Critical Diversity in a Digital Age

By | Digital Humanities, The Administrative Life, The Long Road | 2 Comments

Last year we developed a strategic plan in the College of Arts & Letters that called for a cluster hire in culturally engaged digital humanities that focuses on humanities questions of race, inclusion, cultural preservation, global interconnectedness, and engaged scholarship.

This fall, we sent out a call for proposals to the chairs and program directors inviting them to envision a strategic hiring initiative that would be transformative by cultivating strong, collaborative leadership in digital humanities scholarship and teaching by attracting innovative scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups.

We received a number of compelling proposals, two of which we asked the partnering programs to develop into a more unified and visionary initiative. After considerable conversation among faculty and leadership in partnering units, the initiative, which we are calling “Critical Diversity in a Digital Age,” has been refined to a point at which it would benefit from broader, more public engagement.

Since one dimension of the initiative is to cultivate participatory networks of scholarship and because we seek to practice the scholarship for which we advocate, I thought I would open a more public conversation as we attempt to further flesh out the theory that animates our approach. In posting this publicly, we invite colleagues both inside and beyond the College of Arts & Letters to use hypothes.is to comment on and help us refine the initiative. Please tag comments associated with your engagement with this initiative: #MSUCDDA.

Critical Diversity in a Digital Age

At its heart, the Critical Diversity in a Digital Age initiative is, as the faculty proposal put it, “committed to addressing the intersection of digital theory and practice with issues of social justice and human difference.” Difference here includes, but is not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, abledness, ….

The proposal goes on to articulate the notion of critical diversity with which we are operating:

Our use of critical diversity signals a nuanced, intersectional approach to representing human difference as well as a skepticism over the ‘human’ as it is framed through much work in the digital humanities. In short, we believe that assertive, unique, and transformative scholarship, creativity, and pedagogy dealing with race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and other forms of difference are central to digitally engaged student learning in the 21st century.

The manner in which the proposal combines theory and practice on one hand and research and pedagogy on the other will enable us to create an enriching feedback loop in which our theories are practiced, our practices theorized.

The proposal goes on to identify at least three activities that would inform the initiative: reclaiming, preserving, and interconnecting. Before further delineating these activities, however, it will be helpful to attend more intentionally to the phrase “critical diversity in a digital age.” The proposal does a nice job of specifying the kinds of diversity in which we are interested, the diversity associated with the lived experience of human differences. More specifically, our interest is not abstract, but oriented toward questions of social justice as it plays out in a digital age, broadly understood. Critical here, however, is the meaning of “critical” itself.

In attempting to think through the meaning of critique here, it is helpful to draw upon a broader history associated with critical theory, without however, embracing the overemphasis on emancipation we find in critical theorists like Adorno and Horkheimer. Orienting ourselves toward justice in addition to freedom will enable us to focus our scholarship on concerns that, when put into practice, enrich the communities with which we are engaged.

We might then consider three dimensions of the activity of critique associated with the Critical Diversity in a Digital Age initiative:

  1. To expose the limits of existing practices and structures of reality in order to interrogate the conditions under which they operate and thus to uncover what they enable and prevent;
  2. To discern what is possible in the wake of this exposure so that we might imagine more just possibilities of engagement;
  3. To enact practices of justice and indeed freedom rooted in and animated by discerning critique.

Perhaps we could summarize the initiative as animated by a desire to put discerning critique into practice and thus to allow our practices to be informed by and in turn inform our responses to questions of diversity in a digital age.

Do these dimensions of critique begin to delineate the contours of our approach to diversity in a digital age? It would be helpful to have some feedback here to help further refine the meaning of critique in this context.

The proposal suggested at least three activities around which the initiative might begin to focus its efforts:

  1. Reclaiming: using digital methods to locate, present, and engage with texts, practices, and media productions that for various historical, cultural, and socioeconomic reasons have been neglected, underappreciated, or ignored;
  2. Preserving: promoting the use and creation of digital archives and other sites with attention to how knowledge is produced and valued in the first place; engaging issues related to form, aesthetic, and material transformations, reception, access, and dissemination;
  3. Interconnecting: building participatory networks through publishing practices and other innovative modes of scholarly practice that create enriching publics, advance knowledge, and orient our efforts toward questions of social justice.

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list of activities that would animate the initiative, but it helps us point to possible directions of initial investment.

With this theoretical framework as a background, are there examples of projects and questions that can help us clarify the sorts of questions critical diversity in a digital age might interrogate?

Here are a few examples to which Bill Hart-Davidson, Associate Dean for Graduate Education, pointed us, but we welcome more examples to help us further refine the initiative:

Machine Bias

Digital Redlining

These are but two of a wide range of issues and topics that might be engaged through an initiative that focuses on Critical Diversity in a Digital Age. We invite you to add examples through the #MSUCDDA tag on Hypothes.is. I’ll continue to curate examples here below.

