A Visit to Down House

Down House sign

Many times I have written before that I want to write more. Life during and after a PhD can do things to one’s attitudes to writing and particularly public writing. Blogging is an excercise that requires practice. Blogging post-Facebook and post-Twitter is very different to what it was before them. A culture of constant surveilance is paradoxically entrenched in a hyper-competitive economy of attention in which people won’t click on your links even if you pay them to.

When people in a competitive culture realize that attention is a commodity, and that ‘sharing’ can be measured, those not keen to non-self-interested collaboration are likely to use lack of attention as a form of capital. I personally find it hilarious some people are so keen on paywalling their research in this climate, in which no one seems to care about what anyone else is doing. The selfie is the sign of the times after all. (Remember those years in which the main criticism of blogging was that it was all about narcissism? How little did we know of the joys of social media and “viral” selfies!).

Anyway I wanted to write this quick blog post about our visit last weekend to Down House. It was a gorgeous Spring day and that was perfect as the house has a lovely garden, and one can go walk along the beautiful Sandwalk, Darwin’s own “thinking path”. The web site in the previous link will give you a good idea of how awesome this place is and what an excellent job has English Heritage done to preserve it and keep it open to the public. It is more than worth the entry price and visiting it will be a great experience for adults and children alike. I took a lot of pictures but the ones on the Down House web site (and the 360 panoramics if you have the right software in your computer) will give you a very good idea of how gorgeous the place is.

I have been fascinated and intrigued by Darwin’s life and work since I was a kid.  (Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne‘s Darwin: A Graphic Biography is a lovely book that should get anyone who isn’t already into Darwin). Visiting Down House was a very good complement to the fragmented knowledge I had of Darwin’s life. Some bullet points of the ideas I took with me:

  • The vital importance of the work that English Heritage does in preserving England’s historical buildings and cultural memory, keeping them alive for the enjoyment of the community and visitors alike, turning an educational activity into one of leisure and enjoyment and vice versa
  • The beauty of the Kent countryside in Spring
  • Confirming that Darwin was born into social, economic and intellectual privilege, and that his name and fame are not independent from that of his ancestors, the same way some of his children’s academic careers cannot be disconnected from that of their father
  • Confirming that Darwin’s greatest achievement was a consequence of his leaving England and traveling on the Beagle
  • Confirming that intellectual/academic/scientific work cannot be disconnected from its social and material conditions of production
  • Confirming that Darwin couldn’t have possibly worked and published his theories had he suffered adverse material and social conditions
  • Discovering how much Darwin packed into his day, even when he was physically ill, performing lots of physical activities such as handwriting, working in his garden, doing his walk every day before lunchtime
  • Confirming he did not have to do the washing up and other domestic chores
  • Confirming that walking and exercising are important parts of the researcher’s day, providing time and space to think differently
  • Discovering the importance that the post had for Darwin’s work; he used written correspondence over the post the way some of us use email, blogs and social media to communicate with our colleagues
  • Confirming that in spite of the long itme he self-embargoed his Origin, Darwin did share a lot of information with others, via the post
  • Confirming that Darwin used librarianship and information science skills to do what he did; that collecting, cataloguing, classification and curating were essential parts of his research;
  • Confirming that taxonomies, schemes, metadata creation was a contribution to knowledge
  • Seeing with my very own eyes how beautiful and amazing his journal and notebooks were; that he wrote and drew, combining the written word with visual thinking
  • That his scientific publishing career was defined by the culture and conditions of his time, and also spurred by competition rather than collaboration
  • That there’s no such thing as total originality, and that scientific/academic success is not just about the ideas or the work (ask Wallace)
  • That research that does not get disseminated becomes forgotten and ignored, and that ideas that get widely disseminated do live a life of their own outside their original platforms/vehicles of dissemination
  • That “science”, in spite of its pretense of “objectivity”, is always-already the result of empyrical experience and the particular conditions/positioning of the subject that does the research
  • That gardens are a work of art and a source of scientific and literary/poetic inspiration and discovery

Visiting Down House definitely inspired me to try to keep on writing more, to keep using my notebooks and to keep doodling and sketching.

