Today’s the first day of the eleventh annual conference of the Association of Internet Research, and the sixth of which I’ve attended. It’s lovely catching up with some of the folks I often see at these conferences, but also great getting to meet and hang out with folks I only sort of know from online venues.

I’ve decided to try to blog the conference a bit; I miss the heady days of heavy-duty conference blogging, and thought I’d try to see if I can recapture some of that.

This is the first conference day I’ll be spending with just the iPad, though; I decided to leave the laptop in the hotel today to see how well I’d do with just the more portable device.

We’re only one session in, but it’s working well so far. With one exception: switching back and forth from PlainText (in which I’m taking notes) to Twitter and WordPress is mildly annoying. Come on already, iOS 4.1…

Upcoming Dates

I’ve got a bunch of talks and conferences and other things scheduled in the coming weeks:

  • October 1: Archiving Social Media, Center for History and New Media
  • October 14, 6.00 pm: Rochester Institute of Technology
  • October 21-23: Internet Research 11, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • October 27, 8.00 pm: New School faculty workshop
  • October 29, 3.00 pm: Boston University
  • November 10, 2.30 pm: Center for Cultural Analysis, Literature and New Media Working Group, Rutgers University
  • November 11, 4.30 pm: Keynote, Re-Humanities, Haverford College

Looking a bit further down the road, I’ve got a few more things scheduled:

  • January 6-9: MLA, Los Angeles
  • February 1: Bard Graduate Center
  • March 2: Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities/Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois

And there are a few other possible events lingering on the horizon.

It’s going to be busy, needless to say, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to visit so many great programs this year.

On the Road (Again) (and Again)

It’s been an eventful couple of months. A travelful couple of months, even. If you were able to see my Google Calendar, you’d see a whole lot of teal striping on it; that’s my travel calendar, which reminds me that since the beginning of May, I’ve been in

  • New York for three days, for an MLA committee meeting;
  • Hanover, NH, for just slightly over a day (with about a day of traveling on either side), for a workshop on the digital humanities;
  • the greater Washington DC area for five days, first for THATCamp and then for a journal startup meeting (culminating in what appeared to be a genuinely nasty bout of food poisoning or viral ick);
  • Istanbul for five days (with a day-plus of traveling on each end), for a workshop on electronic textuality;
  • followed immediately by three days in Salt Lake City for the AAUP (presses, not professors);
  • followed immediately by the ADE West meeting. This one is sort of cheating, as it was in Claremont and so only involved walking, but I did give a talk and lead a breakout session, so I’m counting it;
  • and now the last five days in New York, apartment hunting for the sabbatical I’ll be spending here starting next month.

But wait! There’s more!

  • I’m taking off from New York today, headed to London for DH2010;
  • after which I’ll come back to New York for two days, which I partly booked as an apartment-hunting failsafe, but also partly because it made no sense to go all the way back to the west coast for two days, when immediately after I’m headed to
  • Charlottesville, for SCI8

After which I get to go back to Claremont and spend three weeks figuring out what to send to New York for this sabbatical, how it’s getting there, how I’m getting there, and etc.

And I have the feeling that once arrive at the lovely walk-up I’ll be renting and climb those three flights of stairs with my most crucial belongings, I may not ever want to climb back down.

What a Press Can Add in the Age of DIY Publishing

What follows is a rough transcript of the talk I gave this past weekend at the annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses. The panel was organized and chaired by Eric Zinner, Assistant Director and Editor-In-Chief at New York University Press, and the presentations before mine were by Monica McCormick, Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing at New York University Press, and Shana Kimball, Co-Director of the Scholarly Publishing Office at University of Michigan Libraries. Their presentations had focused on library-press collaborations, and Monica in particular had mentioned the difficulty she had with hearing press representatives refer to what they do (in contrast to what libraries do) as “real” publishing, pointing out the equal realness of library-based publishing initiatives. I began by connecting my remarks to that comment, saying that authors themselves are producing a number of online publishing ventures that are similarly real, and that need to be treated as such if they’re going to be adequately understood.


