Monday, May 27, 2013

A New Companion to Digital Humanities, documented!

There's a new edition of the awesome Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities in the works! Hooray! In early April, I was pleased and honoured to receive an email from co-editor Ray Siemens asking if I would like to contribute a chapter on "Mashups, Remix, and Reuse."

Hell yes, I would, axshully.

I thought I would document the process here.
  • Step one: email back right away and say yes.
  • Step two: miss the first deadline inadvertently by writing the wrong date on my calendar.
The not-incorrectly-writtendown deadlines look like this:
  • 20 April 2013: Responses to invitations received by editors
  • 1 May 2013: Authors submit 250 word chapter abstracts, titles, and 100 word biographical statements to the editors 
  • 1 December 2013: Authors submit chapter drafts to the editors 
  • 1 February 2014: Editors provide comments on the chapters, and make all chapter drafts available for all collection authors to peruse (for purposes of internal citation and cross-referencing) 
  • 1 May 2014: Authors submit final drafts of chapters to the editors, which are then forwarded to the press.
I thought it might be interesting for my graduate students and others to follow along what it looks like to go from 0 to 8000 words in seven months, and from invitation to in-press in one year.

So I've already sent in my response to the invitation, saying yes.

And I've sent in my abstract now. The trick with writing an abstract before you've written the piece in question is to understand that you will get to change it later if you need to. Unless a piece is already written, it is not actually possible to abstract its contents into a capsule summary. But proceed as though you can! Also, it's important to hit the word count. What I like about the abstract I've managed to write is that the main point--the gist of the whole chapter--is in the first two sentences. I had to rewrite for several hours to get it to sound as "well, duh" as it does right now. It takes me about 5 minutes to brute-force type 250 words; it took me about 2 hours to write this abstract and another 15 minutes to get the bio right. Short writing is often harder than longer writing. Go figure. </unsolicited_advice>

Here's what I wrote:

Mashups, Remix, Reuse: New Strategies for Open Scholarship

Remix culture is a popular phenomenon rooted in fandom, crafting new texts from existing cultural artifacts. This chapter considers the deployment of similar creative-reuse techniques in academic research.

Popular culture is increasingly pervaded with remixed book, television, film, music, and native web content destined for new audiences and new contexts. Jedi Knights and Hogwarts students fight Voldemort together in fan fiction. Episodes of My Little Pony are recut and re-scored to turn a story of the magic of friendship into a murderous thriller on YouTube. 80s synth pop is layered against contemporary hip hop to underscore shared beats or to highlight diverging preoccupations, circulating through peer-to-peer networks. Remixes deploy the full range of Internet media to allow fan-producers and fan-consumers to make original content their own.

Academic remixing employs a similar ethic to produce somewhat different kinds of texts that nevertheless, I argue, retain a bit of the joy and sometimes the informality of popular practices. Data visualization techniques like Wordles, open licensing schemes that permit data mining or other repurposing, and the reframing of academic research for media like podcasts or web videos are instances of academic remix strategies. Remix culture in digital humanities and beyond builds on the modular content models of web 2.0, the emerging ethical movement toward open scholarship, and an increasing imperative to actively engage a greater variety and range of audiences, to create new modes of research creation, community engagement, and knowledge dissemination.

(abstract: 245 words; proposed chapter; 8000 wds)


Aimée Morrison is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, where she teaches new media theory and practice. She contributed the chapter “Blogs and Blogging: Texts and Practice” to the Companion to Digital Literary Studies, and teaches a yearly course in multimedia and the social web at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. Her current research on Deciphering Digital Life writing brings auto/biography studies and new media theory to bear on popular web-native life-writing texts, including Facebook, personal mommy blogs, and photo-a-day projects.

(bio: 101 words)

Is it perfect? No. Am I going to change. Almost certainly. But now there's 250 words of text in a file marked "DH Book Chapter" and it give me somewhere to start, in addition to giving the volume editors the info they need to provide to the press to secure reviewers. Win!