Ah, and we bought Ruth Patel’s Darwin: A life in Poems at the shop. Listening to a couple of the poems in the voice of the author in the audio guide along the Sandwalk was a moving experience, though one also felt the urge to remove the earphones to listen to the sounds of that beautiful English Spring day.



On Being “Productive”

I often find it hard to do everything I want to do. Sometimes what I want to do is what I am supposed to be doing, other times what I want to do is work that goes beyond my current job description. I am very much aware that I am very privileged to have the job I have, and that this being an academic job of a certain characteristics I am also very privileged to be paid to do things I actually enjoy very much (often “enjoying” is an understatement, as I get paid to do work I truly love doing).

One of my constant concerns is how much effort it requires to remain “human”. I suppose most people in very high profile jobs have armies of minions who do all the chores that the rest of us have to deal with in order to not fall into complete chaos. I am also fascinated by how much time and energy is invested in doing necessary work that does not necessarily feel “productive” in its definition of “generative” and “creative”.

For many being creative is what happens doing hobbies, not everyday work, or the work that pays the rent. I believe we can be creative doing almost anything, and it’s a bit of a shame that the definition of “productive” has been co-opted by managerialism, to the point that the adjective is endlessly deconstructed in treatises and postings composed with academic top-of-the-range laptops and tablets in every corner of higher education institutions in the ‘developed’ world. One has to be careful these days about using the adjective (“productive”) because one may come across as some kind of managerial bureaucrat robot working for the Dark Side™.

There is a tension then, between “work” and “creative, generative work”, and a tension between enjoying the work one does to get paid and not enjoying working for free/working when you feel you shouldn’t be working even when you fully enjoy the work you are doing. It should not be a requisite to enjoy a break from work to have to fully dislike the work one does. In other words, holidays/breaks should not only be for those who dislike working on what they work. If you enjoy working on what you do, you shouldn’t be expected to work all the time on it just because you enjoy it. Or: enjoying your work does not mean you don’t need to have a break from it.

This is also connected, in my brain, with the idea that one needs to be working all the time. All the time. Do people in academia really work all the time? And, how many hours of the time we say we are working are we really being productive, in the sense of being generative and creative? Of course these could be research questions, but I am not asking these questions as a researcher, I am just asking them because I have thought about these and because I want to ask them. I feel it’s important to think about these things, about why we as academics, at least some of us it seems, spend so much of our time worrying about not doing enough, or about doing too much, or about any of its combinations.

On 10 April 2014 I created and shared a one-question “quick and dirty” poll on Twitter, asking the following question:

In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being “productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise?

I received 7o responses during a period of 20 days. Then I stopped receiving them when the retweets stopped.

As today is a bank holiday Monday in the UK and we spent it mostly doing work (work as in, ahem, “work”) I thought it would be nice to share the results before more time passed. The survey was supposed to be quick and dirty after all.

Here’s how the responses look:

Results, pie chart and table In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being "productive", in the sense of "generative; creative", in the field of your professional expertise?
In average, how many hours per day would you say you are being “productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise? [Click to enlarge]
Between 1 and 3 hours 13 19%
Between 3 and 5 hours 34 49%
Between 5 and 8 hours 16 23%
8 hours 2 3%
10 hours 1 1%
More than 10 hours 3 4%
Other 1 1%

[“Other” had the clarification “it depends on the day”.]

I found it frankly astonishing 3 respondents said that they were “”productive”, in the sense of “generative; creative”, in the field of your professional expertise” in average more than 10% a day. Needless to say I also find it hard to believe anyone would be in average “generative; creative” in their own field for more than 8 hours a day. So many other things need to be done during an average day that the thought of a professional being “generative; creative” in a professional field for more than 8 hours in average means, to me, they probably don’t have to deal with any of the other things that require our attention every day.

Anyway it is clear I am not doing anything scientific here. It is not my intention. I am just sharing these thoughts with you because I felt like it.

I refuse to think I am lazy (I am not, I am one of those who feels he is working all the time after all), I’d like to think I am just being honest that other stuff that is not necessarily “generative; creative” takes a lot of time, and often it is just basically necessary to remain “human”. Perhaps the rise of “life-logging” will mean that we can perhaps start seeing more metrics about how much time we spend doing some stuff, like taking out the rubbish, walking between say the toilet and the desk, deleting spam emails or editing blog posts. People like Thoreau, Whitman, Darwin, wrote they were being productive when they walked. They were not being “productive” by sitting at their desks worrying about not being productive.

