digital scholarship and book history

Occasionally, one finds oneself confronting the misconception that book history has nothing to do with digital scholarship. People who love print are never people who study with and about digital tools, right? You know better, I trust, but it continues to be surprising and frustrating that people across the full spectrum of these media studies make these assumptions.

And so I was delighted to be asked to co-write a “State of the Discipline” piece for Book History on exactly this relationship between book history and digital scholarship. And I’m even more delighted that the piece that Matt Kirschenbaum and I wrote is now out! Our review essay, “Digital Scholarship and Digital Studies,” takes as its argument our belief that book historians are already using digital tools and that current book production and reception is inextricably tied to digital methods. The first part of the essay considers a range of resources that book historians are using to explore the past production and circulation of books; the second and third parts turn to the current state of writing, reading, and publishing to highlight the necessity of thinking about digital media. Matt and I feel strongly that the disciplines of book history and digital studies have much in common already and that these fields must work together to build strong futures for them both. We are all already hybrid, whether we’re studying the circulation of the earliest printed English books or the latest Jonathan Franzen novel or The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

Since our authors’ contracts with the journal allow us to share the piece on our personal and institutional repositories, I’m sharing it here with you as a pdf: Matthew G. Kirschenbaum and Sarah Werner, “Digital Scholarship and Digital Studies: The State of the Discipline” Book History 17 (2014) pp 406-458; DOI: 10.1353/bh.2014.0005.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Aside

Johnston’s Hamlet font

I’m excited to have contributed a post to HiLobrow’s Kern Your Enthusiasm series, which has a lot of smart, interesting people writing about a favorite (or not-favorite) font. For my bit, I wrote about the typefaces that Edward Johnston designed for the Cranach Press Hamlet, published in 1928.

Cranach Press Hamlet (pp 138-139)

Cranach Press Hamlet (pp 138-139)

My opening gives you my take on the font:

If you wanted to model a book after the earliest printed books, you might mirror their layout — placing the main text in the middle of the opening, with commentary surrounding it along the margins and illustrations interspersed. You might commission one of the great artists of your age to cut new woodcuts and choose a text that is itself centuries old but still loved today. And you might find a typeface to do the same, straddling the past and the present.

Go over to the post to read the rest (and check out the others in the series—they’re all linked from the introduction to the series and if you like old fonts, you’ll definitely want to look at Matthew Battles on Aldine’s italic).

And then if you want to take a closer look at Johnston’s typeface and the early Schoeffer that influenced him, the following links will bring you to high-resolution digitizations:

 

Carnivalesque 103

Welcome to Carnivalesque 103! Carnivalesque is, in its own words, “an interdisciplinary blog carnival dedicated to pre-modern history (to c. 1800 C.E.)” and I’m delighted to play host for this issue.

If you’ve spent any time doing research into the past, you know the frustrations of not being able to find what you’re looking for. If you’re lucky, you’re as smart and interesting as Alun Withey and you can use that experience to strengthen your sense of possibilities. In “The Agony and the Ecstasy: Hunting for 17th-century medics with few sources!” (a post on his eponymous blog), Withey tells us about the difficulties in tracking down early modern Welsh medics. For many reasons, as he explains, it’s hard to pin down specific practitioners, even though he’s quite sure they must have existed. The question, he writes, is “how far the deficiencies of the sources are masking what could well have been a vibrant medical culture. How do you locate people whose work was, by its nature, ephemeral?” Luckily, he rises to the challenge of absent sources: “In a strange way, however, it can also be a liberating experience. I have long found that an open mind works best, followed by a willingness to take any information—however small—and see where it can lead.” Continue reading

some #altac advice

I was recently part of a panel organized by Holly Dugan at George Washington University on the topic of #altac and #postac careers. The storify from the tweets is worth reading through for the insights from my fellow panelists, Alyssa Harad, Evan Rhodes, and Meredith Hindley, and for comments from the audience. The first part of my talk was a reperformance of the “make your own luck” pecha kucha I did for MLA 2013 and have already shared here, but since I felt the urge to share some advice for students and faculty on the topic of pursuing #altac careers, I thought I’d post those. Continue reading

it’s history, not a viral feed

For months now I’ve been stewing about how much I hate @HistoryInPics and their ilk (@HistoryInPix, @HistoricalPics, @History_Pics, etc.)—twitter streams that do nothing more than post “old” pictures and little tidbits of captions for them. And when I say “nothing more” that’s precisely what I mean. What they don’t post includes attribution to the photographer or to the institution hosting the digital image. There’s no way to easily learn more about the image (you can, of course, do an image search through TinEye or Google Image Search and try to track it down that way).

Alexis Madrigal recently wrote a piece for The Atlantic revealing that @HistoryInPics is run by a couple of teenagers who are savvy at generating viral social media accounts to bring in money:  Continue reading

#altac work and gender

At the most recent Modern Language Association convention (held in Chicago, January 9–12, 2014), I organized a panel (session 757) on “Alt-Ac Work and Gender: It’s Not Plan B.” Stephanie Murray gave a wonderful talk with a feminist perspective on thinking about the metaphor of the jungle gym as a way of exploring the dynamics and value of alternative-academic careers. And Amanda French delivered a moving and powerful paper that used email as an example of the value of “empathy work” as compared to “authority work.” I don’t know what their plans are for sharing their presentations, but there’s a Storify that captured some of the tweets from the session. (Brian Croxall was part of the original panel proposal, but other commitments at the conference meant that he unfortunately had to withdraw. He published his proposed talk—which I hope he might someday expand!—on his site.)  Continue reading