Shut up Legs! or: Jens Voight and Why I Applied for Praxis

So. In our charter we committed to a goal we called ‘Outreach.’  As part of that commitment I pushed for a firm statement of two blog posts per person per month. This seemed reasonable at the time, and still does. And yet, here we find ourselves on October 16 and, discounting my introductory post I have yet to surface online.  This would be the moment to play the grad student ‘woe is me I am so busy grading student papers reading for orals having existential crises etc. etc.’ card but, unfortunately in my case it simply isn’t true.

Deeper still, I try to convince myself (and thought about trying it on you kind folks) that I really need to be careful about what I say online as who knows what job committee Googling might turn up.  Again, though, this masks my deeper anxieties about not only blogging and DH, but also the entire practice of the interwebs. The reason I know I have time to blog is that I have time to read not 1, or even 3, but 6 cycling related blogs religiously.1

While I have enjoyed the first fruits of the DH revolution (or whatever DH’ers call the last fifteen odd years) in my professional work, the very same technologies that enable those ventures imperil my own work.  I am not being over dramatic.  Nor am I casting aspersions on the Internet as an institution. No, like Eliot, I am distracted from distraction by Jens Voigt memes (or facts).2 The fault is all mine but the effect is real. Nor do I think I am alone. Judging by the number of cat/Ryan Gosling memes I see on the Facebook, I fear that the scholarship of an entire generation is being threatened by anything.GIF.

In my fear of my PowerBook (or really any of Apple’s techno-crack that brings custom bike pictures straight to my lustful gaze in so many cunning ways), though, lies the root of my interest in the Praxis program.  I am not dumb. I cannot turn back the clock to a predigital age (though the Wifi in many of the medieval libraries I haunt is refreshingly antique), nor do I want to. What I need to learn, what I want to learn, is how to be both digitally engaged and human. How to make the machines work for me and how to think along with emerging technology and not against it.

Three plus years deep in the Hors Catégorie climb that is grad school (yes… I think “WWJVD?” [What Would Jens Voigt Do?] all the time, and the answer is always the same: Shut up Legs [or metaphorically whatever in me is wanting to quit at that day/time]) I realized that while I will learn many wonderful things from my colleagues and mentors ensconced traditional humanities departments, I will not learn how to be a humanist in an increasingly post human world. And by mean I mean in, or online.  This is not in any way a criticism of the specific people and departments I know and have known, rather it is recognition of a persistent condition in the academy as it has been broadly configured. Praxis, for me, offered the chance to learn not just how to program or how to manage DH projects, but how to thrive in world in which I have no choice but to live. Most of my posts will explore my evolving relationship with not just DH but the Internet as cultural force in my entire life.  This may seem outside the remit of ‘DH’ but I may just be foolish enough to think that DH and old-fashioned ‘H’ finally aim at the same target: how to live, and live well, in the world in which you live.

Oh yah. I ride bikes some times. And really love Jens Voigt. And you should too.

2. TS Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets (Harcourt, 1943), loosely.

From Wilmore Kentucky
Asbury College, 2008, BA (History and Latin)
Oxford University (Wadham College), 2011, MPhil (English Literature: 650-1550)
University of Virginia, PhD, (English)

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