Podcastic: The Global Lab (featuring me!)

I’ve been gibbering on about digital humanities, museums and digital technology on the brilliant Global Lab podcast.  You can donwload it via RSS, iTunes or download the .mp3.  You can almost hear my over enthusiastic hand gestures!  I even managed to nearly knock over the microphone, but thankfully that has been edited out.  So if you want to hear what I sound like, rather than read me, there you go. I mostly spoke about the QRator project which is a collaboration between CASA and UCLDH.

The Global Lab podcast is about cities, spatial analysis, global connectivity and the impact of technology on society produced by two brilliant chaps from CASA; Steve and Martin.  Its very good listening for train journy’s and to whip out anecdotes in dinner party conversations. Check it out

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

I knew Melissa Terras’ plenary speech was going to be good, but I wasn’t expecting it to give the reaction I experienced.  It shook me to my core.  In places I had goosebumps.  It made me immensely proud not only to be able to say I work with Mel, I work at UCL and I work in Digital Humanities.  It made me proud to hear someone so passionately describe what they believe in, what they represent. And I agreed with every single word.

You may think, I’m biased because I know and work with Mel on a daily basis. I know I am privileged.  I work with not one but two of what I consider to be the best people in the field.  Both Claire and Mel are so passionate about what they do and what they want to achieve and it is such an inspiring place to be.

I was concerned at the beginning of the digital humanities conference that I didn’t really belong here, everybody else appeared to know each other, there were so many papers that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t think there was anything displayed in the programme that truly represented the work that I do.  But it was an opportunity to get to know more about the diverse field that I am a part of, to see what else is out there. And boy is there a lot going on in DH.  Trying to digest all the information that was presented was hard going. I don’t think I will ever really understand Computer Forensics in the Archive, Linked Data, or how do to do TEI. After a couple of days, I still didn’t know if this was for me. Everyone appeared to be so comfortable with these concepts that I had only ever heard of, and nodded and smiled at, in the vain attempt of pretending to understand. There were so many intelligent presentations and questions and the prospect of standing up in front of this crowd and presenting my research was absolutely terrifying. And then the time came, Claire provided me with the best ever prep talk, as self confidence is not one of my strong points.  I stood up, and I presented to a packed lecture hall, its slightly disconcerting to see people sitting on the stairs because all the seats were already taken.  And it was fine, I was welcomed, I was embraced, and it was wonderful.  And then if I had any doubt left in me that this wasn’t for me.  Mel’s plenary happened. She took to the stage stated she was nervous. And then blew everyone away.

So, today I am proud to say; I am a member of the DH community.  I am a member of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and we will rock you.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger. is there an echo in here?

Currently I write posts for four blogs including this one.   I enjoy it, I have a different approach to each of them (here, work, DLNet and IgniteLDN) due to the different nature, intention and audience, but I do try and keep my tone consistent and as much like ‘me’ as possible. However, splitting yourself four different ways isn’t always easy, particularly when then four different outlets deal with different yet similar things.  It has come to my attention that on one of the blogs in particular my change in tone on occassional posts might not be appropriate.   So this got me thinking.  What is appropriate? Have I been letting the side down? Why bother? What tone of voice should I use? Should I use a tone of voice? Who is reading this? Is anyone reading this? Should I just go and read a book instead?

I’ve been thinking about the implications of academic blogging for a while, a while back I pondered whether this blog was damaging my academic reputation. The concept of academic reputation keeps coming up again and again, and on the whole it seems that using social media tools to disseminate and discuss your ideas and to create a dialogue are frowned upon, and research that I have been working on show that the majority of academics never ever use social media and web 2.0. That isn’t the case where I work, UCLDH is well versed in bloggage and tweets, and as were the museums I have worked for.   It’s likely that the field I work in and the people I work with are just ahead of the curve, and everyone else will catch up eventually.

I’ve been blogging personally on this blog for a while now, and I still feel like I’m finding my feet, and I don’t know if I would call it academic either. Blogging certaintly, I don’t want to randomly rant, or produce diary snippets of my life, and I know a little bit about my regular readers and do try and think about whether they would find it useful or interesting.  Whereas on Facebook, its clear who I am and who my audience is (personal with a little bit of the UCLDH crew thrown in), and on twitter (@clairey_ross) I’m sort of more professional and informational with a little bit of life in there too. Here I specifically want to talk about what I’m excited about, and that is usually museums and cool (some people, including my boyfriend, would say geeky) stuff that I’m working on, have been to, or am just plain hyperventilating with excitement about.  I’m happy doing this, because this is my personal blog, I write about what interests me and I hope it interests my readers, as I assume they are mostly into the same things I am, or they wouldn’t be reading at all, right?

