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Wrapping up my Day of DH

Home sweet home! All in all, my Day of DH 2014 today was a pretty decent one. I was able to:

  • Attended a workshop dealing with my future employment;
  • Supported my faculty association by making it to the Spring Annual Meeting;
  • Met my writing quota for the day;
  • And didn’t fall in the stream on my way home (more on that later).

I love the feeling of a community that I got today by following the #DayofDH hashtag. Anecdotally, it looks like we spend just as much time in meetings and doing administrative work than actually ‘doing DH,’ but – I have to remind myself – meetings and administrative work are what makes doing DH possible. I wonder if in a few years, if we do some historical data mining of these Day of DHes, if we’ll be seeing admin work go up, or admin work go down.

And I made it home dry. My path home initially looked pretty doubtful:

IMG_20140408_184415The path was washed out, and it took some adventurous cross-forest plunging to make it out to another route home. All kind of weird for a former big city person like me, who had a pretty epic sixty minute subway ride to get to my graduate school, but all in all, pretty cool.

And now that I’m home, Day of DH 2014 is officially over… See you all next year.

Sometimes I can almost feel my blood pressure drop when I get to this exact moment on my walk home (i.e. almost in the door), so it seemed like a fitting place to end.
Sometimes I can almost feel my blood pressure drop when I get to this exact moment on my walk home (i.e. almost in the door), so it seemed like a fitting place to end.

Woohoo!

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 6.14.00 PM

This Day of DH wasn’t just about meetings, I also wrote 1,000 words. Rough words, true. Many of which will end up on the cutting floor, almost certainly. But 1,000 words. And that doesn’t even count any of the few hundreds I wrote for this blog.

Working Late, On the Metaphorical Treadmill

Despite me thinking today would be all rain and gloom, the sun has appeared. I hope the window cleaners come by soon..
Despite me thinking today would be all rain and gloom, the sun has appeared. I hope the window cleaners come by soon..

One downside of attending a workshop on tenure is that it starts bouncing around your head for the rest of the day. It’s now 6PM, I’ve been on campus since around 8:30AM, and will probably still be here for another half hour, perhaps an hour. Cue the world’s smallest violin, I know, but bear in mind that today was a working-lunch kind of day. The goal is to get to 1,000 words, and not waste too much time blogging for DayofDH.

It’s funny though, being a digital humanist in my case means both the joy of abstract exploration, but also working within the structures of being on the tenure track.

A lot of what I deal with is a low-level form of stress, and a wee bit of imposter syndrome. I abstractly know that I should be okay: I work all the time, I’m successful in publishing papers and now a book, my teaching scores are high, and my annual reviews are positive. But there’s always this feeling that I should do more, publish more, win more grants, write another book, etc. So I do that.. and then as soon as good news comes, I end up feeling like I should do even more. It’s sort of like a treadmill, and part of the difficulty is the juggling of long-term goals (my second sole-authored monograph project, which I suspect will take at least another two years to whip into shape) with short-term ones (articles).

Anyways, I know it’s all “world’s smallest violin” – I work in a position of extreme privilege, and part of that probably implores me to work even harder. And at least I know when I get home tonight, I can call it a day.

What’s on my desk? Reading up on new fields (to me)

IMG_20140408_144633It isn’t all digital here in Hagey Hall (indeed, given the overtaxed electrical system, if it was the breakers would have blown more than they already have). I actually do quite a bit of reading as I work with web archives, as I try to grapple with the field. A few things:

Some technical books on TCP/IP. A bit of a weird choice, and I think I made one colleague think I was taking networking extension courses or something (probably not a bad idea, actually). But as I do more and more work with web archives, I’ve decided I really need to know how the web and the broader Internet work. What was their history? How did they come to be? How is the information actually transmitted from computer to computer? It gets a bit philosophical, but in this desire to understand what it is we take for granted, I was inspired by Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms.

Many books and reports on digital preservation. I’ve been taking a bit of a crash course in what historians might need to know, from playing with Archivematica, to reading government documents and textbooks, to reading blogs (notably the Library of Congress’s ‘The Signal’), and so forth.

Tucked away, a book on Canadian copyright, one of the banes of my existence.

