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becca hayes


November 20, 2014

Professional Development for Possibilities Outside the Professoriate Track

November 20, 2014 | By | No Comments

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.

As someone interested in public humanities, I recently attended a workshop hosted by the MSU Graduate School called “‘Alt-Ac’ and ‘Post-Ac’ Careers in the Humanities: Navigating a Shifting Landscape,” facilitated by Dr. Kristy Rawson, Assistant Director of Graduate Career Development at the University of Chicago, which was introduction to the discourse surrounding career possibilities beyond the traditional tenure-track professoriate. The workshop focused especially on understanding emerging concepts and rhetoric surrounding types of available jobs and emerging terms used to discuss this burgeoning trend.  In this post, I’m going to discuss a few takeaways and share some resources for diving deeper into this conversation.

Because much of the workshop attended to navigating the shifting rhetoric regarding positions beyond traditional tenure-track professor appointments, the workshop begin with differentiating between “alt-ac” and “post-ac.” According to Rawson, alternative-academy positions, or “alt-ac” as they’ve come to be known, are jobs within the academy that are alternatives the professoriate tenure-track, but frequently emphasize positions that involve doctoral training. Post-academy “post-ac” careers or, on the other hand, involve the public and non-profit sectors such as libraries, presses and publishing houses, museums and cultural centers.

Rawson recommended a handful of practical steps for a graduate student interested in pursuing alt-ac and post-ac jobs, including:

•    Develop a portfolio: Count and document everything, Rawson said. I think this is the professional development equivalent of “pics or it didn’t happen.”

•    Analyze job descriptions: Keep any eye out for position descriptions that interest you. What language do they use? What types of skills and experiences do they call for?  I keep a file I call “Dream Jobs” in which I’ve been compiling job descriptions for a couple years. Not only has this helped me figure out which kinds of jobs align with my skill set, but I also have an increasing sense of how to talk with people across contexts.

•    Seek out volunteering and internship opportunities: Because if we know there’s one thing grad students and academics have an excess of it’s time, right? Well, no, but these types of experiences can be invaluable in the long run, even if they’re one-off or short-term experiences. Be sure to collect recommendations and evaluations from your experiences for your portfolio.

•    Conduct informational interviews: Contact professionals holding positions that interest you and ask to meet with them briefly, over coffee or during office hours. Not only will you gain more information about career paths, but informational interviews might also serve as networking and mentoring opportunities.

•    Think about transferable skills: How can you apply the experiences you have to other situations and settings? Think big and broadly, I know one faculty member who frequently discusses and has published on how her work as a bartender translates to pedagogy.

These tips only begin to scratch the surface of this topic. If you’re interested in digging deeper to into the discussion of professional development and post-ac and alt-ac jobs, here are some resources for further reading that you might find useful:

In the comments, I’d love to hear about other resources, conversations, and tips you have for professional development for graduate students interested “alt-ac” and “post-ac” careers.



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 New Historicist 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.

Read More

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.




October 27, 2014

More Stories, Better Representation?

October 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

I decided to use the blog space this time to talk about the idea of representing people in academic or non-academic contexts. A contested term in itself, “tribal communities” are among the most under-represented and misrepresented groups of people in India. Till I was sixteen years myself, I had never heard of tribal communities in India; an American friend  who knows my work is with tribal communities reported to me how he met a person from India who argued with him about the non-existence of such communities in contemporary India; my cousin, who is fourteen, and curious about who I work with failed to really comprehend, “who are these people?” I am working with; and I failed miserably in explaining in a way that seemed fair who I work with. If underrepresentation is one matter at hand, misrepresentation is another major issue to deal with. Websites, wikipedia, museums, movies – and any form of popular media available seem to depict tribal communities in the most static, essentialized, and detached ways.

All these reasons, and more, have made me want to make more people aware of who the tribal communities are, and educate better that there is no single way of understanding this broad group of people. However, this is no easy task! The challenge stems from several factors:

Who are the tribals? Is forest-dependence the only way to understand these communities? Does dependence on forests make communities “backward?” Does not living in forests make the people not tribal? Why do tribal communities have such “weird” customs and ways of life? Why don’t tribal communities want to “develop?”

These are a few among several strands of challenging questions that would need to be examined and explained – and all at the constant risk of misrepresenting the tribal communities myself.

This brings me to the final (forseeable) challenge I see for myself: How do I, as a scholar, and as a person actively engaged and working with tribal communities make sure to not misrepresent tribal communities myself? How does one go about ensuring this? This will be the biggest challenge in the project I envision for CHI. However, while there is no simple way of going about this, my means will be through incorporating as many stories, and as many perspectives about tribal communities as possible. Tribal communities, like every other group of people can be understood in a variety of ways. Focussing on one particular aspect is not only reductionist, but will perpetuate the essentialized and static ways in which communities tend to be understood. It is therefore my goal to present as diverse, and as “real” a picture of tribal communities as I can. I intend to do this mainly through stories collected from field work, and news paper articles. As I think this through some more, I will surely find more avenues to better represent the triabl communities of India.

In the meanwhile, here is something to watch:



October 24, 2014

Uncovering Isolation in the Archive: Women Workers in Bicycle Factories

October 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

I have begun diving to a variety of sources for my project “Wheelwomen at Work,” in which I am digitizing women’s involvement in the bicycle industry from the 1880s to the 1910s. One of my most striking findings so far has come from factory inspection records. Starting in the 1880s, many states established departments in which state officials visited factories to document the working conditions and ensure the factories were meeting the relatively new safety requirements mandated by law. These visits  were part of larger efforts from Progressive reformers and labor activists of the period. They believed that they needed physical access to the factories to truly understand the working conditions, and they used these visits to collect extensive amounts of data on each factory. They documented demographic data on the workers as well as detailed information on their working conditions, wages, hours, and tasks. They believed that collecting, cataloging, and reporting this data was the foundation for all of their reform efforts.
These reports provide valuable information on workers’ lives, especially given that so many working-class historical actors can easily get lost in the archives. This is particularly true for women workers. Much of what we know about women’s factory work in the nineteenth and early twentieth century centers on factories in which women made up the majority of workers, such as garment factories. Inspection reports of bicycle factories, as well as factories which made bicycle parts and components like wheels and saddles, present a different view of women workers. Strikingly, many of the women working in these factories made up less than half of the workers as a whole. For example, in 1896 inspectors reported that the North American Rubber Company of New York employed 239 men and 92 women in their bicycle tire division. Often there were only a few women workers in small factories and workshops. In the 1898 report of the Lindsay Bicycle Company in Indiana, the inspector documented that the factory employed 25 male workers and only one female worker. Such accounts suggest a few interesting themes that warrant further investigation. First, the documents imply that women were engaging in many of their tasks along side men, and perhaps even completing the same tasks as men. I am interested in trying to uncover their specific tasks and how their responsibilities compared to male workers. Second, it suggests a sense of isolation; I imagine that the single female worker at the Lindsay Bicycle Company had a very different work experience compared to women working in factories surrounded by fellow women. I have yet to find evidence of formal labor organizing among women workers in bicycle factories, and perhaps this isolation was a factor. Both findings provide a glimpse of women’s factory work in this period that I plan to explore further in my project.
David Bennett


October 23, 2014

Visualizing Southern Television 2.0: Launched!

October 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

Today marks the official launching of Visualizing Southern Television 2.0, the second version of my project digitally mapping the footprint for television stations in the south between 1946 and 1965. Back in June, I began the process of deconstructing the mapping infrastructure of VST with three main goals: to improve the aesthetics of the mapping system, to introduce a visual representation for station signal range, and to visualize the estimated reach of each tower’s broadcasts, over time, in order to show which geographical areas were within the reach of any given broadcast signal. Read More



October 21, 2014

Say Digital Humanities One More Time…

October 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

Early Modernists have done impressive work in the digital humanities as of late. This exciting shift in methodology allows greater opportunity to complete original research as well introduce new pedagogical techniques into our classrooms. In the end, I view digital projects as tools; tools used for collaboration, teaching, and further research. This blog post will introduce a couple of recent early modern digital projects. But first, the old faithfuls…

Early English Books Online (EEBO), the go-to online database of early printed (and now) digitized texts, has been a necessary tool for me as a scholar; I’ve had access to it throughout my academic career and I cannot imagine researching without it. The Text Creation Partnership (TCP) transcribes these scanned texts and creates fully-searchable text files that improve readability and accessibility.

My search for Hamlet using EEBO.

Hamlet (2)


Another source I’ve used quite frequently is Open Source Shakespeare. This online concordance, created by Eric M. Johnson (as part of his M.A. thesis!) allows users to search for particular words throughout all of Shakespeare’s texts. I’ve used it when researching artistic terminology; the site allowed me to search for passages that included Renaissance synonyms for painted portraits. Incidentally, Mr. Johnson is now the Director of Digital Access at the Folger Shakespeare Library and he will be leading a workshop on “Using Data in Shakespeare Studies” at the Shakespeare Association of America conference this April (I’ll be there!).

My search for ‘painted’ using Open Source Shakespeare.
Open Source Shakespeare (2)

And now on to some more recent discoveries…

The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) taps into the popular DH interest of visualizing geographic space. The current version of the map was launched in 2013 by a group of scholars at the University of Victoria. The interactive map is sourced from the 1561 ‘Agas Map’. The website is user-friendly and the creators of the map certainly encourage scholars to make use of this tool, which of course could be used for a variety of research needs. Jenelle Jenstad and Kim McLean-Fiander will be presenting on the pedagogical possibilities for research-based learning at the SAA conference this April (I plan to attend this workshop as well as I am eager to learn more about this topic).

Each tile is easily clickable; the interactive points bring users to a list of documents containing that location.
Map of Early Modern London (2)


The Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps
The Folger Shakespeare Library has produced several interactive digital editions of Shakespeare’s plays. These editions can be downloaded by students via iTunes and used in place of paperback editions. Full audio performances accompany each edition and the interactive texts allow readers to take notes and collect passages. Expert commentary from scholars and actors allows for deeper engagement. While I’ve admired these editions from afar, I look forward to using a digital edition this summer, perhaps A Midsummer Night’s Dream, depending on my teaching assignment.



The English Broadside Ballad Achieve from the University of California, Santa Barbara allows users to research and explore early modern broadside ballads—essentially cheap street literature that can easily be set to music and enjoyed aurally. I’ve personally used this resource when I taught a class on the representation of visual art within literature. I taught the anonymous drama, Arden of Faversham and used the ballad I found on EBBA to discuss the two representations of Alice with my students. I appreciate the album and ballad sheet facsimiles (with the ability to zoom in) especially because my students and I discussed dramatic vs. visual representation. The recording added a new dimension to our discussion of different media. I highly recommend this site for teaching early modern literature; I think ballads can add interest to a variety of early modern topics.

My search for the Arden of Faversham ballad.
Arden Ballad (2)

I look forward to contributing to this exciting field of research; stayed tuned for my November post when I’ll introduce my specific interest in early modern digital scholarship.

Early English Books Online:
Open Source Shakespeare:
Shakespeare Association of America:
The Map of Early Modern London:
Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps:
Broadside Ballads:



October 17, 2014

The Digital Bridge from History to Business

October 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

When undergraduates majoring in history tell people about their academic interests they are usually asked “What are you going to do with that?” or “Are you going into education or law?” This is alarming for two reasons. All employers claim that they want to hire people who can do things like write clearly, conduct research, work independently, and solve abstract problems. History majors should be able to find jobs wherever they want. Many undergraduates who major in history do in fact leverage these skills to find work, but it is overly optimistic to think that the market does not privilege technical knowledge. In a December 2012 New York Times article Professor Homni Bhabha declared that the humanities are now endangered in the developed and developing world. He stated that “In India for example the humanities are more or less dead, and professional schools and the study of business and technology are in the ascendant.” Digital methods can bridge the perceived gap between the scholarly and the technical.

Non-academics have good reason to suspect that historians are disconnected from reality. Since the 1980’s many scholars using post-colonial and post-structural theories have eschewed quantitative and scientific methods. Business, however, never made the cultural turn. Instead, as the aforementioned article indicates, the demand for specialized technical knowledge has increased, hence the perception that the History students might lack skills that the market values.

The incorporation of digital methods in the undergraduate class room can ensure that students have much of the technical knowledge that is in demand without compromising the broader skills that the study of history develops. Today data mining is a research method and web design is form of intellectual output, there is no reason History as a discipline should not embrace this reality.

Earlier this month my advisor asked me to speak to a group of alumni and donors at the opening of MSU’s leader lab. I thought the invitees would like to know exactly the kinds of skills digital history developed and the value of those skills outside the academy. I told them about a project I worked on that adapted the online tools used in market research to collect information on how people remembered Mandela around the world in real-time as the public posted their thoughts to twitter. At the reception I began to think of the numerous other technical skills students at leader will develop and how those skills are important in a variety of fields. In addition to data mining and blogging students will build web sites, create digital archives, use mapping tools, manage digital projects, and network online.

While this post contrasted the turn to the digital against the last important movement in the discipline of history, digital methods are in no way opposed to critical theory of any kind. I am using literary theory to write essays for a website I am developing that introduces undergraduate students to Edward Said. I hope to make the site slick enough that undergrads can use it on those dreaded smart phones and tablets.

While this may not be the innovative marriage of critical theory and digital methods some of my colleagues in the CHI program, like Santos Ramos, are imagining far more creative ways to bring theory to the digital. As technology becomes increasing common in all classrooms scholars will be able to use it to connect their disciplines to the technical skills that are currently in demand in today’s market place.