But I digress. Let’s get back to work.


A #HASTAC2014 Conference Tweets Archive

HASTAC 2014, Lima, Perú

Like last year, I attempted to archive the tweets tagged with the HASTAC annual conference’s official hashtag (this year #HASTAC2014).

The resulting dataset is a CSV file containing 3748 tweets tagged with #HASTAC2014 (case not sensitive).

The first tweet in the dataset is dated 19/04/2014 23:10:50 Lima, Perú time and the last one is dated 27/04/2014 15:00:54 also Lima, Perú time. The file also contains equivalent times in GMT.

HASTAC is an alliance of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning for the 21st century. Since 2002, HASTAC (“haystack”) has served as a community of connection where 11,500+ members share news, tools, research, insights, and projects to promote engaged learning for a global society.

HASTAC 2014: Hemispheric Pathways: Critical Makers in International Networks, the 6th international conference for the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory,  was hosted by the Ministerio Cultura of Lima, Perú, from 6pm Wednesday 23 April to 1pm Sunday 27 April 2014 local time. In order to avoid the inclusion of spam tweets the minimum number of followers a person had to have to be included in the archive was two.

I harvested the tweets with (several!) Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheets (TAGS version 5.1, by Martin Hawksey).

Please note that both research and experience show that the Twitter search API isn’t 100% reliable. Large tweet volumes affect the search collection process as well. The API might “over-represent the more central users”, not offering “an accurate picture of peripheral activity” (González-Bailón, Sandra, et al. 2012). Therefore, it cannot be guaranteed this file contains each and every tweet tagged with #HASTAC2014 during the indicated period.

[It should go without saying but perhaps it must also be noted that some conference tweets might have used other variations of the hashtag. Logically those were not included in this collection. Therefore it cannot be said that even all tweets tagged #HASTAC2014 represent all the Twitter activity around the 2014 conference.]

The file includes raw data and it might require refining including deduplication. The data is shared as is.

The file is openly accessible via figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2014): #HASTAC2014 Conference Tweets Archive from 19 April to 25 April 2014. figshare.

[I have just published this and the doi might take some time to become active].

The URL for the dataset is


The file is shared with a Creative Commons- Attribution license (CC-BY).

I have been archiving conference tweets and sharing backchannel datasets for some time now. I am keen on promoting the study of academic conference networks on Twitter. By openly sharing the resulting datasets and by blogging about it throughout time, I have also been openly documenting my own learning curve trying to archive tweets and how to do it better.  If you use or refer to this data in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

I will hopefully have time to finish and publish another post with more detail about the HASTAC conference backchannels soon.

Thank you for reading and sharing. If you attended the conference, I hope you had a nice time. As usual, I am sorry I could not attend in person.


#scholarAfrica: Hello, Nairobi

A view of the Nairobi skyline CC-BY Ernesto Priego
A view of the Nairobi skyline

I am in Nairobi for the Promoting Discoverability of African Scholarship workshop organised by the OpenUCT Initiative in collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation of New York. I am very grateful to Michelle Willmers, the Carnegie Corporation and everyone at UCT for inviting me to participate.

The speaker line-up includes:

Bruce Becker (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, UbuntuNet Alliance, CHAIN-REDS, South Africa and Italy)

Michelle Willmers (OpenUCT, Cape Town)

Tezira Lore (International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi)

Firoze Manji (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, Senegal)

Kaitlin Thaney (Director, Mozilla Science Lab, New York)

It is a real privilege to be here. As a Mexican and Latin American I cannot but verify the close connection we have with African cultures in general and in specific with the challenges and opportunities in terms of academic dissemination, discoverability and recognition. The kinship is both moving and inspiring, and for me a reminder of how much remains to be done to bring that relationship to the fore and learn more from each other.

