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IT, Design, and a Methodology Sunrise

The folks from the Center for History and New Media have really been rocking my world lately. My first exposure to them was through Zotero, and then Omeka, and now there are all kinds of exciting announcements about Zotero Commons and THATCamp and partnerships with Open Library.

And of course it makes sense that people producing such great software would be full of deep ideas, too. I’m especially intrigued at the moment by this notion that we might be experiencing a shift from an intellectual focus on ideology to one more focused on methodology (they’re talking about history, specifically, but I think it’s true of other disciplines as well. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?) Tom Scheinfeldt raised this idea here, and Trevor Owens does some interesting riffing off of it here. Continuing the theme, Jeremy Boggs remarked on twitter, “big methodology for me: design, esp. information design. Search is cool, but gotta know what do with the results, how to display & use.”

I’ve got a few thoughts about all of this, but nothing too coherent yet. I’m just gonna put them all out there:

  1. Good God I picked the right profession at the right time. There is such a revolution going on right now in the way we think about scholarship, libraries, access, preservation, and any other concern of librarianship you care to name.
  2. We librarians really need to pick up the pace if we are to have any hope of keeping up with all the non-MLIS folks who are doing interesting ground-breaking work in traditionally LIS areas of research.
  3. Where are the humanities computing programs? And I mean proper ones, please, not moneygrab programs offering false hope of computing industry jobs to desperate humanities students. U of Alberta HUCO is pretty good, but everyone loves their own Alma Mater. O Lazyweb, are there other programs that are producing scholars with the skillsets needed to really DO humanities computing?
  4. Do I need to go get a PhD to really engage with these questions? To do it properly, do we all have to become Stan Ruecker, with degrees in Computer Science, Design, and a humanities discipline? I’m torn between a dread of going back to school and a certainty that I’ll regret it forever if I don’t.
  5. The need to specialize and the need to branch out into other disciplines are at war within me.

Comments

Comment from Dorothea Salo
Time: March 17, 2008, 7:44 am

At MPOW, it’s actually our digital library unit that’s producing humanities scholars. We’ve got a doctoral candidate who’s going to do a TEI critical edition for her dissertation.

I am extremely skeptical that a Ph.D will help you engage with these questions, unless you manage to find an EXCEPTIONAL program with an EXCEPTIONAL mentor. Humanities computing is PRAXIS, not theory, and Ph.D programs are unbelievably horrible at inculcating praxis.

Comment from Pam
Time: March 17, 2008, 11:43 am

If you’d just come back to play at the UofA, we could discuss this in the detail that it requires.

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