Transdisciplinary Collaboration Is Key to Keeping the Past Alive
We saw the future, and it works, was the message of panelists at presidential session 67, “The Future Is Here: Pioneers Discuss the Future of Digital Humanities,” chaired by outgoing AHA President Anthony Grafton, and a part of the series on digital methods in research and teaching in history. But we have to be wary, the speakers warned—not only can we not assume that the lights will stay on, but we also have to collaborate across disciplines if historians want to continue to explore the past.
“Make every word tell,” advised panelist and Loyola University professor Tim Gilfoyle, quoting Strunk & White at yesterday’s AHA session on “Turning Your Dissertation into a Book” at the 126th annual meeting. Compression and concision—prune, prune, and prune some more—were the panel’s watchwords. Though, as more than one careful listener pointed out, that advice floated in tension with its seeming opposite: that in the transformation from dissertation to book, our subjects must be more widely contextualized. How, asked a member of the large and intent audience, can we both tighten our manuscripts and broaden them?
Small groups quickly formed around the presenters at the Digital Humanities: A Hands-On Workshop at the 126th annual meeting this morning. Set up like a high tech poster session, the layout of computers with large screens set up around the perimeter of a Sheraton ballroom allowed for spontaneous conversation, an easy flow of questions, and quick demonstrations.
Jeffrey McClurken presented on “Teaching with Social Media,” sharing his experiences with using Facebook, Twitter, and blogging in the classroom. Those interested in using social media to teach should check out the links and resources in McClurken’s presentation page online.
Editor’s Note: The AHA welcomes Scott Nielson, who will be sharing his perspective as an undergraduate attending the annual meeting through a series of posts here on AHA Today. Nielson is a senior at BYU, interested in 20th century American history.
Rather than attend my first week of class at Brigham Young University, I elected to visit the annual AHA conference for my first time—I arrived Thursday late afternoon and made it to a portion of the plenary session entitled How to Write a History of Information.
Since at least the Reagan administration, Social Security has been likened to the “third rail” in American politics: the issue no one will touch for fear of being singed. The metaphor was invoked yesterday by Carl Ashley—a historian at the Department of State and a panelist at AHA session 31, “U.S. State Archives and Government Information Secrecy”—to capture the feeling in his office about a very different issue: WikiLeaks. His comparison drew a chuckle but little else: despite the panel’s suggestive name, and the presence of current and former members of the CIA, the mood in the room was mellow and agreeable.
Ann M. Blair opened the plenary, explaining that the panelists would collectively address “the digital revolution we live through today.” She then called to the podium the first speaker of the night, Paula Findlen.