Kaitlin Thaney (Director, Mozilla Science Lab, New York), who is here to present at the workshop as well,  has written a post you should read, here.
If you are interested in the kind of apporach we’ll be taking the following resources may be of interest:

Follow the discussion on #scholarAfrica

#MLA14: A First Look (Parts I-IV)

#mla14 Friday 10 January Cirrus Word Cloud

I have been posting some results of our look at the tweets we gathered from the #MLA14 backchannel.

Chris Zarate and I put together  a dataset which includes the 27,491 unique tweets, posted between Sunday September 01 2014 at 20:35:07 and Wednesday January 15 2014 at 16:16:41Central Time.

We have now created a sub-set that collects the tweets posted during the actual convention, i.e. from Thursday 9 January 6:04:45 AM to Sunday 12 2014 23:32:46 Central Time.

For the first part of this series, click here.

For the second part, click here.

For the third part, click here.

For the fourth part, click here.

This is an ongoing series.

At HASTAC: #OpenAccess Is Not Just for Christmas

HASTAC banner

Originally posted on HASTAC.

This morning on Twitter I came across the headline “Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals“. The tweet containing the headline and link was tagged with #OpenAccess.

Biased as I am, I immediately assumed the reason to boycott would be the toll-access model in which academics are alienated from their own work through the imposition of copyright transfers and often long embargoes; a model that imposes considerable friction/barriers of access to the general public and other academics from institutions that might not subscribe to those toll-access journals. I thought this before actually having clicked on the link. I was on the train. When I got to my desk I read the piece.

The link above is a para-meta-news item (not sure what the correct journalistic term is) about the opinion piece written by Professor Randy Sheckman, 2013 Nobel prize winner in physiology or medicine: “How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science“.

Having read the picece, it seemed to me the focus of the article was not mainly open access, or the negative aspects of toll-access as a model. The piece makes a critique of “luxury journals” and of the system of “incentives” that drives academics (scientists in this case) to publish in those journals. The article is a very important critique of the negative aspects of reputation as an incentive to publish. Coming from a Nobel prize winner, this is hopefully likely to be widely distributed and hopefully heard. Professor Scheckman denounces how the current academic system often uses place of publication (i.e. what journal, or more specifically, what journal brand) as a proxy for quality of science: “appearing in these titles often leads to grants and professorships.”

Professor Scheckman is also editor-in-chief of eLife, an open access journal funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society. (You will see eLife in his list of publications, as well as PlosOne, and yes, also Science, Nature and Cell).  He argues that as an alternative to the reign of luxury journals:

There is a better way, through the new breed of open-access journals that are free for anybody to read, and have no expensive subscriptions to promote. Born on the web, they can accept all papers that meet quality standards, with no artificial caps.

I want to emphasise it is very good news that a winner of the highest accolade a scientist can get is making this statement. His opinion will be respected and will hopefully be influential. This is good. It makes us all who have been talking about how misguided it is to equate brand reputation (or even worse, access model) with research quality very happy.


It is interesting that the critique focuses mainly on the (many times undeserved) reputation associated with scientific luxury journals. The focus however is not the need for wider public access. The fact that toll-access reproduces and entrenches the privilege of the wealthiest countries and institutions is not considered. The fact that luxury journals are also offering open access “options” at very high fees payable by the authors or their funders is not considered either.

I also worry that there might be the perpetuation of a general feeling that open access is just for those who can afford to publish open access. I don’t mean “afford” only in financial terms. A Nobel prize winner tells us that the academic reputation incentive system is wrong, that “appearing in these titles often leads to grants and professorships”, and yes, we look at his publication list and there they are: Science, Nature and Cell. If you are a PhD student or Early Career Researcher, what is the message you get?

The problem is even more complicated when the same luxury brands are “embracing” open access by merely inverting their business model, where instead of charging unrealistic amounts to institutional libraries (or users when one needs access to individual articles or issues) it is the author who gets charged an unrealistic amount. The message from these publishers is “if you want to make your research widely and publicly available –which in many countries now means if you want your research to “count” for your appraisal/assessment/keep you in employment- you have to pay us what we are losing from not restricting it.” See this post by Professor Melisa Terras. If a Professor in a World-class university finds the processing charges offensive, what is left for the rest of us hoping to develop our careers in smaller institutions, not to mention those in the developing world?

