… and PDP is a success!

Logo for Past's DIgital PresenceLogo for the Past's DIgital Presence

The Past’s Digital Presence, the conference Heather, Jana, Molly, Taylor, and I have been working so hard on, took place this last weekend, and the consensus seems to be that it was a success. The papers were fantastic and our invited speakers were inspiring. Edward Ayers, the historian and president of the University of Richmond, called the conference a “watershed,” and Willard McCarty, one of the founders of the field of digital humanities, called it “exhilarating.” So that is all fantastic and exciting. The best part, for me, was meeting people who are active in the digital humanities, both speakers and attendees. It was great to trade stories and references.

We’re hoping to keep the momentum going by publishing the conference proceedings in some form, as well as by posting video and audio recordings to the conference website. Jana has already posted the podcast of the conference’s closing roundtable with Willard McCarty, Edward Ayers, Rolena Adorno, and George Miles.

I took over tweeting duties for the conference (we’re PDP2010), and you can follow all the conference tweets by searching for #pdp2010. It was an interesting experience. I really enjoyed watching momentum gather as the conference progressed, but I do have concerns about the way that tweeting encouraged me to hunt for soundbites in speakers’ talks.

Willard McCarty posted a very complimentary review of the conference on Humanist, a digital humanities listserv. That was terrific, but I was especially interested in a very thoughtful response to McCarty’s post by Amanda Gailey. Gailey points out that, amidst all our post-conference self-congratulation, we shouldn’t forget that state schools have been doing digital humanities for quite awhile, and with a great deal of success. She writes,

I simply want to suggest that to my mind, the conference may be a watershed, but not because DH has finally earned the benediction of the Ivies. Instead, it is quite possible that a hitherto unproven field, within which smart people not housed at the most selective and expensive universities could actually earn influence and rewards, is becoming less egalitarian.

I think this is a real danger, and I’m glad Gailey made the point. I’ll be thinking about it as we move forward with the momentum the conference has generated.

A happy announcement!

Atlanta, as seen from the top floor of Emory's Woodruff Library
I took this shot of Atlanta from the top floor of Emory's Woodruff Library on the February day I interviewed.

I am so happy to report that I’ve just accepted a new job. Beginning June 15, I’ll be the Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Digital Scholarship Commons at Emory University. I’ll be working to coordinate, promote, and integrate Emory’s existing digital resources, as well as helping to design a physical space for a digital scholarship program. I couldn’t be happier about this: on my visit to Emory, I was blown away by the resources, ideas, and (especially) the people Emory has devoted to the digital humanities. I loved what I saw of Atlanta and felt convinced that Andy and I (and Beatrice) could have a good life there.

After years of fretting about the job market, I found myself in the totally unexpected, totally surreal position of having to decide between two great offers. The other, for a teaching postdoc at a wonderful small liberal-arts college, was a very attractive, more conventional academic position. It was a difficult decision, and hard for me to subvert expectations by foregoing the traditional academic route, but I really believe that Emory’s program will help to build a place for a hybrid digital humanist and scholar.

On a personal level, I think it was important for me to be finally faced with a real choice between a professorial job and one in the digital humanities; it was the manifestation of a more abstract decision I’ve been trying to make for years. As soon as I made my choice, I knew it was the right one. We are celebrating in the Posner household!

Only fair!

Here’s a curiosity I can’t resist sharing: the first National Science Fair in 1950 had a girls’ division and a boys’ division.

Photo of the first National Science Fair, 1950
Taken from "First National Science Fair," Science News Letter, May 27, 1950: 326

Yale’s Film Studies “canon”

Yale’s Film Studies program is old-school in certain ways, and one of those ways is that we have an exam at the end of our Ph.D. program to test our knowledge of various essential films and film scholarship. We students have nicknamed it the “canon exam,” although it seems as though the professors avoid calling it that.

I was remembering how, the summer before I started grad school, I wondered what films I should watch to make myself conversant with other film students. I think I just ended up checking out every Criterion Collection movie I could find.

I thought you might be interested to see what we’re drilled on, and I don’t think the canon exam is a private affair (quite the opposite, actually, since it exists in part to assure prospective employers that we’ll be up to speed on the canon). So I’m posting the film list below. I’ll post the reading list later. [Update: here’s the reading list.]

As to the politics of a “canon,” or the wisdom of these particular choices … well, I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say that I don’t think this is a bad list, though it’s missing a lot of my favorite movies. (And the movies it does contain are so somber!)

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The internet worked again!

I was thinking about my last post, in which I said my experience with The Temple of Moloch was my first encounter with Internet-ty Scholarly Synergy. I remembered, though, that this is actually untrue. Back when I worked at the Museum of the Moving Image, I had an awesome and totally nerdy online encounter with a patron about the Museum’s model of a spacecraft from the film 2010.

The Museum had an alert set up so that we’d know if anyone mentioned MMI in a Flickr caption. Someone did, Flickr user beamjockey (Bill Higgins), who posted a photo of the spacecraft along with a caption questioning the Museum’s identification of it as the ship Discovery. Concerned that the Museum was propagating false information, I emailed Bill to get specifics so I could correct the model’s label.

Bill Higgins turned out to be a scientist at Fermilab and an all-around great guy, and he called on his scientist friends to help us identify the model. I helped by watching 2010. After much debate, we decided that MMI’s label was indeed technically accurate, although it showed only a portion of the craft in question.

I was nerdily delighted by the whole thing.

You can read a wonderful (to me) transcript of the whole episode here. And here are some more pictures of the part of Discovery that sparked the Great Debate.