We’ve had a great year in the MLA’s Committee for Information Technology. As a committee, we review and revise guidelines for evaluating digital scholarship, organize convention programming, and generally serve as a point of connection between the MLA and its constituency when urgent technology-related issues in teaching and research in the literature and languages crop up. Over the past year, we’ve deliberated issues like open-access institutional data, digital citizenship, the ethics of student digital research, and the history of the CIT itself. (For more on this last issue, check out the CIT Timeline created by MLA archivist Liza Young!)
We also organized three events at the upcoming MLA Convention in New York City. Our programming will kick off on Thursday evening, when Andrew Pilsch and I will lead an interactive workshop, Commonsense Information Security for Academics. On Friday afternoon, Beth and I will lead Hacking the Scholarly Workflow, another interactive workshop full of nifty tips and demonstrations, featuring Nicky Agate (MLA’s own!), Eric Detweiler, Jason B. Jones, Amanda Licastro, Andrew Pilsch, and Zuleima Ugalda. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, Angel David Nieves will moderate Open Pedagogy: Practices in Digital Citizenship and the Ethics of Care, featuring Brian Croxall, Geoffrey Gimse, Viola Lasmana, and Zach Whalen. We hope to cultivate a robust Twitter conversation around these events, and we’ll post a debriefing summary afterward so that even if you are not attending, you can keep up.
In the summer, we said goodbye to outgoing members Patricia Hswe, Daniel Powell, and Zach Whalen, and welcomed incoming members Cedric May, Hannah McGregor, and Amanda Visconti. With these new members come new strengths in digital pedagogy, sound studies, critical race studies, non-traditional publication, and digital dissertations. Beth Seltzer, Sébastien Dubreil, and I are also still serving, though Sébastien and I will cycle out in the summer of 2018. In October 2017, our first face-to-face meeting of this cohort, we articulated an exciting agenda for the next year, during which we intend to explore questions of critical making, community building, self-care in academia, and the future of peer review. We are also interested in integrating the committee’s activities around an annual theme to add coherence to our labors.
To this end, we’ve tentatively decided to organize our 2018 efforts on the theme of “scholarly making,” broadly considered—that is, in terms of research, pedagogy, and public outreach. Maker-based research, 3D technologies, gaming, and podcasting are areas of particular interest. At the same time, we are also exploring ways to help MLA members gain foundational technical skills (searching, troubleshooting, working on the command line). We also want to pair these new thematic interests with a more flexible, diverse palette of events, including panels, roundtables, workshops, interviews, demonstrations, and podcasts. Watch this space if you are interested in presenting on these topics or attending these events for the 2019 MLA Convention!
And speaking of the Convention, we are also exploring new ways to make this jam-packed, four-day extravaganza less daunting and exhausting. For example, we are in the early stages of considering the creation of a self-care Twitter bot. The MLA Convention is great, but it can be stressful, so we want to create a bot that will remind you to stretch, drink water, take time off, have a conversation that isn’t about work, et cetera. When tweeted at, the bot will respond with personalized advice. Beth has been actively at work on these projects, and you can see a sample of her work in this multimedia post she crafted about the DH-related panels at the MLA. Use this post to find panels to attend at the convention next week or to explore current and future trends in DH scholarship and pedagogy. (Meanwhile, you can check out the MLA’s current efforts to improve the convention by reading—and sharing—the 2018 meeting’s code of conduct.)
Finally, we are also poised to begin a major project involving the central core of our remit as a committee: the maintenance of standards for the evaluation of digital scholarship, particularly as it relates to tenure and promotion. (See a list of these and links to these six guidelines under “Committee Resources.”) We feel that this is a new era in digital scholarship and hope to create a suite of new resources, perhaps in the style of Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, that respond to our particular moment in time. These issues include the ethics of doing digital research with graduate students, the pressing need to secure information privacy and academic freedom, the growth of digital projects for master’s theses and dissertations, the interest in digital publishing on the part of grant institutions, the need to evaluate issues of process and collaboration (and thus evaluate a project beyond the finished product), and the position of post-docs, fellows, and alt-ac employees.
This task is a large one, and it will likely take years of coordination to achieve. To begin this process, in Spring 2018, we will be launching a new collaboratively authored series of blog posts, “Topics in the Evaluation of Digital Scholarship.” These posts will essentially function as brainstorming tools, and we hope that you will comment or reach out to us CIT members on Twitter with any issue related to digital scholarship that you’d hope to see in a new set of guidelines.
Happy New Year, and hope you see you at the Convention!