I completely concur that SCMS is ready for some unconferencing & general rethinking of the conference structure. I was struck this year in comparison to MLA (my first), where a pre-conference THATCamp was an excellent start to the conference, along with other long-form pre-conference workshops that were really "working" rather than listening. Despite MLA being a much larger conference, it actually felt more intimate and contained, in large part because of these more thematically connected workshops.
This year's expansion of SCMS to 5 days of papers/workshops goes in the opposite direction, and everyone I know either came for only 3-4 days, and/or burned out after a few days. More interactive sessions and pre-conference activities would energize things for many, but only if the regular conference were compressed more - which would mean more people getting their panels/papers rejected. SCMS is a much more grad student presenting conference than many, so that would be a price to be paid for creating more unconferencing.
I think you bring up some great points as far as the lines between digital humanities and new media studies. I have felt a conflation of two in the past and that your observations here point to places where differentiation exists. Being a new media scholar does not automatically make one a digital humanist. I think that production is key in this conversation. How does theory as knowledge production play a part in criticizing and contextualizing digital projects? How does rhetoric play into these productions? I have never been to TILTS, but it does seem to be at one end of the spectrum where production is key. Many digital humanists do seem to be approaching the field with a more centered approach.
Thanks Amanda, this is a great post, and a really important contribution to this larger conversation. I've been in a postdoc for the last two years in which one of my primary jobs is to encourage and support faculty who are looking to develop technology-enhanced pedagogies and assignments. Often, I've found that getting faculty to see their students as "multimodal scholars" is a much easier sell than getting them to think of themselves in these terms (Millennials, "digital natives" and all). But it's an important step, and often one that opens their eyes to how technology might enhance their own research and scholarly communication.
I think it's also important for us to share these assignments (both how we've designed and refined them) and openly discuss what works and what doesn't. Even in this brief post, I love that you gave a sense of the guidelines for the class' twitter requirement and some of the results. This will help both those of us who are already trying to develop "multimodal students," and serve as incentive and support for those faculty who are reluctant to jump into the social media fray.
Thanks for the comment, Amanda, I think this is an issue many can relate to. I'm also headed into an English Department, so I am going to need to adapt a similar, "balanced" approach. What gives me hope, and is clearly reflected in this comment thread, is that I do think we're experiencing a sea change in media studies and related fields where there are enough junior faculty getting tenure who understand alternative modes of publishing and value public scholarship, enough senior faculty who are willing to go to bat to support junior faculty doing this work, and platforms like this one that are growing established and looking to play their part in supporting/legitimating this labor.
I vividly remember, a few weeks after starting my current postdoc position, hearing Kathleen Fitzpatrick state that doing DH often means doing twice the work for half the credit. I hope, like you, that we won't have to continue to cultivate dual CVs, especially when our work (like the best scholarly output) is most productive when it's troubling these binaries.
I agree! Most people I've talked to at SCMS have said that they wished there were more workshops, to allow for the free exchange of ideas that is not always possible with the traditional panel format. Even when panelists diligently try to stay within the suggested time frame of 20 minutes per paper, tech issues and late starts to panels means that there is rarely time for a good Q & A after a panel. I'd like to see more workshop-style presentations at SCMS in the future.
Though I do have one quibble with your account above—I find that most presenters at SCMS do use some kind of visual aids—either clips or a power point or something of that nature. Have you had a different experience?
Thanks for a great post!
I see a lot of connections between your argument here and the argument that Miram Posner made earlier in this survey. She sees the way that theory can complicate the digital. She argues theory complicates digital humanities in a good way. Cultural informatics seems to have the same ability to complicate assumptions within digital humanities from a cultural perspective. I will have to spend some time getting to know more about cultural informatics.
Although I've only been on the conference "circuit" for a couple years, my favorite so far has been MSU's bi-annual Meaningful Play conference. One of the reasons (and there are many) I feel this event is so much more resonant with attendees and participants is the game room set aside for people to come in, grab a seat, and chat with others over a quality board game. Not only does this offer everyone a moment to take their breath from their grueling schedule, it's a perfect opportunity to have the spontaneous conversations you describe. Unlike the between-session hallway chats, these moments are unhurried and honest.
Thank you for bringing to light these events.
Great post Suzanne! I'm also enjoying this comment thread.
Working in an English department that still has a fairly traditional approach to what counts as scholarship (print publications and *some* online publications, if they are well established or linked to a print publication), I have had to negotiate a balance between doing the kind of work that will *count* towards my tenure requirements (print pubs) and the kind of work that I think has the most impact in my field because of its ability to generate constant dialogue feedback (online pubs like this one). In this way, I feel like I have been building 2 competing CVs over the last 6 years.
Now that I have tenure, and have the opportunity to vote on the tenure and promotion cases of my colleagues, I look forward to championing more *non traditional* scholarship so that future colleagues won't need to cultivate dual CVs.
It seems to me that it may be the "humanities" aspect of DH that is keeping it out of the media studies departments. If media studies departments were set up to provide a sort of "contrast" to the more traditional disciplines, I could see how there might be some resistance to the assimilation of DH heuristics or empirical rubrics to address concerns within the field.
I think the larger issues raised by the question, "Are you a Digital Humanist?" lies in the extent to which one self-identifies as DH as well as how much the term has the potential to exclude. Personally, I cross many borders so any affiliation is more tactical than reified. That said, it does seem that rhetoricians and media studies have lots in common. It seems to me that the distinction between Kairos and Media Commons is a fairly big one: Kairos is peer reviewed, has run since 1996, and is more concerned with complicating the form that scholarship takes (e.g. the articles are expected to take full advantage of all available semiotic resources), while Media Commons is devoted to complicating the publishing process itself, taking full advantage of the possibilities of networked communication.
And while I don't pretend to speak for any of these groups, in my view the best way to do risky things but also have them count is to produce work in which either the form or the content is emergent. In other words, if the content is progressive, the form must be more traditional and vice versa. I have personally tried to establish precedents that can be (and have been) used in T+P cases like this recent article in Academe about my 2005 digital dissertation, and the accompanying blog post that is only digital.