For some time now I have led a double life as a musician and book lover. As a third year PhD in the English department at UVA, I work primarily on twentieth-century fiction in relation to music and sound. These interests drew me to Praxis in the first place: writing about sound is incredibly difficult in a print medium where the reader can’t hear what I describe. I am very excited to be a part of the Praxis team this year, where as a DH novitiate I hope to learn how technology can help make those two fields work together more easily. The Scholars’ Lab team seems happy to have us as well, welcoming the new team with open arms and inscrutable computer science jokes. Last year’s Praxis team reached out to us many months ago from their charter:
Preparations for future cohorts
In order to allow the next Praxis Program team to start work right away on a project, we will make suggestions for that project before our tenure is over.
How nice to be thought of! But I think this excerpt shows how our situation is fundamentally different from theirs: last year’s team had to deal only with the future, but our team also has to deal with the past. It would be easy for us to feel anxiety as latecomers to the Praxis party, so I think it’s important that our own charter reflect the ways in which our work will talk back to last year’s team.
As I look through last year’s blog posts, I’m struck by the problem of knowledge we have in store for us. Implicit in the suggestions offered to us are all the ideas that last year’s team discarded, thought better of, and revised. Those are what I really want to see! The archive of blog posts can only give a skeletal sense of the past: there is no replacement for sitting in that chair all last year.
So beyond the question of how we deal with their great suggestions, I am struck by a more basic dilemma: what sort of dialogue will we have with last year’s group? I imagine that the cheerful team in the Scholars Lab will welcome repeat conversations as opportunities to rethink and retool, but I also believe that we can benefit from the experience of those who came before. I hope that we can continue the conversation with both those members of last year’s team that are still on grounds and those that have moved on to wonderful jobs across the country.
Even so, it is also important for us to recognize that, try as we might, we can never know everything about the project’s history to date. Our team will work better in the long run if we welcome the unknown and greet it just as enthusiastically as it welcomes us.