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2014 November

becca hayes


November 20, 2014

Professional Development for Possibilities Outside the Professoriate Track

November 20, 2014 | By | One Comment

As a doctoral student in rhetoric and writing who came to graduate school with an interest in the connections between the arts, social justice, and community-engaged scholarship and with experience working in various nonprofit settings focused on literacy and arts, I have always kept one eye on non-academic positions and the possibility of seeking out professional development, assistantships, and research opportunities that would situate me well to follow my gaze back to the nonprofit world whence I came. As I get closer and closer to looking the job market in the eye next year, I find myself thinking increasingly about the best ways to market my academic research, teaching, and administrative experiences and skills for the traditional tenure-track professoriate, even as I continue to develop additional skills and experiences. Now is great time to be interested in these types of positions because universities are increasingly attentive to how they can prepare graduate students for these types of jobs, and Michigan State University has many related initiatives, including the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative and the CHI Fellowship.

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November 17, 2014

Movement Across Disciplines: Inspiration from the Migration with Borders Conference at MSU

November 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend and chair a panel at the Migration Without Borders Conference here at Michigan State. I do not consider migration as a central theme of my work, nor I am particularly well versed in the historiography of migration beyond the books I read for my comp exams last year. I listened to papers on wide array of geographic areas, time periods, and disciplines. Often I find opportunities such as these types of conferences, in which I am exposed to scholarship quite different from my own, as a refreshing break from my work. I assumed this much needed interlude would be my major takeaway from this conference. Yet while listening to the panels, I found that many of the big ideas, questions, and themes resinated with my project and my growing interest in digital humanities. I was particularly intrigued to hear the panelists discuss the connections between movement and identity, which are two major themes of my work on women’s bicycling. It was interesting to see how migration scholars conceptualize physical movement, often across vast geographical spaces, as a fuel which shapes their subjects’ understanding of themselves and how they fit into the broader terrains of citizenship, family structures, and popular culture. Not surprisingly, the migration scholars at this conference were particularly attuned to the nusauces of these physical, cultural, and ideological movements in ways new to me as someone formally outside of this field of study.
Listening to these papers got me thinking about how to represent movement in digital projects. In my dissertation, I understand movement as an perpetual, embodied experience, and I have found a wealth of sources which indicate how women’s bicycling practices transformed their political and social identities as women, Americans, ‘moderns,’ and activists. Yet as I have been researching and planning my digital project on women in the bicycling industry, this project seems a bit more static. I am planning to create a map, or a digital atlas of sorts, in which the user can explore the variety of ways women were involved in the nineteenth-century bicycle industry throughout the United States. Yet, I have recently been considering ways to add movement into my project. Perhaps I could track women’s inventions to see the popularity and location of their use, or include information about the commutes of factory workers who rode their bicycles to work.
As a graduate student, it can be such a challenge to carve out time for academic activities not directly related to our own work. Yet my experience at the Migration Without Conference was a good reminder of the fresh perspectives gained via exposure to scholarship seemingly beyond the boundaries of our own work.


November 15, 2014

Mute Poem, Speaking Picture…And Web-Based Visualization Tools

November 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

For November’s post, I’m going to write a bit about my own specific research interest. As a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of English, I study Renaissance literature and visual culture. Specifically, I look at the connection between Renaissance drama and portraiture. This research interest has developed since I spent a year working on an MA in ‘Shakespeare in History’ at University College London. While living in London the city became my classroom—the theaters, museums, and original texts I encountered first-hand inspired me, and I wrote my MA thesis on Shakespeare’s literary use of portraiture.

Building upon that initial interest, my current project explores how Renaissance playwrights dramatize paintings and painters in order to examine their own artistic significance and value within Renaissance artistic society. Dramatists I argue, participated in the paragone (discourse and debates supporting or refuting the supposed superiority of one artistic medium over all others) and yet transformed these debates by subverting the traditional binary purported between verbal and visual. Drama, after all, is both a textual and visual medium. And so my dissertation is built upon the fundamental recognition that Renaissance playwrights often dramatize:

1. Artistic language—using key artistic terms and theories to illuminate their own rhetoric
2. The painter as a surreptitious character, who is akin to the dramatist through the representation of his struggle for social and artistic mobility
3. Artistic stage properties—which are used to examine the potential dangers of fictional representation
4. The intellectual and physical labor of creating visual art, which is closely linked to the textual; and in turn, creates a reciprocal, inter-media effect

In all, I suggest that Renaissance dramatists understood their undeniable connection to painters and when painters and paintings are staged, they function as mirrors used to reflect drama’s own socially-imposed concerns about its artistic significance given its visual nature.