I come to the question about digital publishing that we’re discussing today from the perspective of an author, rather than a publisher, which is to say that your mileage as editors and publishers will no doubt vary. But I want to begin by being clear we are in the age of DIY publishing, even in scholarly circles. More and more journals are being founded in platforms like Open Journal Systems, which allow their scholarly editors to do the work they have done all along, while making the results of that work freely and openly available to the scholarly community and the broader world beyond. And more and more scholars are developing online presences via platforms like blogs that allow them to reach and interact with an audience more quickly, more openly, and more directly, without the intermediary of the press. Continue reading What a Press Can Add in the Age of DIY Publishing

Time Will Tell, But Epistemology Won’t: The Richard Rorty Archive

My friend Liz Losh has let me know that this Friday UC Irvine is hosting a conference to celebrate the addition of Richard Rorty’s papers to the Critical Theory Archive. These “papers” include years worth of word-processing files, recovered from 3.5″ floppy disks, and so the conference is taking the opportunity to think through the changing nature of the archive as its materials become increasingly digital in addition to Rorty’s own significance for that archive.

Sadly, I can’t attend — I’m not only booked that day, but in fact double-booked — so I hope to follow the conference on Twitter and in the blogosphere, and hope that those discussions continue to add to the archive itself.

The Legacy of David Foster Wallace

This morning, awfully bright and awfully early, I participated in a fantastic roundtable on the legacy of David Foster Wallace, which was quite well-attended, given the early hour and that it was the last day of the conference, and which produced some really fascinating presentations. I’d promised my friends at wallace-l that I’d post my thoughts about the panel to the list afterward, and having done that, I’d like to post them here as well.

I thought the panel was excellent, overall; it was wonderful to get to meet all of the speakers, and to hear the quite tight connections across the various presentations. Lee Konstantinou, who proposed the roundtable, did an excellent job of putting it together, and Stephen Burn, who introduced and moderated it, did an excellent job of setting the tone for us. The only downside was that with eight presenters (and that presenter tendency to go just a minute or so longer than we’re supposed to) there was very little time for discussion, and we wound up getting kicked out of the room just as the Q&A got going.

Anyhow, here are some very brief notes on the presentations, which I took as I listened. Anybody who was there should fill in the inevitable holes — and everybody should forgive me if I’ve mischaracterized anyone’s presentation.

Stephen Burn presented a very close reading of “A Radically Condensed History of Post-Industrial Life,” demonstrating Wallace’s attention to poetics at the micro-level, which works in concert with the more macro-level concerns we often pay attention to in Infinite Jest.

Marshall Boswell presented a rich intertextual reading of Wallace and Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, via their approaches to Wittgenstein’s argument about the impossibility of a private language and the role of language in creating connections between people.

Samuel Cohen discussed the absence of closure in Wallace’s narrative structures (and Infinite Jest in particular) as an implicit argument about history’s non-overness, contra Fukuyama and other such arguments about the end of the Cold War.

John Conley returned us to the apparently simple question of what Infinite Jest is about — what its object is — in order to get us to think about addiction as symptom in the Freudian sense (i.e., not the cause but the evidence of an underlying problem), finally arguing that in its treatment of addiction and the potential for recovery, Infinite Jest becomes a better critique of cynicism than in “E Unibus Pluram.”

I started out talking about my earlier argument, in The Anxiety of Obsolescence, about Wallace’s treatment of mediation in Infinite Jest and “E Unibus Pluram” — television as a symptom of our sense of loneliness and frustrated quest for human connection — before turning to Infinite Summer and the ways that the movement of literary texts through online social networks present the potential that Wallace sought for the novel, and then some — not just making the reader “feel less alone inside” but helping her be less alone in the world. (I’ll likely post a longer version of my own comments sometime later; I’m thinking I’d like to expand them into a brief article.)

Mary Holland discussed Wallace’s work in the context of the unnamed thing that follows postmodernism; reading “Octet” with and against the metafictional techniques of “Lost in the Funhouse” and particularly focusing on the author/narrator’s direct quizzing of the reader.

Lee Konstantinou focused on Wallace’s relationship to the avant-garde, beginning with the horrified responses to the question of whether Wallace’s suicide can be read as a literary gesture, moving through a reading if the suicides and despair represented throughout his writing, understood as a post-ironic version of the avant-garde’s attempt to create union between life and art.

And finally, Michael Pietsch discussed The Pale King; I madly took notes, but they’re a little disjointed. Pietsch says Wallace had been working on since 1996, and the novel went through various working titles, including “Glitterer,” “SJF” (which stood for Sir John Feelgood), and “What is Peoria For?” As we’ve heard, Wallace did extensive research for the novel in accounting, tax processes, and so forth. What I hadn’t heard before today was that various pieces we’ve seen in stand-alone form are in fact chapters of the novel, including “The Soul Is Not a Smithy” and “Incarnations of Burned Children.” Pietsch is working with more than 1000 pages of manuscript, in 150 unique chapters; the novel will be published in time for tax day in April 2011. As we know, the subject of the novel is boredom. The opening of the book instructs the reader to go back and read the small type they skipped on the copyright page, which details the battle with publishers over their determination to call it fiction, when it’s all 100% true. The narrator, David Foster Wallace, is at some point confused with another David F. Wallace by IRS computers, pointing to the degree to which our lives are filled with irrelevant complexity. The finished book is expected to be more than 400 pages, and will be explicitly subtitled “An Unfinished Novel”; the plan is to make available the drafts and phases the text went through on a website that will exist alongside the book. Pietsch is editing the book in close collaboration with Bonnie Nadell and the estate, but as we’ve heard him say before, he sees his role very clearly as attempting to order the text into a unified whole, and not making changes that the author isn’t there to argue with.

