Stranger Danger: When New Ideas Hijack Your Project

a grown up two children and the words "say no to strangers"

In this case, I mean strange ideas, not actual strangers. And by strange ideas, I mean new ones. Image courtesy _chrisUK/Flickr

Project creep.  Before pursuing a DH master’s at Trinity, I hadn’t heard this succinct term for a phenomenon which endangered so many of my previous undertakings.  It disguises itself as too much ambition or too little planning, but in reality belies a sheer naiveté regarding what is feasible based on resources, time, and/or one’s own abilities.  In hindsight,[1] my internship at Marsh’s has been especially instructive in the art of becoming a human creep-seeking missile.[2]

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Crowdsourcing and the “Discourse Network 2000”


“Where the author was once presumed to be the originating transmitter of a discourse next sent for management to the editor, publisher, and so on through all the other positions in the discursive circuit, now the author is in a mediating position as just one among all those other managers looking upstream to previous originating transmitters—database or XML schema designers, software designers, and even clerical information works (who input data into the database or XML source document).” (Liu 81)

A (very brief) history of the term “crowdsourcing”

In his 2004 article in Critical Inquiry titled “Transcendental Data: Toward a Cultural History and Aesthetics of the New Encoded Discourse,” Alan Liu describes today’s digital information culture through the concept of “discourse network 2000,” a way of organizing information production and dissemination which has the potential to disempower readers and writers by prescripting their roles within an overly-articulated management-focused framework. Fast-forward one year and Wired writer Jeff Howe coins the term “crowdsourcing” to refer to:

the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.[2]

Mauerspechte at the Berlin Wall

I guess it isn’t crowdsourcing if the crowd takes it upon themselves. (Image via Jochims/Wikimedia Commons)

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STEM-born, humanities-approved

A flower with the words "Not THAT kind of STEM"

S(cience) T(echnology) E(ngineering) and M(athematics), my friends. (Image courtesy Audrey, Wikimedia Commons)

DH and Project Management

Typically, when I explain to friends and family exactly what “digital humanities” means, I rely on examples of what it produces: digital editions of books, thematic research collections, virtual museums, etc. However, equally important to DH projects are the adoption and adaptation of STEM-born research methods. Many of the most successful DH projects are of a scale which necessitates collaboration amongst fields and universities.[1] The result? “Corporate” concepts such as project management are filtering into university research. And as humanists begin to explore these production frameworks, they incorporate pre-existing concepts from within their disciplines, and adapt the methods to emerging concerns in their fields. My interest in project management in particular[2] led me to do some preliminary research about the conversations DHers are having regarding its implementation. This post will focus on three main questions being asked by humanists who are restructuring their roles as researchers within a project management framework.[3] Continue reading

Digitizing the Ancient: Marsh’s Library, Dublin

A running theme for my blog posts this semester seems to be my newbie status. This term, I and my cohort are taking the concepts we have learned during our course and converting them into action. And in attempting to take action, I am discovering how little I really know.

Sorta like if you took Jon Snow out of Westeros and asked him to set up an online banking account.  (Images from Wikimedia Commons courtesy Wons Noj, Greg Henshall)

Sorta like if you took Jon Snow out of Westeros and asked him to set up an online banking account. (Images from Wikimedia Commons courtesy Wons Noj, Greg Henshall.)

My internship at Marsh’s Library is no exception. If you have not yet visited, I strongly urge you to go.[1] Marsh’s is a beautifully preserved 18th century library and was the first public library in Ireland. It was founded by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh,[2] and was opened to the public in 1707. Entrance costs three whole euros, and entitles you to see the exhibits, sit at a table where James Joyce sat, walk where Jonathan Swift would have walked, try your hand at writing with a quill pen, and savor the magical dusty-book atmosphere. If that’s not enough, during a recent viewing, I realized the library makes an appearance in the 1996 film Michael Collins, so your three euros lets you walk the hallowed halls where Liam Neeson also tread.

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“Straying Into This Wilderness” : A First Taste of TEI [0]

TEI for Actual Beginners

This semester, I am taking Digital Scholarly Editing, a new module created by Dr. Mark Sweetnam at Trinity College, Dublin. Eventually, I will produce a fully-encoded TEI project; however, step one is wetting my feet with a practice exercise. Learning to encode demands balance between theory and practice, like learning to ride a bike. You need to know to sit in the saddle, hold the handlebars, and push the pedals before you start, but no matter how hard you listen, advice like “brake slowly” just doesn’t mean anything until you are on the pavement with a skinned knee.[1] Initially, I spent a few weeks familiarizing myself with TEI and doing warm-up exercises. For those interested in getting started with TEI themselves, the next paragraph reviews the resources I used. If you want to read about TEI in practice, skip to the following section.

A little girl riding a pink Strider.

Of course, if you are creative about it, you can always skip a few steps. (Image courtesy of Joel Hagan/Wikimedia Commons.)

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Strange Bedfellows: (H)ac(k)tivism and Digital Humanities

Studying DH, I’ve acquired lots of academic jargon. Most terms are technical (metadata, NLP), but some are political, like “open source,” “copyleft,” and “hacktivism.” I find “hacktivism” particularly interesting; it evokes a constellation of practices, beliefs, aims, and criticisms, and a range of cultural actors. In this post, I interrogate examples of hacktivism[1], and point to activist work with which I hope the digital humanities will engage.

   W O R M S    A G A I N S T    N U C L E A R    K I L L E R S
 \__  ____________  _____    ________    ____  ____   __  _____/
  \ \ \    /\    / /    / /\ \       | \ \  | |    | | / /    /
   \ \ \  /  \  / /    / /__\ \      | |\ \ | |    | |/ /    /
    \ \ \/ /\ \/ /    / ______ \     | | \ \| |    | |\ \   /
     \_\  /__\  /____/ /______\ \____| |__\ | |____| |_\ \_/
       \                                                 /
        \    Your System Has Been Officially WANKed     /
  You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war.

The first example of hacktivism, from a 1989 anti-nuclear worm, according to Julian Assange.

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