Tracing the Contours of the Enhanced Digital Book

By | The Evolving Book, The Long Road | No Comments

Now that Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading is in galley proofs, the contours of the enhanced digital book are beginning to take shape.

In order to determine the features of the digital book, we have developed a specification document that outlines the nature of the book, its key features and more specific details about how these features will fit into the ecosystem of the enhanced book itself.

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The End of the Beginning and the Path Ahead for @PubPhilJ

By | Academic, Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Long Road | No Comments

On Friday, October 4th, we received the good news that the Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications and Information Technology program will provide $236K to support the development of the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ, aka @PubPhilJ).

The grant marks the end of the beginning for the Public Philosophy Journal, a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy at Penn State and Matrix at Michigan State, to create an open access, open peer review digital publication intent on performing public philosophy as its mode of publication.

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Socrates, Plato and Digital Scholarship at #ECDS

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentation: Interactive, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | No Comments

The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship asked me to give a version of the presentation at gave at #DH2013 last summer entitled eBook as Ecosystem of Digital Scholarship

Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

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Performative Publication in a Digital Age

By | Digital Humanities, Presentation: Academic, Vita | No Comments

New affordances in dynamic modes of digital scholarly communication have enabled authors to tailor the content of our texts to the forms in which they appear in public.

This presentation focuses on two performative publication projects I am currently undertaking: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading to be published by Cambridge University Press, and the Public Philosophy Journal which is in the final stages of being considered for a Mellon Grant.

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Cultivating the Virtues of DH

By | Academic, Digital Humanities, The Long Road | 3 Comments

Last week humanities scholars from around the world descended upon Lincoln, Nebraska for DH2013, the annual international conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.

It was my first time at the DH conference and I certainly felt welcomed by everyone I met, reinforcing my sense that, as an endeavor, the digital humanities brings together a wide variety of very creative, intelligent people committed to working across and between disciplinary boundaries.

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Digital Dialogue 62: Practicing Openness at #DH2013

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

Lee Skallerup Bessette and Jarah Moesch join the Digital Dialogue for episode 62 at the 2013 Digital Humanities Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Lee, who tweets as @readywriting and writes the College Ready Writing blog for Inside Higher Education, and Jarah, @jarahmoesch, talked about the paper they delivered at #DH2013 entitled Digital Humanities: Egalitarian or the New Elite?

Their paper invited us to reflect upon the practices of openness in the Digital Humanities, and challenged us to consider how we are living up to the ideals of inclusivity and access toward which the Digital Humanities have long aspired.

The presentation, originally submitted as a panel, was accepted as a “Long Paper” for the conference program and, of the six co-authors of the paper, only Lee and Jarah were able to make the trip to Lincoln. They did a nice job reading sections of the paper authored by others, but I missed the voices that were not there: Liana Silva-Ford, (@literarychica), Roopika Risam (@roopikarisam), Alyssa Stalsberg Canelli (@alyssastalsberg), Tressie McMillian Cottom (@tressiemcphd).

Because no one wanted to speak for those who were absent, in episode 62 we focus our attention on the perspectives Lee and Jarah represented, though it is my hope that Liana, Roopika, Alyssa and Tressie will be willing and able to participate in the ongoing discussion here on the Digital Dialogue blog.

eBook as Ecosystem of Scholarly Communication

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | No Comments

Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

The book’s central argument is that there is an analogy between the ways Socrates practices politics with those he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Platonic writing turns us as readers toward ideals of speaking and acting capable of transforming our lives and the community in which we live.

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Public Philosophy Journal

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | One Comment

Philosophy is often mistakenly viewed as distant from public life, secluded in the Ivory Tower away from the public concerns of civil society.

However, the affordances of digital scholarly communication have enabled philosophers increasingly to bring the value of their work to bear on matters of public importance from ethics and public policy to cultural criticism. Even so, however, there are few publishing venues available for philosophers to gain publicity for their work and to reach diverse audiences.

The Public Philosophy Journal is designed to re-envision the relationship between the academy and everyday life by creating a public space for accessible but rigorous scholarly discourse on challenging contemporary issues of public concern.

The Public Philosophy Journal is a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative at the Pennsylvania State University, and Matrix: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Our intent is to create a journal that will perform public philosophy as its mode of publication.

By leveraging the open and collaborative capacities endemic to digital communications, the Public Philosophy Journal will cultivate a community of scholars engaged in curating, reviewing, editing, co-writing and modeling rigorous work related to public philosophy broadly construed.

The process of publication for the journal will involve five basic dimensions:

  1. Curate: Current digital public philosophy discussions and pertinent web content will be curated by leveraging the work and input of a world-wide community of scholars, graduate students, and policy makers;
  2. Review: The journal will include mechanisms for open peer review of curated content, including a system for reviewing reviewers and credentialing reviewers who are consistently engaged and thoughtful in their contributions;
  3. Enrich: Digital public philosophy will be greatly enriched by creating a space for collaborative writing to further develop the content of the online discussions into a rigorous scholarly article;
  4. Publish: Reviewed articles will be openly published together with invited responses to the reviewed work;
  5. Cultivate: Ongoing open dialogue about the published articles will be cultivated by invited and curated responses that have the potential to feed the development of new collaborative scholarship.