Luxury or legacy journals embracing open access by imposing ridiculously/unrealistically high Article Processing Charges are also contaminating the sentiment amongst academics towards open access as an option. “The new breed of Open Access journals”, as Professor Scheckman calls it, includes smaller, lesser known journals that are publishing top-quality research and engaging in innovative publishing, editing and peer review methods. They are not always funded (not all open access journals enjoy the institutional funding that eLife has) and therefore need to find a way to become financially sustainable. Reasonable, context-specific APCs are an option, but the legacy publishers have done a great job at bringing that otherwise viable and ethical business option into disrepute. There is a famous [black] list of “predatory” open access journals. It is interesting it took us so long to come up with a black list of predatory toll-access journals.

Elsewhere I argued that open access has to be an option for graduate students and early career researchers (academics at all stages of their careers, really). It cannot be only for Christmas, or only for those who have already succeeded in the reputational system. It is clear to me that at the moment only a combination of open access and toll-access publications will keep the research funding administrators content. Nevertheless it should be possible for all of us in academia to embrace open access without feeling this will jeopardise our careers.

More senior academics developed their careers in different contexts. It is inspiring and encouraging that they support open access. But if open access is only supported once careers have been developed embracing -supporting- the system that privileges “luxury journals” over newer, even perhaps grassroots open access initiatives, how will things ever change?

There is a tendency to believe “the system” is unchangeable. It is invisible yet ubiquitous and pervasive. It is everywhere and nowhere, and the individual -graduate students and ECRs- feel they cannot but play the rules of the old regime. It is essential that academics that are still developing their careers do not think that only those who have already succeeded -got the grant, got the professorship, got tenure, got the Nobel- can afford to support and publish open access actively and vocally.

Twitter for Engagement with Research. A Survey.

Question 1 answers, Twitter for engagement with research survey, Tuesday 3 December 2013 12:24pm GMT, Chart CC-BY Ernesto Priego

We’ve been conducting a quick (really!) survey on using Twitter for engagement with research.

If you have already responded, thank you. Thank you as well if you have shared it on Twitter.

We are interested in learning more about the ways in which Twitter users engage with academic research. This quick survey contains 15 simple questions and should be pretty quick and straight-forward to complete.

It is a requirement that those answering this survey have an active Twitter account, but we will not ask you to share your username.

We are committed to protecting your personal information and respecting your privacy. We do not ask for your Twitter username, name, email address, telephone numbers or address, but the demographic data we require means we will ask you about your country of residence, age, the name of the institution you work for and main academic area of interest.

In obtaining your cooperation to participate in the survey, we undertake not to mislead you in any way about the nature of the research we are conducting, the way in which the data is collected and the use that will be made of the survey results.

All of the information that you provide will be treated as confidential and will only be used for research purposes. Your comments will not be identified as belonging to you, instead they will be combined with those gathered from other survey participants, and will be analysed as part of a group. We do not use any of the information you provide for direct marketing or other non-research activities. We might use any findings from this survey in an open access research paper or blog post, along the whole dataset.

Your participation is voluntary.

To complete the survey, go here.

Blogging at City: New Term, New Academic Year…

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Blog
Image taken from https://blogs.city.ac.uk/

I have set up a blog at City blogs. It’s at http://blogs.city.ac.uk/epriego/.

This blog will remain my main headquarters, but on my City blog I will keep track of my academic and extra-curricular activities. I will also use it to share ideas and references relevant to the courses I lead or participate in at City University London.

It means a bit of a duplication but I migrated some recent updates I published here on this blog there, as a way of providing some context for City students about what I’ve been doing recently.

72nd World Science Fiction Convention: Diversity in Speculative Fiction: Digital Comics Panel (Call for Papers)

#Loncon3 logo

Yesterday I posted on the Comics Grid blog a call for papers for a digital comics panel to take place within the Academic Programme of Loncon 3, 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

I have copied and pasted the call below.

Call for Papers

Diversity in Speculative Fiction: Digital Comics Panel

Loncon 3, 72nd World Science Fiction Convention

Thursday 14 to Monday 18 August 2014, London, UK



The academic programme at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, is offering the opportunity for academics from across the globe to share their ideas with their peers and other convention attendees.

