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January 2, 2012

HASTAC V Talks

January 2, 2012 | By | No Comments

Before December, my experience in DH conferences was limited to three THATCamps. I broke the unconference mold by attending HASTAC V at the University of Michigan. At THATCamps, I spent time talking, typing, and working for large portions of the day. At HASTAC (partially due to my own session selection and time constraints), I was primarily sitting and listening. I also presented a poster on footballscholars.org to showcase our contributions to online scholarly collaboration, but the poster session was held at a distant location at the end of the conference and had limited visibility. The highlights of the conference were three of the keynotes talks, in which I learned a great deal about publishing and thinking in the humanities.

Two talks on publishing provided the most provocative material in the conference. Siva Vaidhyanathan discussed the challenges of writing a book about Google. I found the talk to be most useful in simply learning about the process of publishing with both academic and trade presses. Siva was open an honest about the failure of his initial draft and the enormous benefits that came from starting over.

A panel on the future of digital publishing included Dan Cohen, Tara McPherson, and Richard Eoin Nash. The three gave brief talks on changes in digital publishing, many of which were exciting for those producing digital scholarship. However, the talk sounded an overly optimistic note on the equity of opportunities to publish for academic ‘credit’ in the digital realm. One graduate student asked what our own place is in digital publishing. Tara mentioned that we were in a better position to pursue innovative projects than perhaps junior faculty, while Richard noted that the demise of the academic press was opening new opportunities.

While both comments are correct, I followed up on the question by pointing out that this does not really address graduate student concerns with getting credit for digital work. Junior faculty are gainfully employed and the demise of the academic press is making the credential of publishing with them even more valuable. Tara alluded to the reality that success in both the job market (requiring traditional publishing credentials) and in the digital humanities (requiring innovation, acquiring skills, producing ideas) requires double the work. Only by reforming promotion and rethinking graduate training can the two goals begin to overlap. It is vital that we provide graduate training in which digital practitioners do not remain a fringe group, but actively demonstrate the disciplinary transformation that digital scholarship can achieve.

 

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