such social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are "weak ties" which are unlikely to hold up to the kind of social pressures that real revolutionary action will both require and endure. He begins his article with the students who participated in the revolutionary Greenboro sit-in of 1960 and noted that the four participants had deep social connections as roommates at North Carolina A & T or as friends from high-school. These social connections, characterized by regular physical proximity to one another and a significant body of shared experiences, enabled these four brave students to have the confidence to imagine radical ideas and to maintain their resolve in the face of adversity.
Other pundits, like Clay Shirky, have challenged the idea that such dedication is necessary to generate revolutionary change. Shirky, particularly in his most recent book Cognitive Surplus, has argued that the internet and social media sites become conduits funneling myriad rivulets of surplus energies together making the great deluge of internet knowledge possible (manifest in sites like Wikipedia and The YouTubes).
These two positions intersect with the mission of this blog. The idea for this blog was to capture the hundreds of short (and long!), thoughtful, creative, conversations about teaching that go on weekly across campus into a central place. The hope was that the blog could become an alternative source for stimulation for busy colleagues who missed a great program offered by our Office of Instructional Development or were not in the hallway at the second two colleagues were unpacking a tricky issue or did not have a moment to read the newest book that presents a new solution to the latest problem. Over the last three months, I extended this effort to Twitter once again trying to funnel energy and ideas from across campus into a single conduit.
Follow us on Twitter at OIDatUND!
So far, the blog has had its moments, but they have been few and far between. Over the last three months, I've been promised many, many blog posts, but always "in the spring semester" when, of course, the songbirds return, the snow melts, and other obligations drift away on the first warm, scented breeze. I expect that some of these posts will come to enliven our blog, but even these contributions (which I know will be excellent), do not really represent even a fraction of the exciting conversations I have had about teaching. Of course, we are all busy, all of the time, and finding time to write is a challenge.
Having read Gladwell's article, I began to wonder whether the experiences of teaching actually resist blogging as a medium for communication. Perhaps this is because so much teaching on campus represents spontaneous responses to spontaneous issues. Could it be that our day-to-day teaching activities - a troubled student, a particularly bad classroom experience, or a brilliantly successful assignment - all exist within such a complex matrix of variables that communicating how something succeeded or failed in writing would be either a monumental task unsuited to the limited medium of blogging or somehow impossible to articulate in a useful, generalized way?
In saying this, I do not mean to suggest that understanding how to become a better teacher is impossible through public reflection -- obviously the research conducted by various academic departments in teaching and learning have both real practical value and a robust disciplinary tradition -- but to wonder whether many of us on campus do not think about teaching in a way that lends itself to even the modest structure of a blog post. Teaching is an emotional experience full of frustration and excitement as we join the struggle to achieve goals that, in most case, are very difficult to articulate. Of course, we can all enumerate formal learning objectives, classroom goals, content expectations, and the like, but I wonder whether these are the things that really motivate us as teachers. For me, teaching is about realizing goals that extend far beyond the classroom. These goals are resistant to clear quantitative or even qualitative evaluation and they often exist at the fringes of my ability of articulate them in a rational way at all.
In short, maybe this blogging experiment reveals the limitations of media dependent on the kinds of "weak ties" that Gladwell assigns to Facebook friends and Twitter colleagues. Face-to-face meetings, intimate seminars, conversations over strong beverages, and hallway insights depend upon the strong ties of shared experience to have value. Extracted from that context, everything seems mundane and hardly stuff that matters. The teaching revolution will not be blogged.
About 10 months ago, I blogged about Ann Marie Yasin's new(ish) book, Saints and Church Spaces in the Late Antique Mediterranean. I offered a quick review of it, mostly centered on a series of hastily composed observations.
This summer, I was asked to review the book for real, in a print journal, one that appears in paper, and goes to libraries. This is the first time that I was asked to review for real something I had already reviewed in the old blog.