To reflect the history and population of  the host city, London, United Kingdom, the theme of the academic programme is “Diversity”.

This is a call for academic papers on digital comics. Proposals are particularly welcome on the works (and adaptations of the work) of the Guests of Honour, London as a location and under-represented areas of research in digital comics, particularly those fitting within the ‘speculative fiction‘ label.

By digital comics we mean any comics (printed or not) making uses of digital technologies, as well as media-specific comics made to be read on digital devices (online comics, webcomics, motion comics, mobile comics). Examples of these may include, but are not limited to:

  • Digital comics: media, medium, form, genre?
  • Digital comics and market diversity in the comics publishing industry
  • Digital archives of comics and questions of digitisation and preservation
  • London, geolocation, psychogeography and mobile comics
  • Connections between computer technologies and speculative fiction in digital comics
  • Adaptation, translation and transmediality in digital comics
  • Representation of alternative bodies, gender and sexual orientations in digital comics
  • Digital comics by black and ‘minority ethnic’ authors and publishers
  • Representation of characters of different ethnic origin in digital comics
  • Social class and digital comics: issues of access, representation, production
  • Approaches to non-English language digital comics

The deadline for submission is 31 December 2013.

Participants will be notified by 1 February 2014.

All presenters must have acquired convention membership by 1 May 2014.

Please read the Academic Programme’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Abstracts will be included in the Academic Programme Book, which will be available to download from the Loncon website, and selected papers might be invited for submission to an edited volume showcasing the diversity of scholarship in current academic research and The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.

To propose a paper (presentations should not exceed 20 minutes), please submit a 300 word abstract to Ernesto Priego at Ernesto.Priego.1@city.ac.uk.

At HASTAC: Towards Fairer Access and Citation of Versions of Record: On the the UK Parliament BIS Committee’s Open Access Recommendations

HASTAC banner

On my blog at HASTAC, I shared a post with some thoughts on the the UK Parliament BIS Committee’s Open Access recommendations (here).

In brief:

We need to emphasise that Gold OA is completely compatible with institutional repositories. In my opinion a Green-only option that leaves the paywalled business model uninterrogated fails to tackle what I perceive as the biggest obstacle to fairer (legal) access to knowledge.

Mandating Green OA is a positive step in the right direction, but it might merely provide a temporary paliative to what still keeps most (version of record) research inaccessible by many on a timely and sustainable fashion.

At HASTAC: On DH, Transparency and Belonging

Window Photo CC-BY Ramesh NG
Photo CC-BY Ramesh NG

Originally posted at HASTAC: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/ernesto-priego/2013/09/10/dh-transparency-and-belonging

I seldom blog opinion pieces about current academic affairs these days. I force myself to hyperlink thoroughly and the amount of time it takes me I cannot currently justify. The term is about to start and I’m focused on module design and lots of editorial work kickstarting the initial months of our Ubiquity Press-published stage at The Comics Grid. So I often find myself sharpshooting ideas on Twitter, without being able to articulate them properly. Hoping to offer a less unstructured ideas, I have quickly dropped some thoughts below.

It was only until last week that I came across and read Elijah Meeks’ post, “How Collaboration Works and How It Can Fail”. It’s very good. I can’t say I have experience collaborating in the way Elijah describes, but I know it is the case of many in the Digital Humanities (DH). I really enjoyed it.

I am personally concerned with collaboration, and Internet or Web-mediated colaboration a lot. I like to think about alternative ways of enticing collaboration between individuals from different disciplines, institutions, cultures, countries, contexts.

Personally, I have tried to be as transparent as possible about what I am doing and working on. It’s not always possible, but for example I try as much as I can to keep everyone in the loop about developments around and within The Comics Grid, and I have constantly enabled mechanisms for open participation amongst people I know and don’t know, through google forms, open calls, etc. The poor team behind the Comics Grid often get a lot of collective emails.

Of course this is not enough to enable collaboration. Academia is incredibly competitive. Competition moves at neck-breaking speeds these days. Often you feel like you can’t afford to sleep at nights for fear you will miss out on one opportunity or another.

