Recent posts

Only a Historian

4 minute read

“The world needs ditch diggers too.” -Judge Smails, Caddyshack (1980) At last week’s Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) symposium, a common refrain could be heard in nearly every presentation: “I’m only a historian.” Uttered apologetically at the beginning of a number of presentations, after two days it became the object of parody and ultimately comprised part of organizer Frédéric Clavert‘s excellent concluding remarks. But despite the snickering each time it was heard, there was little investigation of what was behind this phrase. I think it actually reveals something important about the state of DH, perhaps especially in Europe but hardly exclusively so.1 A generous interpretation would be that stating one is “only a historian” apologizes for a deficit of technical content...

PressForward Joins Forces with OpenEdition

2 minute read

I’m pleased to announce a new partnership between PressForward and OpenEdition. PressForward is the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s project to study and produce alternative means scholarly communication. OpenEdition, led by the Centre for Open Electronic Publishing in Marseille, shares many of the same goals but on a much larger scale: it seeks to develop a sustainable digital platform for publishing scholarly content and will be supported over eight years by a 7 million euro grant funded by the French Higher Education and Research Ministry. Our role at RRCHNM will be to develop and support PressForward’s multilingual integration into OpenEditions’s overall platform. The partnership is being funded by the French Agence nationale de la Recherche’s Equipex program,...

Survivorship Bias, Survivor Guilt, and Opportunity Cost

5 minute read

N.B. For best results, try to get Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” going in your head before proceeding. Two recent blog posts by Larry Cebula and Holger Syme highlight the deep divide that separates the pessimists from the optimists in academia. Cebula explains why he steers his students away from pursuing a career as a professor, essentially arguing that the odds are simply too stacked against them even under the best of conditions. Syme, in contrast, suggests that Cebula’s dream-crushing advice is short-sighted and ultimately dangerous to the long-term viability of the profession. While Cebula’s reasoning will be familiar to many — he’s working the same rich vein as has William Pannapacker under his nom de doom Thomas H. Benton in the...

On Usage Figures

3 minute read

Among the more eye-popping numbers associated with LinkedIn’s recent initial public offering is the 100,000,000 members it claims. What do those hundred million people do with their LinkedIn accounts? If they’re like me, they quietly ignore the endless spam but never quite motivate to unsubscribe. Or maybe they occasionally click through a link returned by a Google search, only to discover the limp résumé of some sad sack looking to escape the Enterprise rent-a-car counter, not the super cool and attractive “Sean Takats” that they went to high school with and are stalking. I’ve been thinking a lot about these kinds of numbers as the Zotero team prepares for a major summit this summer. In our first few years, we...

Zotero Versus

5 minute read

Brian Croxall recently lit up the comment feed at the Chronicle with his ProfHacker comparison of “Zotero vs. Endnote,” where the debate centered mostly around issues of citation fidelity. As Fred Gibbs notes, however, “while citation formatting is one major reason to use bibliographic software, it isn’t necessarily the only or even primary reason, especially in the humanities.” Zotero’s citation functionality was always imagined merely as bait: by providing this labor-saving functionality, Zotero would encourage each user to move her research into what amounted to a fully searchable and shareable relational database that could be subjected to text mining and other analysis. Here researchers could begin to do truly remarkable and new things with their evidence. A few commenters, as...