Rethinking How Scholarship Works at MLA17

Friday at the Modern Language Association conference, I’ll be presiding at a session entitled “That’s Not How Scholarship Works! Exploring the Process of Multimodal Critical Making.” This panel builds on something I’ve talked about before at ProfHacker: thinking beyond the essay and making interesting, unusual, and playful things as part of academic work. The scholarly works selected for self-reflexive analysis include works drawing on a range of methods and platforms, from comics and visualizations to webtexts and bots. These featured works include:

  • Roger Whitson and Jason Helms, “Making Comics as Scholarship” explores the editorial complexities of working in alternate modes. Working from 2011 to 2015, Salter and Whitson asked Helms and the other participants of the Digital Humanities Quarterly special issue devoted to “Comics as Scholarship” to write their work in sequential art. Whitson and Helms’s booth will present both finished and in-process work from that special issue, as well as analyze the complications for traditional editorial assumptions when confronted with scholarly comic books.
  • Helen Burgess, “Publishing Things in Hyperhiz 13” recounts her experience publishing the highly popular issue 13 on “Kits, Plans, Schematics.” The issue was predicated on the question “how do you publish things as opposed to, what is standard for many journals, essays and texts?” In addition to the actual issue, Rutgers University Press helped Hyperrhiz put together a physical exhibit of the kits themselves, some of which Burgess proposes to display. During the roundtable, Burgess will discuss how conversations evolved during the process of editing the “Kits” issue, and what such conversations might mean to the future of scholarly publishing.
  • Cheryl Ball, “How Design-Editing Really Works in Multimodal Scholarship” presents several videos (2–3 minutes each in length) that discuss best practices for authoring, editing, and publishing multimodal projects. While technologies have dramatically changed since the founding of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, the standards of rhetoricity, accessibility, usability, and sustainability have remained remarkably stable. Ball’s booth will introduce scholars to design-editing so they can adapt these guidelines for their own multimodal projects.
  • Micki Kaufman, “Quantifying Kissinger” investigates the use of new tools in archival work and their impact on transforming how we understand the history surrounding controversial Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kaufman’s booth, in particular, explores how emerging methodologies in distant reading and metadata analysis can be presented in a variety of modalities. How does presenting such data visually, sonically, and spatially — as well as textually — afford new dimensions of interpretation?
  • Tom Scheinfeldt and Clarissa Ceglio, “Critical Unmaking and Collaboration by Design” rethinks the role of collaboration in scholarship by rejecting the scholarly vision that sees collaborators as merely “implementors” of a scholar’s or professor’s vision. Scheinfeldt and Ceglio’s booth will, on the other hand, use doodles, photos, and other artifacts to present a three-part methodology for “unmaking” this paradigm, eliciting different models for collaborative thinking, and mapping the invisible structures in the University that reinstate the implementation model of collaboration.
  • Dan Anderson, “Making on the Edge of Chaos: Recasting Scholarship Through Digital Mindfulness” features a series of scholarly articles published by Anderson in the journal Kairos from 1998, 2003, and 2012. Each of these works of scholarly making represents a foray into an emerging digital edge — for instance, Web frames and forms in 1998, digital video in 2003, and modal interfaces in 2012. Anderson’s booth will demonstrate how a technology-first mindset can create productive chaotic edges where digital modes and scholarship can emerge together, foster increased creativity for scholars, and open pathways for reinvigorating scholarship in ways that can be more mindful.
  • Matt Applegate and Yu Yin To, “Adversarial Design as Multimodal Process: The Digital Manifesto Archive & @DHManifesto_Bot” present a Twitter bot that lines from the Digital Manifesto Archive, an archival resource that aggregates manifestos that are primarily disseminated online. By adopting Carl DiSalvo’s work on adversarial design, where antagonistic or contentious political expression is emphasized, Applegate and To’s booth discusses both how adversarial design informed their work, and how it can have benefits for future directions in multimodal scholarship.
  • Kimon Keramidas, “Interfacing with the History of Personal Computers: Stories and Meta-Conceptual Experiences From A Cross-Platform Scholarly Project” chronicles his experiences working from 2010-15 on The Interface Experience: 40 Years of Personal Computing exhibit, which chronicled the material culture and design histories of personal computer devices. Kerimadas’s booth shows how an ancillary book, website, GitHub repository and other texts developed in tandem with the exhibition played with the expectations of what appears in a catalog or academic monograph by appealing to multiple platforms and anachronistic norms from the 70s and 80s in academic book design.

If you are at MLA, please drop by if you are interested in thinking more broadly about scholarly forms and how we can share and publish our ideas to reach diverse audience. If you aren’t at MLA, I highly recommend following these scholars and their work for inspiration.

[CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User Nicholas]

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