Here's that review:
For people who struggle to wrap their minds around the difference between a blog and a formal print publication, perhaps these two reviews will shine some light on the issue. I think that there are subtle changes in style, content, and tone. As I was writing my blog post, I considered my audience to be someone who might read the book one day. When I wrote the print review, my audience became someone who was unlikely to read the book ever.
This weekend, I finally made it through the most recent report on cyberinfrastructure and digital Classics. As the title of this post indicates, it was produced by the Council on Library and Information Resources and Tufts University, a longtime leader in the field of digital Classics. The report is massive, running to over 250 pages, and gives a feeling of exhaustiveness. The bulk of the report consists of a series of case-studies organized into the various allied- and sub-disiplines of Classics (Philology, Archaeology, Papyrology, Epigraphy, Prosopography, et c.). For most case-studies there is abundant technical detail as well as some information on the guiding principals of the project, intended end-users, funding sources, and institutional affiliation. There is a pronounced emphasis on the core area of Classics and the analysis of texts of various kinds (inscribed, on papyrus, in edition, et c.), and with this emphasis on texts comes a corresponding emphasis on mark-up technology, collaborative editing, and various image-to-text initiatives like Greek and Latin OCR. The report's scope, detail, organization and bibliography make it a must read for anyone interested in the work of digital humanities, digital Classics, or the future of the discipline Classics. It is the type of report that any graduate student going on the job market should at least skim to become familiar with the basic terms, programs, and projects in the field of digital Classics.
While I am hardly qualified to comment on the content of the report, a few things struck me as worth pointing out:
1. New models of collaboration for new kinds of texts. The most exciting thing about this report are the new perspectives on scholarly collaboration. At the center of these new perspectives are a set of new tools and collaborative environments which are designed to produce new kinds of texts. In general, these texts are dynamic, multilayered, and designed to take into account both the work of numerous contributors. The next generation of scholarly editions, for example, will be increasingly transparent allow the end user to understand the processes that produced certain editorial decisions and, if necessary, filter the various editorial decisions to produce new versions of a text in keeping with new analytical, interpretative, or methodological positions. The same collaborative environment extends to epigraphy, papyrology, and even archaeology (in some way) where scholars have developed ways to work together to pool resources from around the world and to create new groups of texts. These new collections of texts are born digital, making specialized bodies of material (like epigraphical and papyrological corpora) more widely available, and more susceptible to re-analysis and re-interpretation. The scalability of digital technology allows multiple scholars, a wide-range range of end-users, and diverse digital objects (texts, images, and interpretative methods) to all exist in the same place at the same time. These are new, transparent, and productive scholarly environments.
2. Human infrastructure. There is no doubt that the projects described in this report are exciting, but I felt that the report took the notion of cyber-infrastructure a bit too literally at times. In places the projects described by the CRIL and Tufts teams stood strangely disembodied from larger social, institutional, and professional pressures and incentives. While the report made an obligatory mention of studies of scholarly collaboration, professional pressures, and potential end-users, I was not as easily able to grasp the creative environments from which these innovative programs sprung. In particular, I struggled to identify the research questions or, more broadly, the scholarly discourse that inspired these new approaches to age old problems. I recognize, of course, that large-scale digital initiatives often take into account a wide range of initiatives, research questions, and stake holders, but at the same time, scholarly collaborative while sometimes altruistic, rarely exists without some common research objectives. Moreover, these research objectives must exist in an environment where administrators, technical staff, and colleagues have the interests and the resources to promote and encourage innovation. The human infrastructure necessary to support cyber-infrastructure projects, to my mind, is far more crucial to their long-term health than the relatively ephemeral character of technical detail. And this human infrastructure extends to how we teach students and the nature of academic and scholarly expectations. With more dynamic and robust tool available, it is curious that the willingness to avail oneself to these tools remains, to some extent, optional within the academic discourse. In other words, the eventual success of a digital infrastructure project will depend on the willingness of an editor, a peer reviewer, or a conference panel to expect a scholar to use a particular corpus of material. The human infrastructure, then, represents a dense and complex web of knowledge, traditional practices, and support infrastructure that, to my mind, is far more important than the tools and vision at the root of a cyberinfrastructure project.