That’s pretty much the report from the panel; I’m only sorry the discussion couldn’t continue, and that I had to run to a meeting right after…

[UPDATE, 08.17.10: A Belorussian translation of this post has just been published!]

[UPDATE, 07.20.14: A Swedish translation of this post is now available as well!]


I’ve been busy tweeting up a storm at the MLA this year (or what amounts to a storm for me, anyhow), but haven’t been compelled to write a full blog post as yet — a situation that got called out when a pal of mine here suggested that this blog had turned into alternating posts reading “I’m on the road on the way to X” and “sorry for not posting; I’ve been really busy.”

Which is to say: sorry for not posting; first I was on the road on the way to the MLA, and it’s been really busy since I’ve been here.

But as I’ve got approximately 15 minutes of downtime before my next meeting, I thought I’d use the time to say, despite the undeniable gloom here this year, I’ve had a really extraordinary conference: a full day of brilliant panels yesterday, two great “tweetups” (I know) with my MLA-attending Twitter pals, and a bunch of great meetings today.

The most exciting of those meetings was with Bonnie Wheeler, president of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, who has, it turns out, not only been reading Planned Obsolescence but has also been talking about it in really exciting ways. We talked at length about the ways that the issues I discuss in scholarly book publishing are also affecting scholarly journals, and the ways that she and other editors are attempting to face them — thinking through the future of peer review, the future of publishing infrastructures, the future of intellectual property, and so forth. She mentioned that she’s working on an article for the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, which I very much look forward to seeing.

The panel I put together for the Discussion Group on Media and Literature, entitled “Media Studies and the Digital Scholarly Present,” also went fabulously, with four great papers by Chuck Tryon, Dave Parry, Tanya Clement, and Jeremy Douglass. We’ve posted lots of stuff from the panel at MediaCommons, and I hope that the discussions started there will continue.

I’ve also heard a bunch of amazing papers, including in particular Meredith McGill’s “What’s the Matter with the History of the Book?”, in which she lamented book history’s turn toward a sole focus on the material aspects of the text and away from any kind of textual analysis or interpretation, in the end suggesting that media studies (and digital media studies in particular) might provide an opportunity for book history to re-integrate textual with material analysis.

It’s clear to me that the story of #MLA09 is the digital humanities; all the DH panels were overflowing, and the presentations and conversations were energized and filled with possibility, at a moment when the future of the profession as we’ve known it seems very much in doubt.

But that’s just the thing: most of the digital humanists I know are committed to changing the profession, to making it something we haven’t yet known — and just as the need for change is becoming inescapably clear, the possibilities for such change are beginning to seem very real.


I’m in Milwaukee this week at the tenth meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers. The good news is that the wireless is strong, ubiquitous, and free. The bad news is that we seem to have broken Twitter.

I’ll hope to post from here over the course of the conference. If you’re here too, be sure to say hi.

The Hybrid Future of the University Press

Yesterday was the first full day of the Digital Humanities 2009 conference, the first iteration of which I’ve gotten to attend. So far the conference has been fantastic — and it promises to get even better (for me, at least) today, as my presentation was yesterday, and now I can sit back and absorb.

I’ve posted the slides from my presentation at SlideShare, though (typically) they’re pretty useless without the notes or me actually giving the presentation.

I wanted this up here in no small part because my second-to-last slide actually showed up blank during the presentation itself. At the last minute, just before the presentation began, I converted the presentation from white-on-black to black-on-white, which showed up much better on a fairly dim projector — but it turns out that I’d manually set the Cathy Davidson quote to white text, so I got to that point in the presentation and… invisible quotation.

Anyhow, here it is. This was the first time I presented this material, which comes from the last chapter of the book, and I have to say that it went extremely well. Part of how well might be seen in the Wordle cloud @jawalsh put together of yesterday’s #dh09 Twitter stream:

Picture 1

This may be the only time I’m bigger than Lev Manovich.