We live of course in an era in which transparency and the digital technologies we use to communicate to each other and publish our work are both complementary and at odds with each other. It gets more complicated when the mechanisms for academic recognition and promotion are not properly adapted to a more recent culture of immediate publishing and dissemination.

This double-bind (in case it’s still cool to use that term) is at the crux of academic collaboration and career advancement: the culture relies too much on what is not said and when it’s not said: for academics, what is edited out is as important as what is edited in; there can only be the inclusion of some if others are excluded. Making this process transparent is complicated because collegiality and professional relationships rely not only in pragmatic mutual dependency but (hopefully) in values like mutual trust and friendship.

Recently it saddens me to realise that often DH has not been able to overcome some of the most painful traits of ‘traditional’ academia. As if academia were closer to professional football, where players are forced to compete not only against the other team but against each other– come the transfer window, you are likely to be playing against the team you are hoping will offer the big bucks for you.

Elijah is completely right when he argues that “if you can’t pay a person what the position should entail, you need to entice them with ownership.” I used to believe (I still want to believe) that it should be possible, given the technologies we have available to us, to be willing to collaborate with others without having money or even [complete] ownership. What I mean by this is that if we for one minute stopped thinking of the Other as a de facto competitor in a professional, intellectual, reputational and consequently financial sense, if we were guided by the wish to include and create, we would be working towards more inclusive platforms and more inclusive, transparents methods of collaboration and production.

There is, of course, lots of good will and fantastic camaraderie in the field(s) of DH. No need to emphasise that again. A concentrated focus on competition and opacity is not exclusive of DH, in any case it is an extension of the current systems of academic production, interaction, recognition and promotion. As we engage through technologies that make it possible for almost anyone to find what everyone else is deciding to share online, honest transparency becomes both rarer and more and more needed.

It is precisely because DH works with/on/in/about technologies that are so embedded with possibilities to increase and diversify participation (but also to limit it) is that we wish the field were more transparent about how decisions and processes of inclusion are carried out. No matter how much you love social media it is more and more common to feel like it’s a collection of voices talking to themselves about themselves. When competition is this fierce, in spite of the technically levelled field of interaction, it is as easier to include as it is to exclude. Exclusion tends to promote resentment, and resentment to a deterioration of any social tissue.

This is why careful decisions must be made when sharing information and when developing working groups. Transparency must be demanded equally from the big ‘uns and from the (not for long) small ones. Transparency is about clarity of purpose. Transparency implies making a mission statement, a process, clearly available in a timely fashion. It means allowing others in whilst there is still time to make a difference. Transparency cannot and will not get rid of exclusion. Exclusion of this or that might be at the heart of the academic endeavour, but transparency about the criteria will make a lot of us feel less alienated and make us more understanding of why and how certain things that we care about happen.

In the end what is at the stake is a problem very dear to recent DH: that of identification or belonging.

Are we making our colleagues feel included or excluded?

What are we doing to develop mechanisms of academic collaboration and production, i.e. what methods are we employing to make other colleagues feel welcome and included to participate in ongoing and as-yet-not-created projects, not only as consumers or ‘collaborators’ with the end-product, but during its inception and development?

*With many thanks to my colleague Melonie Fullick for her feedback and encouragement.

If you’d like to leave a comment please do it on the original HASTAC post.  Thank you.

Using Scalar for an Open Look-in-Progress into Arts and Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowships in the UK

I have started using Scalar for a new open work-in-progress. I am looking at some public data about Arts and Humanities postdoctoral fellowships in the United Kingdom.

Who gets arts and humanities postdoctoral fellowships in the UK? How much do these fellowships cost? What kind of outputs do they produce? What are the most frequent keywords in award-winning abstracts? What does this tell us about the state of arts and humanities postdoctoral research in the UK? How could PhD students and Early Career Researchers use this data to make educated decisions?

I hope we can start asking some of those questions, and many more, here.

I’m aware I am most-likely misusing the tool, or giving it a very traditional use. I wanted to document my ongoing research on postdoc funding opportunities in the UK openly online and I was debating what was the best way of doing it. I thought I would give Scalar a go, as it is a fascinating platform.

As it is an ongoing work-in-progress (or “look-in-progress” as I’ve also called it) I will aim at keep updating the site and to add new content as soon as I come up with it…