One email at a time

A significant part of my job as digital humanities coordinator involves taking care of things behind the scenes so that other people can get down to the business of “doing” digital humanities. Whether that part of my work should itself count as digital humanities is debatable; I’m inclined to see it more as a necessary prerequisite, but not meaningfully part of even the biggest of big DH tents as such.

This morning, the first task at hand was assigning an API key to a newly-formed team for our #HackFSM (Free Speech Movement archive) hackathon. Even though we’re already eight days into our 12-day event, a group of students still wanted to participate. Figuring they could use every hour they can get at this point, I took care of that first.

Next up: email and to-do list triage. I need to send out an agenda for this Thursday’s Digital Humanities Council meeting, but first I need to find out what the Dean would like on said agenda. I need to write the weekly round-up of what DH work has been accomplished before the meeting with my boss at 11. The monthly round of Drupal code updates, now for no fewer than 10 sites, can be postponed until a good multitasking opportunity. There are emails that hit my inbox just before my son was born in November; some of them still need replies, as my to-do list reminds me. Feeling guilty, I change the due date for the umpteenth time.

Most days are filled with minutiae like this, and sometimes it feels like an endless email/to-do list treadmill, particularly when I don’t carve out time to make progress on my bigger projects (like writing something for Drupal for Humanists). But every so often I’m reminded of how far digital humanities at Berkeley has come in the last 18 months. All those emails, the reminders to check in with faculty on their projects, the conversations about technical approaches, the calendar-wrangling required to get the right people in a room together, the Drupal updates so our sites don’t get hacked– if my student assistants and I don’t just go do these things, they won’t happen. One email, one conversation, one event at a time, the work we do adds up to a more cohesive DH community here at Berkeley, and a better-coordinated plan for how to move forward together.

I may not be doing DH, but I’m making it happen here, and that’s exciting.