Looking around though, the rest of my book is a lot of paperwork: three five-plicate travel documents, an author contract, a proposal that I’ve been cooking up with First World War soldier data. Plus lots of old coffee mugs, that probably need to be rinsed and returned to the departmental ‘kitchen’ (i.e. mail room with bar fridge and sink).

Of course, in the other direction, are the goodies: my workstation, and then lots of hard drives. This one below has a few hundred gigabytes of web archives on it (don’t worry, the important stuff is backed up on another drive). While there are better ways to store it, I want to process data with them, so really just love having it on my desk, connected to my computer with a Thunderbolt cable.

It's a nice hard drives, but our curtains in this building are pretty awful. They're legit vintage.
It’s a nice hard drives, but our curtains in this building are pretty awful. They’re legit vintage.

Kicking the Day Off

A really quick post as I unpack into my office and rush off to something on the north end of campus. One of the best parts of my routine here at the University of Waterloo is that I get to walk to work – through an alpaca farm. My walk to work is decidedly un-digital: my time to unpack, think about what I’m going to do, and look at animals. Sounds hokey, but it’s really relaxing.

I walk through a farm on days when I can't cut through the forest (i.e. rainy/snowy days like today).
I walk through a farm on days when I can’t cut through the forest (i.e. rainy/snowy days like today).

And then when I get to my nice, warm office – which is surprisingly looking messy again despite cleaning it last week – I’m ready to work. Or in this case, drop my stuff off to head to a meeting. :)

Chances are if we've collaborated or chatted during work hours, this is where I'm doing it.
Chances are if we’ve collaborated or chatted during work hours, this is where I’m doing it.

My Day of DH: Tomorrow’s Plan

Before calling it a night, doing the final scans of Twitter (big election in Quebec tonight!), e-mail, and well, writing this Day of DH post!
Before calling it a night, doing the final scans of Twitter (big election in Quebec tonight!), e-mail, and well, writing this Day of DH post!

This eve before Day of DH 2014, I wanted to write a quick post about what tomorrow’s going to look like. This sees me taking a break from my new academic/relaxation hobby, which is to read engaging non-fiction with an eye to thinking about how my own writing can be improved. I just finished This Machine Kills Secrets, and am just about to ‘crack open’ (i.e. open the e-book) Flash Boys, which looks at Wall Street high-speed micro-transaction trading. Plus, tomorrow morning’s going to be an early, rushed one, so best to do this now!

Last year, during Day of DH 2013, I had a pretty uneventful day as far as the digital humanities went: I was serving on a search committee during an interview day, and therefore spent most of the day in meetings, a meal, and a public lecture.

This year it’s looking like it’ll be another mix of research and service. Tomorrow morning I’ll be booked up in Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo meetings.  It’s hard to believe it, but I’m going up for my third-year review this upcoming year. This is a preliminary tenure review: my file will be reviewed by the departmental tenure and promotion committee, it’ll go in front of the Dean, and *knock on wood* I’ll get a detailed letter outlining how my progress towards tenure is going. So tomorrow sees me attending a workshop specifically dedicated to people in my shoes (going up for probationary renewal), and then I will probably stick around for a biannual Faculty Association meeting.

Then in the afternoon, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be reviewing my index for my book which goes in this week. That’s wrapping up a project that I’ve been working on, in bits and pieces, for over five years. It has me feeling a bit sad, to be honest.

The ever-present Scrivener counter. I overachieved today, but don't worry - I'll underachieve tomorrow.
The ever-present Scrivener counter. I overachieved today (and to be completely honest, ~ 2,000 of those were words incorporated from other documents, so it’s more like a ~1,500 word day), but don’t worry – I’ll underachieve tomorrow.

It’s a bit of a break from my usual days, which of late have involved spending at least two or three hours every morning writing. My life is dominated by the Scrivener word target counter, and I’m trying to crank out 1,000 words a day. I’m not always successful, and 1,000 may be overly optimistic, but the goal is to build up a big stable of writing on my current work that can be (a) drawn upon for blog posts or articles; and (b) eventually form the spine of a manuscript. I’m wary to talk too much about the details at this early stage, but needless to say it involves a digital project I really started working on in the summer of 2011.

See you all tomorrow!