Let the process begin:

Hello, digital universe! (You’ll have to excuse my childlike enthusiasm; this is all fairly new to me.)

I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous, because of my novice DH status, to have so much control over the design and progress of a program that has the potential to really transform graduate student training at a time that seems ripe for it. On the other hand, I realize how lucky I am to enter this program and the DH “field” (if it can/should be defined as a field) with a blank slate – or at least a slate that has only some rudimentary XML chalked into the corners along with a lot of cloudy eraser marks. This year will take us from 0 – 60, and for my own professional development and CV adornment purposes, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m thrilled. But if that was my only motivation for joining the Praxis Program, I’d be doing myself and the program (and graduate students everywhere) a huge disservice. Likewise, if as a group we Praxisers focus only on our project on our terms (i.e., the success of Prism), we’ll do a disservice to any of the communities of scholars or researchers who could benefit from our work.

In this last sentence I realize I’ve addressed two of the charter prompts which started me scribbling notes like a mad scientist when I first read them: the prompts relating to the Praxis Program’s audience and outcomes. As for the audience, because the specifics of the project are not completely determined as this point, the design of this charter must and naturally will move beyond a project-specific ethos or modus operandi. In writing this charter at the very outset, we are setting guidelines that can be adopted by any project of this nature, and thus making our “work” available and relevant to the interests of a larger community.

To readdress the word “work”: In Bethany’s article, “Where Credit Is Due,” she speaks persuasively of the responsibility of tenure and promotions committees to “assess quality in digital humanities work – not in terms of product or output – but quality that is embodied in an evolving and continuous series of transformative processes.” The evaluation of the Praxis Program should be undertaken with this in mind, and so I would hesitate to apply specific end-product requirements to a pilot program like this. That being said, we will be working on a digital tool and should aim at being able to release software and open source code. Our ultimate goal, though, should be to account for the process, which absolutely necessitates publicizing and archiving along the way (though like Sarah, I can’t quite speak comfortably about what archiving entails). Accounting for the process also requires that we aim to produce formal and informal scholarly publications on the project’s development, and that we pursue every opportunity to make our process available to the public and open for discussion. Long live the process. 

Brooke is a 2011-12 Praxis Fellow and MA candidate in the Department of English. She is currently working on a thesis which investigates Virginia Woolf's moment of being as a biographical, historical, and narrative phenomenon in Woolf's fiction and essays. Brooke is also a graduate research assistant in IATH, working on Alison Booth's Collective Biographies…

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