Below is a Prezi that Mark Fisher and I developed for the Networked Humanities conference at the University of Kentucky, February 15-16, 2013, #NHUK, that explains in a bit more detail the vision behind the Public Philosophy Journal.

If you are interested in being a part of the @PubPhilJ community, please fill out the attached form and help curate excellent content from around the web.

HASTAC 2011: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Structure

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 4 Comments

Long at HASTACANN ARBOR, MI – The story I told at the 2011 meeting of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) conference is rooted in my pedagogical practices of using digital media technology to cultivate communities of learning in the classroom. The story itself is told at a moment of intense transformation in education as we move from a culture of print scholarship to that of digital scholarship.  The main thesis of the presentation is that by drawing on the best virtues of both print and digital scholarship a new educational model capable of transforming the culture of the university itself can be developed.

In the presentation, I attempt to articulate how I have sought to translate those pedagogical practices associated with digital scholarship — openness and collaboration – with those practices associated with print scholarship — careful review and the certification of expertise — into both my scholarly and my administrative practices.

In the presentation I did not have enough time to talk about the details of the work we are doing in the College of the Liberal Arts to cultivate a digital culture of scholarship.  When I started as Associate Dean, we hired John Dolan at Director of Digital Media and Pedagogy in the College. Last summer we held our first Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology workshop for faculty and graduate students in the Liberal Arts. John has been working with both faculty and staff to find new ways to use digital media to enrich our work in the College of the Liberal Arts.

HASTAC11: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Culture.mp3

Resources

Pedagogy

Research

Administration

  • Digital Research in the Liberal Arts: This blog is co-authored by faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts doing academic scholarship using digital media.
  • Instructional Space at Penn State Task Force Blog: This blog is part of our attempt to up a university wide discussion about instructional space and scheduling. It is an example of how I have sought to use what I learned in my teaching with technology in my administrative work.

New Cultures of Scholarship

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 2 Comments

STATE COLLEGE, PA – In my keynote address at the inaugural Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit, I discuss how the transition from print literacy to digital literacy is transforming the nature of academic scholarship.

[The live stream recording of the event can be seen below.]

The presentation is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the theoretical background that helps us put the transformation of literacy through which we are living into a wider context. In the second part, I focus on a few of the ways I have sought to integrate digital technologies into my scholarly practices.

The theoretical background begins with a discussion of what Lars Sauerberg has called the “Gutenberg Parenthesis,” suggesting by this term a contained period of literacy characterized by the dominance of the printed book. I use Thomas Pettitt’s lecture at the 2010 conference at the MIT Communications Forum to emphasize that the parenthetical period was no mere digression, but added substantively to the history of literacy.

After pointing briefly to how pre-literate oral cultures undertook many of the practices we now find in digital culture–remixing, borrowing, creatively changing and modifying stories for particular audiences–I turn to Walter Ong’s book, Orality and Literacy, to suggest the manner in which print culture values the ideals of completeness, originality and creativity in ways that gave rise to the idea of authorial genius that continues to determine how we think about scholarship and scholars.

In the second part of the talk, I illustrate how I have sought to use digital literacy to reinforce and amplify those values of print literacy worth retaining–the established practices of peer review, caring attention to detail and the permanence of books. I tell the story of my own use of digital media for scholarship, focusing on how I used Diigo to annotate and respond to a recent review of my book in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and how some of my colleagues, notably Rose Cherubin from George Mason University, added substantively to that digital discussion.

I talked also about the Digital Dialogue podcast to suggest how digital media can be used to create new print scholarship.

Resources
Quotations
From Sauerberg:
In a cognitive context the mass-produced and mass distributed book has been of the greatest significance for the way we approach the world. In the transition from the printed book to digitized textuality the mode of cognition is being moved from a metaphorics of linearity and reflection to a-linearity and co-production of “reality.” This means moving from the rationality accompanied by the printed book to an altogether different way of processing, characterized by interactivity and much faster pace. The book as privileged mode of cognition is, it seems, being marginalized and transformed (Sauerberg, 79)
From Ong:

“Print encourages a sense of closure, a sense that what is found in a text has been finalized, has reached a state of completion … Print culture gave birth to the romantic notions of ‘originality’ and ‘creativity’, which set apart an individual work from other works even more…” (Ong, 132- 133).

From Carson:

An individual who lives in an oral culture uses his senses differently than one who lives in a literate culture, and with that different sensual deployment comes a different way of conceiving his own relations with his environment, a different conception of his body and a different conception of his self (Eros the Bittersweet, 43).