3. The Social and New Media. Another slight oversight in this comprehensive report is the absence of any real discussion of the role of the public backchannel in Classics cyberinfrastructure. By digital backchannel I mean both blogs and the growing role of social media in stimulating discussion among scholars of the ancient world on topics both digital and traditional. I am not one of those people who think that blogs are the new academic journals or who even press for new media spaces to carry substantial weight in tenure, promotion, or professional development decisions. On the other hand, I have argued that blogs occupy a novel and useful place in the expanding digital information ecosystem of Classics. And bloggers and their blogs, like many other larger, more integrative digital infrastructure projects, have not come to terms with the tricky task of curating and preserving the huge quantity of analysis, discussion, and even knowledge produced through these new media. With the growth of Twitter, Facebook, and other even more ephemeral social media portals the issue of curation has become even more tricky. If we imagine social and new media applications as playing a role in our digital future as scholars, then these outlets have to become part of the conversation of the digital future of the discipline.
4. Mobile Futures. Finally, I was surprised that mobil computing did not occupy a more significant place in this report. If I understand the global trends in computing, the future is in mobile devices and applications. In fact, I read the report on my iPad. I do realize, of course, that some of the mobile computing "revolution" will involve us just doing on a mobile device what we've always done on a laptop or a desktop, but there is also a trend toward re-imagining how we work and how we disseminate data over mobile devices. As we look ahead, it seems clear to me that mobile devices, the cloud, and even greater degrees of integration and communication will produce new challenges for curation and new opportunities of realtime collaboration.
As I said at the top, this report is a roadmap for anyone interested in the state-of-the-art in digital Classics and presents a brilliant case study for the impact of humanities computing in one field. Any gaps or oversights, are incidental and tied more to the goals of the project than any shortcomings of the authors.
On Thursday, the Working Group in Digital and New Media at the University of North Dakota will host its first open house and release to its various stake holders its first Annual Report. The open house will run from 12-1 pm in the Working Group Lab 203 O'Kelly Hall. The open house and report seek to highlight the activities of the Working Group over their first year. There is still a bunch of work to maximize the potential of this group, but there is momentum and opportunities for collaboration abound!
Since readers of this blog participated in some way in the development of the Working Group (loyal readers probably remember these posts: Potential for Digital Humanities at UND, A Digital Humanities White Paper, and Selling the Working Group in Digital and New Media), I thought it was fair to leak a version of our Annual Report on my blog. The various members of the Working Group contributed to the Annual Report, I edited it, and Joel Jonientz designed it.
Here's the executive summary from the Annual Report:
The Working Group in Digital and New Media emerged as the result of funding awarded from the President’s call for collaborative and transdisciplinary white papers in his New Initiative funding program. The Working Group is dedicated to the support and development of digital and new media projects across the disciplines on campus. Beginning in the spring of 2009, the Working Group has created a laboratory space uniquely suited to collaborative digital and new projects developed across campus. To date these projects have brought together contributors from the departments of Art and Design, Music, History, English, and Computer Science, as well as the Chester Fritz Library and the ITSS High Performance Computing Cluster. Faculty and students have produced a dynamic and diverse group of projects ranging from video shorts, musical compositions, to online and gallery museum exhibitions and collections, and blogs. Statistically, the Working Group projects accounted for over 2500 person/hours of work, over 15 faculty and student collaborators, and close to 20 major creative and research projects. The Working Group created the intellectual and technological infrastructure necessary for over $35,000 of internal and external grants in its first year alone. In the hyper-competitive realm of non-STEM funding, the collaborative infrastructure Working Group in Digital and New Media gives faculty in the arts and humanities a significant edge. The transdisciplinary research, creative activities, and teaching of the Working Group’s members will continue to leverage the common space of the Working Group Laboratory to expand collaborative research and creative activities on campus.
And here is the Annual Report: