Academic Technology Specialists, Innovation, and Skunkworks

As part of a coordinated series of blog posts among my colleagues in the Academic Technology Specialist Program, I recently wrote a post comparing what we do to the skunkworks model and how that enables the innovations we're able to shepherd. The blog post that frames my own and my colleagues' posts is Reflections on the ATS Program.

Towards a Front Page for the Digital Humanities #dhthis

In partial response to the issues raised about the publishing model of Journal of Digital Humanities and an apparent lack of transparency, several scholars banded together to create DHThis, an experiment in open sharing of DH-relevant writing online that follows the Slashdot/Reddit model that allows use

Alt-Ac Notes: Building Towards the Fall and Winter Quarters

Given the interest in alternative academic (alt-ac) careers and the remarkable variety these positions can take, I thought it might be helpful to others looking beyond the tenure-track if I were to provide a sense of what my particular instantiation of an alt-ac job entails. I am currently working on several noteworthy new projects that will launch in the Fall or Winter Quarters. In this post, I highlight three projects and explain how my role in each touches upon (often vastly) different aspects of my responsibilities. These three do not encompass everything I work on in a typical week, but they do indicate some of the breadth and the multiple challenges I regularly have the good fortune to encounter.

Digital Humanists’ Responses to Surveillance

Recently, I made a plea that the digital humanities community direct its collective expertise, both as humanists and technologists, to respond to the revelations about the NSA's surveillance, a post inspired, in part, by my feelings of frustration and anger (justified and righteous, I believe) at our constant status as objects of surveillance and potential analysis.1 Clearly

The Digital Humanists’ (Lack of) Response to the Surveillance State

Cyberspace: a digital, networked simulation of physical space envisioned by Sci-Fi authors like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, Bruce Sterling, and others. The metaphor implies that, just as in the “real” world, back alleys and seedy establishments exist that you would do well to avoid, lest you attract attention from the wrong people.

Networks of Faculty in the DLCL


Gabriella Safran, the current chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), asked me to generate network graphs of the DLCL faculty in advance of an all-faculty retreat at which the agenda was to center around how the DLCL is structured and how well it works for faculty. We developed a series of survey questions that cover research, teaching, collaboration, and service, which I turned into a Google Form so that faculty could fill out a simple web form to provide me with a spreadsheet of data. The questions included things like “What are your primary research topics?” and “With whom have you co-taught?” The answers gave me to raw data necessary to begin building networks. In some cases, faculty are connected because they work directly together either in teaching or research (e.g., reading each other's drafts). In other cases, faculty are connected because they share a research interest or teach the same time period or genre. I divided the questions into groups, titled “Research”, “Collaboration”, “Structure”, “Teaching”, and “Teaching Collaboration”, as a way to see different facets of the faculty's relationships. I then created this web page to allow exploration of these networks. The data are not complete as not everyone has completed the survey yet, but I will continue to update the networks as more results come in. For suggestions on how to use this page, read on. If you would like read about the technologies I used to build this tool, see this companion post.

HOWTO: Get Free Servers for Your Websites, Development Environments, and Other Digital Endeavors

I recently found myself paying the hosting bill for my domains and sites and feeling unhappy about the services despite the low cost. Finally I made the connection I should have made much sooner: I could have better servers for free (for a year). Amazon Web Services provides a Free Usage Tier that is more than sufficient for your average personal site, development servers, and many other needs.

Experimenting on My Friends

With the recent introduction of Facebook Graph Search, the fact that the data we provide Facebook situates us in a navigable, analyzable network has become clearer than ever. When I came across this tutorial that explains how to extract one's social network data from the site (here's another one as slides), I jumped on the chance and produced these results in Gephi:

Zombies on Twitter Teach Digital Literacies and Online Identity

"The realm of the monster, that which appears at the perilous limit between what we know and what we do not wish to apprehend, what we are and what we must not be, what we fear and what we desire." --Jeffrey Cohen, The Grey of a Zombie Ecology

Over the past weekend a game of virtual tag broke out on Twitter under the hashtag #TvsZ. Twitter vs. Zombies was, in the words of the game's organizers Jesse Stommel and Pete Rorabaugh:

an epic zombiefied experiment in Twitter literacy, gamification, collaboration, and emergent learning.

Part flash-mob. Part Hunger-Games. Part Twitter-pocalypse. Part digital feeding frenzy. Part micro-MOOC. Part giant game of Twitter tag.

Both Stommel and Rorabaugh are editors of Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching & Technology. You can watch their discussion at Duke about #TvsZ during a session titled "Digital Pedagogy, Play, and Collaboration". 

Animal, Vegetable, Topic Model?! Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Algorithm

In my continuing efforts to use and learn more about topic modeling, I've been playing around with some of the works published by Punctum Books, "an open-access and print-on-demand independent publisher dedicated to radically creative modes of intellectual inquiry and writing across a whimsical para-humanities assemblage." Spearheaded by Eileen Joy, who I know as a medievalist and all-around academic provocateuse, Punctum Books has already published an eclectic array of textual experiments. Since their texts are open access, I decided this corpus would be a perfect fit for some more topic modeling investigations: diverse yet confederated, plenty of words, but not too big or too small (like the beds and chairs of bears). 


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