Processing Praxis

Since we’ve been let loose, prompt-free, to blog as we please this week, I’d like to take the opportunity to get back to “the process.” As the Praxis Program garners more and more attention, and we begin to produce and publicize documentation, I’m realizing how little I knew when I boldly stated “Long live the process!” in my first blog post just a few weeks ago. I am still convinced that the transparency of our progress is integral to the success of the program – its success as a model for similar graduate training programs in other universities and as a model for collaborative DH work – but I’m only now understanding why. The process is something that makes most academics, myself included, a bit uncomfortable because we spend the majority of our time and energy, to use Bethany’s term from our first meeting, “polishing.” As graduate students, we are trained to cultivate increasingly more specific areas of expertise, to hold onto and constantly refine a piece of work before making it public, and even then we’re often uncomfortable with releasing a work-in-progress to our peers. Sure, classrooms, conferences, and trusted advisors or colleagues are acceptable venues for “testing out” work, but there is still bound to be a considerable amount of refinement anxiety before the work is shared. Of course I’m speaking from my experience and my academic career has only just begun, but these are my impressions reinforced by what I’ve gleaned from more seasoned academics and professionals.

That being said, the transparency and publicity expected of us in the Praxis Program is a huge source of anxiety for me. But it’s good anxiety.  I spend way too much time polishing (read: agonizing over) what I put “out there” for the group or the website – from our weekly blog posts to our working GoogleDocs for the charter or requirements gathering – that it would normally be paralyzing, but in a program as fast-paced as Praxis, there’s no time for solitary perfectionism. As uncomfortable as it is to contribute an unpolished idea, sentence, post, etc., there’s more at stake than my ego and more to gain than the perfect blog post. Now that Bethany’s explained the basics of Prism, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who responded exactly as I did, that is, wishing it was already a year from now so we could use it! But since I don’t have a DeLorean and opportunities to develop and build a tool as potentially awesome as Prism don’t present themselves every day, I’ll stick to my guns and I won’t betray the process. So, in addition to all the logistical training and DH street cred that the Praxis Program will provide, it will also force me to resist my urge to hoard and over-polish work, which is exactly in tune with the program’s mission to “realign graduate methodological training with the demands of the humanities in the digital age.” Realignment: in 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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