Day of DH blog #1: Cobblestones, meetings, emails, and a nice surprise

Today I’m taking part in the Day of DH, a project where those of us who work in the digital humanities take a day to blog about what we do. The entries below are cross-posted from the official Day of DH blog.

It’s a gorgeous morning in Edinburgh: the sky is deep blue, the air is crisp and as I walk the cobbled streets from the station, various trucks and cranes are lifting bits of stages into place on the Royal Mile, probably for some early Festivalesque goings-on. The tourists haven’t yet arrived in full force, and the busking bagpipers don’t play this early in the morning: it’s the best time of year in the city.

My Day of DH this year will consist largely of meetings, which I think is generally par for the course for those of us who do DH as academics. This morning I will meet with a student accused of plagiarism, and then will have the weekly meeting with our core Digital Scholarship team, which includes Lisa Otty from Edina, Xavi Rubio-Campillo from History, Classics and Archaeology, normally Karen Gregory from Digital Sociology (though she can’t make it today) and our administrators Emma Cockburn and Helen Bradley who give support to Digital Scholarship and make it all happen. We have our big annual flagship event, the Digital Day of Ideas, coming up in less than a month, and there is much to organise for that. In the afternoon I will meet with our College chief information officer, Fraser Muir, who is the budget holder for Digital Scholarship, and who I spend a lot of time pestering to hire DH developers. The meeting-free hours in the middle of the day I will attempt to block off for marking undergraduate dissertations, and try to ignore fires in my inbox, but let’s see how that goes …

I arrive at my office to a delightful surprise: the contributor copy of a book I’ve written a chapter in, volume 12 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English! It is one of the perks of this job to see friends and people you esteem on the contents page of a book you’ve contributed to, and there are more than usual here. Katherine Bode, whose DH work I admire immensely, is a fellow contributor (funnily enough neither of us are writing on anything at all close to digital humanities). My Kiwi colleague at Edinburgh, Michelle Keown, has a chapter, and so does Elizabeth Webby, esteemed professor of Australian literature who I took classes with while an undergraduate at the University of Sydney. This book feels particularly special as I spent my doctoral years working on modernism in Australia and Canada and feeling like my topic was largely ignored by mainstream modernist studies, and now here is a book published by OUP which acknowledges not only that there is such a thing as modernist fiction in these settler-invader nations, but that it is worth including in the pages of a reference work. Coral Ann Howells was a wonderful editor to work with on this, and I’m proud to be a contributor.

At 7.53, I’m processing email that’s come in overnight. I need to read a bunch of minutes from QA meetings in our school’s modern languages departments and write a report as part of my admin job as QA coordinator for the English department. Karen has helpfully sent a suggestion for a roundtable participant at the Digital Day of Ideas, and passed on an interesting job advertisement. Another colleague from Sociology, Gil Viry, has sent the details for a workshop at the Digital Day of Ideas. It won’t involve any actual doing-things-at-a-computer work, and I do try and make the workshops hands-on. After some reflection, though, I agree with his rationale: the workshop will be on network analysis and is only two hours long, and although some people will probably come along wanting to make pretty hairballs, it’ll be better if they come away with a more nuanced sense of the key principles of network approaches and what is involved in data collection for that kind of analysis. I’ll respond later: for now, meeting preparation beckons.

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