Posts in Category: Academia

Process NOT content – All in on the Digital Humanities

“If the Humanists can’t make what we do central in the Information Age, we never can.”

–          Cathy Davidson

All in on the Digital Humanities

This blog will highlight the trials, tribulations and my developing thoughts as I complete the dissertation portion of my PhD.

I’m not the first to do so but this is my voice

As the Online Editor of canadianmilitaryhistory.ca and the Publications Manager for the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament (LCMSDS) studies I am in regular contact with both spheres of the publishing world.

The first book I worked on The Canadian Battlefields in Italy: Ortona and the Liri Valley written by Eric McGeer, allowed me a glimpse at the hybrid peer-review process at LCMSDS. Since then, my name has found itself on the front cover of four more guidebooks and behind the scenes I’ve worked in some capacity with a half dozen other publications.

This May, WLU Press released Canada and the Second World War: Essays in Honour of Terry Copp edited by Geoff Hayes, Mike Bechthold, and myself. Here, I helped pull together a 21 piece collection and work through the traditional annals of the academic peer-review process. Undoubtedly there is merit to this process (How important that process is has been questioned recently).

BUT isn’t it the intellectual exercise that is most important?

Why then do we HIDE the thought PROCESS (and development) of the humanities? [1]

And that is why I’m starting this blog

I would surmise that the very best educators know this and inspire this in their own students through the Hedgehog concept of the Humanities

Critical Thinking, Creative Thought, Clear Communication

Terry Copp, here at LCMSDS, has lived the role of educator for more than 50 years now. The video detailing his career is on our site and well worth watching.

Cathy Davidson, one of the true leaders in the battle to showcase the importance of the humanities, wrote a brilliant piece – Strangers on a Train – on what must change for our discipline to matter.

This single quote that now sits atop my one-page teaching philosophy and started this post is worth writing again:

“If Humanists can’t make what we do central in the information age, we never can.”

Truer words are rarely been spoken

It is likely that only my advisory council and 14 future unsuspecting graduate students will read my work at the cross hairs of Sport, The Military and Masculinity studies – (my parents and girlfriend are incredibly supportive and will no doubt try to read the end result but it is unlikely they will work their way past the introduction). If I’m fortunate, one of the major academic presses will pick it up and then in 1-3 years, once I’ve worked out the academicspeak, it might be ready for a print run of 500-1000 copies.

I’m not so foolish as to think that my research as a humanist is going to cure cancer or build a safer bridge. The true value of a PhD is brilliantly illustrated here by Matt Might, Assistant Professor at the University of Utah. I do believe, however, that the critical thought process I will employ as I work my way to some sort of understanding of my nations past through sport, the military, and what it means to be manly will offer insight into how others can navigate the steady of flow of information we wade through everyday.

It is the critical thinking process of the humanities can turn a Fire hose (or Tsunami) of information into a Drinking Fountain…

 

The process can make the Information Age manageable.

There are other practical considerations too

Blogging keeps me writing; my own research suggests there are two keys to writing well

–          Read a lot! (I do this)

–          Write a lot! (I’m not so good at this)

Most PhD Students are worried about someone scooping their sphere of the academic world and relentlessly hold on to their developing ideas, thoughts, and archival sources until their dissertation is published. They are scared they will be scooped or that a better writer will take their ideas and produce their thoughts in a way for public consumption.

Perhaps in the age where physical libraries held information and professors were (seen as) sages in front of a room of “spongy” students that made sense.

In a world where Harvard and MIT have joined together to offer free online courses and Universities are wallowing through an identity crisis (Seth Godin has predicted their demise within 10 years), I see only one path forward for the Humanities – Recognizing our Strength, Opening up access and evolving as educators to highlight our true potential importance.

Our job, as Humanists, is to facilitate the education process not play the role of pontiff – The grey haired subject matter expert (though we’re that too in our own little tiny corner).

The best have always facilitated this process…

Seth Godin, one of the modern world’s greatest thinkers, encourages students with this advice:

Don’t pick a job that likes cogs.
Don’t pick a job that insists on advanced degrees.
Don’t look for safety.
Fail often.
Fail in public.
Try to find things people will criticize.
Learn from your mistakes, with eagerness.
Do difficult emotional labor that others fear.
Be generous.
Connect.

This blog will leave a record of my developing ideas on sport, the military, constructs of masculinity, and the evolution of Canada as a country. More important, it will chart my progress in the Digital Humanities and open up the thought process, warts and all, of one PhD student and hopefully encourage others to examine and reexamine Why, What and How they think.

This is not the safe route, I may fail, and that failure will be public but it is worth it.


[1] Hate 2.0 with Jennifer Evans (History), Josh Greenberg (Communications) and Christiane Wilke (Law), together with a host of undergraduate and graduate researchers at Carelton University, analyze how state institutions and civil society are using digital media to counter its reach and appeal.  Dan Cohen, is the director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Mediahis personal blog and the site are pioneers in the digital humanities and deserve a day of your time at least – their essay section is full of brilliance. Finally CUNY is on the leading edge with an open peer-review system