However on the other blogs, it isn’t as easy.  I still try to find the space between the excitable slightly weird me and the professional me, which is difficult. It’s easier on the Ignite blog, because the set up in its essence is to be randomly interesting and I hope my personality fits in quite well. So posting about Restoring The Archimedes Palimpsest or What does the hard hat and Wonder Woman have in common? Is absolutely fine.

But for DLNet its different, I don’t know if people want to see the scatter brain me, so I am more informative rather than flap happy.  Its early days for the DLNet blog and we haven’t really gathered momentum, I hope it will take off soon and I have some ideas for that. And then to the UCLDH blog.  This is different again; a mixture of project discussions, UCLDH events and reviews and promotion for other related conference and events, whats right for here? A personal approach or a more factual one? I can’t decide.

So I pose the questions: am I spreading myself too thinly? Should I concentrate on one and not the others? Which one? Should the tone of an ‘institutional’ blog be more informative and less personalised? Should there be multiple authors, do multiple tones of voice make for a more creative discussion environment? Or do too many cooks spoil the broth?

The aftermath.

The past 48hours have been quite something.

You may or may not have noticed the large amount of press coverage about a certain Mr Murdoch, involving opinions on creativity, culture, humanities, digital content and in particular the British Library; that were flying around online today. I don’t think a bunch of overly tired, yet still buzzing digital humanists have been so excited in a confined space with flower pot muffins before. (some coverage can be found here, here, here, here, and here and many many more places)

Why? Well…  We officially launched the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities yesterday evening! Hooray!  James Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, the guest speaker gave a really interesting speech with some strong opinions (you can read the full text of the speech here).

It’s going to be really interesting to hear the alternate view of what James Murdoch spoke about.  There are a lot of strong opinions flying around, particularly with regards to cultural heritage institutions and electronic publishers and digital humanists.  I have yet to get my brain in gear about my thoughts on what James was suggesting.  It will be very interesting to hear the responses from others, particularly those championing freely available digital content .  ucldh are seeing what we can do to facilitate that response. watch this space. If you want to respond do let us know.

For me though, it wasn’t the speech that was the highlight of the launch, for one, I didn’t actually get to see James speak. I was running (well walking quickly whilst trying to maintain an air of decorum –most likely failing) with a clip board and an iphone trying to make sure everything went smoothly. Yes, I can now add, major event planning to my repertoire. No, this isn’t my job. For the past month as well as working on three research projects I have been juggling quite possibly the biggest (I don’t think I have ever seen as much bottles of champagne in my life) event I have ever been a part of. Crazy. Myself and my colleague Simon took up the organisation  of the launch after another colleague had to take leave unexpectantly. I don’t think we really knew what we were letting ourselves in for. I’ve organised conferences before, but nothing like this! We have been so busy, I think I have forgotten what hot tea tastes like as I never had time to drink it. But it all came to a head this week. Its been stressful, but brilliant. Yesterday involved so much running around, phone calls, emails, sticky wotsits, logos and name badges.  During the day, what could go wrong did go wrong. Thank goodness for  iphones – they were our life saver yesterday, also my ability to memorise securities multiple phone numbers (my number memory response is now at all time high). But the event itself was a triumph! (i hope)  we may have been paddling furiously under the water, but on top we had the elegance of a swan! It was the people who came to the event, the people who helped, the people who gave us their time and energy, and most importantly the people who gave their smiles yesterday, that was the highlight for me.  I cannot thank enough all the people who helped on the night, and on the run up. We couldn’t have done it without you!

I have also seen so much more of UCL than I ever thought possible, a special lift in the library and the roof! Oh my the roof is amazing! ( I took some pictures from the roof with a very cool app called Hipstamatic, I will post them as soon as I find the usb cable).  I must also add that none of this would of been possible without the genius of Claire Warwick and Melissa Terras, they are quite simply amazing.

But that was only the first event. Oh yes. Two events, makes Claire a very dazed girl. Today saw the Time Trust and Authority: is web 2.0 the tool for you? event, which I have been working on with Anne and John. I fear I let the side down on this, I was a incoherent mess after all the running around at the launch yesterday. But nevertheless a brilliant day! I learnt some really cool stuff, UCL is really flying the flag for social media content and distribution, with some interesting research projects and technologies already in place.  Utilising social media in an education institution is always frought with difficultly with questions about trust and authority not to mention copyright and ownership of content. Despite this, UCL is doing some brilliant work; creating digital content, encouraging discussions and collaborations and broadening audiences for our research and teaching (possibly a controversial thing after the launch speech).

There is likely to be many more posts about the past 48hours to come. But right now I am going to have a sleep. Drained is not appropriate for this. Drained but happy.