This project builds upon metadramatic scholarship but also makes use of the more recent interest in Renaissance visual culture. My project consists of four chapters, each exploring a different play and author: Arden of Faversham, Campaspe, Timon of Athens, and Jonson’s masques. I will be presenting my work on Campaspe at the Shakespeare Association of America conference this April.

So how does all this relate to the CHI fellowship and my digital project? I’m still working on that…I am intrigued by the prospect of connecting Renaissance playwrights to paragone authors and concepts visually. It is my view that scholars have overlooked or undervalued the connection between Renaissance textual (printed drama, poetry, prose, artistic theory that connects verbal to visual, etc.) to Renaissance visual (performed drama, ekphrastic poetry [Admittedly this element has probably been covered the most out of the bunch], Renaissance paintings used as stage properties, etc.).

Because I’d like to make a case for the strong relationship between Renaissance verbal and visual (and extend my analysis to also examine the professional relationship between dramatists and painters) I imagine that presenting this information visually will allow me to organize these networks effectively as I progress through the dissertation. It is also my hope that by making this project public, scholars with similar interests will be able to see the link between Renaissance textual and visual in new ways.

Next month I plan to discuss web-based visualization tools and I will hopefully be one step closer to finding a platform that suits my research and tech needs.



November 12, 2014

What Cultural Rhetorics Can Teach Us About Positioned Authorship

November 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

This past Halloween weekend, the Cultural Rhetorics Theory Lab hosted the first ever Cultural Rhetorics Conference here at Michigan State. There are many dynamics of the conference worth talking about, but in this post I will limit my focus to one theme that seemed especially prevalent in my experience at the event, and which I think is also important for those of us engaged in cultural heritage informatics to keep in mind: that of positioned authorship.

Many presenters reflected the theme of the conference—“Entering the Conversation”—by relating our own personal, cultural and academic experiences to our scholarly work. This often took the form of story-telling around how we came to be involved in the field of Cultural Rhetorics. At least one panel was dedicated primarily to this form of story-telling—“Origin Stories—Tracing Our Academic Roots,” which was comprised of four of my graduate colleagues in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures: Victor Del Hierro, Phil Bratta, Matt Gomes, and Ronisha Brown.

One of the things I enjoyed about this panel (and others like it) is that it reflected the personal stakes many of us have in the scholarship we engage. Not only is our work impossible to separate from our own personal narratives, but our work is literally shaped by the prior and concurrent experiences we continually bring to it. Obvious though this may sound, the myth of objectivity still often overshadows our extremely important subjectivities in order to conform our work to Western notions of scholarship, intelligence, and professionalism. This can have very real consequences that work to de-legitimize not only our own personal narratives and scholarship, but also the narratives of the communities from which we come, as well as the academic communities we are forging through Cultural Rhetorics.

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Lisa Bright


November 8, 2014

Bioarchaeology, Digital Humanities, and Public Engagement

November 8, 2014 | By | No Comments

Social science has faced increasing scrutiny from specific segments of the public recently, specifically with regards to the review of NSF funding allocations. So how can be, as social scientists, help the general public better understand the value of what we do? How can we engage the public in productive discourse? This is where digital humanities can have a great impact.

With my research, I’m often asked, “Why dig up the dead?” It’s a question I’ve been asked more than a few times, and although the answer varies depending on the situation, it always includes “ to better understand our past”. Bioarchaeology is a relatively new (40 or so years) branch in anthropology that seeks to use physical anthropological methods to add biological contextual analysis to past societies. Bioarchaeology can aid its public face by embracing techniques in digital humanities.

Most of the current popular news articles regarding bioarchaeology focus on natural oddities and curiosities that are, generally, misinterpreted or misrepresented in the news. A few that come to mind are the vampire burial in Bulgaria, witch burial in Italy, and skeleton lovers hold hands for 700 years.

deaths planing archaeology costume

Archaeologists – ruining group costumes since 502BCE Image from -

These popular news articles are not representative of the research emphases and strong data driven explanations in social science. So how do we bridge the gap between viral news story, and accurate representation of bioarchaeology? To answer this question, its necessary to examine why specific stories grip the public’s attention. Typically it’s something sensational (see above), but other times it’s because the public can relate to the story. Specifically, the items that make the most connection are the ones where individuals have names; Richard III, Lucy, Ardi, or Otz the iceman. How can we create such a connection with larger bioarchaeological populations, or populations that don’t have names, such as the Potter’s Cemetery I’m working with?

The way to overcome this gap is to present the information in ways that are easily understood, interactive, and highly accessible. Digital humanities can do this by employing the host of technological assets available to its practitioners. Public engagement can reach beyond the bounds of the museum, and enter the daily lives of the public’s rss feeds and site scrolling by creating digital projects like the ones the CHI Fellows are working on.