rookie mistakes?

I’d like to start out by letting you know that I’m a beginner.  This blogging endeavor is a first for me.  Normally, I hate when people apologize for things before they even start, so I’m going to have to go ahead and apologize for doing that as well.  Your comments and suggestions on how to “blog well” are much appreciated.

In the past, I think blogging has the stigma of being associated with people who need a medium through which they can “overshare” minute details about their lives.  Too many times I’ve seen blogs as places to rant, places to release, places to be critical without really being critical.  Thinking about blogging in a scholarly, academic capacity could seem like a leap to some people.  However, the more I read about its capabilities, the more I realize the potential of this space.  What draws me to Digital Humanities is the promise of new possibilities, new ways of expressing ideas and researching materials.  I guess creating an online presence is a good way to begin this exploration.

I wasn’t sure where to start with some of this, and beyond my many drafts on Microsoft Word and rants about “overshares” on the internet, I decided to begin this research with an exercise mentioned in Ryan Cordell’s “Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and Reflection.”  He suggests that we google ourselves in order to get a sense of the stakes of an online identity.  The name “Jeanette Hall” isn’t totally common, but there are definitely a number of people named “Jeanette Hall who have, shall we say, interesting, stories.  The most internet-prevalent Jeanette Hall is a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and initially had wanted assisted suicide.  Because her doctor didn’t believe in assisted suicide, he encouraged her to fight her illness.  She eventually was cured from chemotherapy and radiation.  Now, this Jeanette Hall works against people who are trying to legalize assisted suicide at the state level.  Interesting story.  The other prominent search result I found was for Jeanette Hall’s Taxidermy.  Also quite interesting.  I wonder, can my online identity even compete with these two Jeanettes?  When I googled my name with some additional key words, I found out that not only are there search results for my facebook and linkedin, but that my address and much personal information is just a few clicks away.  And now, here I am, reposting that I’ve found this information.  Maybe I should do something about that.  I guess it’s time to get into the nitty gritty with some of this privacy stuff, especially now that I’m seeing a little more clearly all that it can have an impact on.  Cordell’s suggested exercise helped me think more carefully about how one’s identity is presented online.  While I knew that this was important, I didn’t know the degree to which information about me can be located online.  Further, this exercise made me think about the potential that my online identity can have for research and scholarship.  Step one: Get more tech savvy.  Step two: Privacy lockdown.

Proactivity is essential in creating one’s online identity in a positive and professional way.  I agree with an idea on Stanford’s page “Tooling Up for Digital Humanities”: it is necessary to create my own web presence, as opposed to having others create it for me.  In looking at some of the examples of different pages, I think I learned a lot about what works well and what might not work as well.  In terms of structure, a clear and organized layout seems to work best.  I also think pictures are effective if they are carefully selected and in small quantities.  Normally, I wouldn’t think about something like scrolling settings, but I found that scrolling forever on these blogs drives me mad.  I’m wondering the best way to set up comments on your page.  I like separate blog posts with archives so the topics seem manageable and clear.  It seems like it would be good to have a place for people to leave feedback on your research.  In many ways, the simpler, the better, is the way to go when it comes to a home page.  Having separate tabs (Teaching, Research, etc.) seems to be a good way to have a “complete” page.  Being personal seems to work well also.  For example, I liked how Scott Weingart presented himself, but I found other blogs to be less “friendly,” I guess.  I also LOVE the idea of a “what I’m reading tab.” I’m curious about Adeline Koh’s choice to write her “about” section in the third person.  What impact might these small choices about authorship and presentation have?  Seeing these examples helped me to think about how I’d like my blog to work.  Currently, I’m totally re-thinking the flowers in the corner of this screen…

In terms of taking one’s scholarship online, I think I’d like to learn a little more before committing to the best way to present my research and myself.  What might online scholarship mean for a graduate student? Should I post seedling ideas, and begin “following” others? I will begin by polishing up that CV and posting it online.  (As a side note, a friend send this awesome link along for helping with CVs:  Awesome CV page Coming from American Studies, exploring new ways of presenting scholarship seems like an important and even necessary move.  There were some great tips on Jentery Sayer’s article “Do You Need Your Own Website While On the Job Market?,” and I will continue to reference this checklist as I continue to “beef up” my website.  Exactly how “risky” is it to publish your developing work online?  Do the benefits outweigh potential costs?  How can we upkeep a scholarly online presence? I like Brian Croxall’s idea of setting modest goals for ourselves (i.e. blogging once a month) in order to maintain a professional scholarly presence online.  I will set these goals for myself as part of HIST605.

I suppose my last question is this: Is it ok to write in a more casual, conversational tone?  Isn’t that what makes blogs readable?  What I’m really asking is, is my blog style too casual to be scholarly?  Like Yuka, I would like the work that I do at this institution to be accessible to people, not just those in academia.  For me, that might mean writing in a way that is more casual.  How can I remove the ramble vibe?  Is this what my students must experience every day in AMST201?  Maybe I am just trying to be a consistent presence in all aspects of my life.  And as Miriam Posner says, “Consistency: It’s important to carry the same voice, image, and persona across multiple social networking platforms.”  I might as well do this all the time.  What do you think?

This may belong on a separate post, but here are some thoughts based on Stanford’s “Tooling Up for Digital Humanities”:

As the semester continues, I know I will spend a lot of time referencing the different sections of “Tooling Up for Digital Humanities.”  I’m curious about the concept of “distant reading,” or of macro-level analysis of literature.  I wonder what some of the stakes are when it comes to analyzing larger amounts of literature from farther away.  How accurate are the patterns that are identified?  What must happen for us to make meaning of these patterns?  Does doing research in this way somehow make the humanities less “human”?  I’m thinking about the concept of “Macro Patterns” trying to generalize stylistic elements across many texts here.  It seems a little scary to have a machine make large assumptions about vast bodies of literature.  While I’m not entirely sure of my opinion on the issue, this article definitely gave me something to mull over.

That’s all for now 🙂



About jeanettethall

graduate student in American Studies View all posts by jeanettethall

One response to “rookie mistakes?

  • Yuka JP

    Thanks for sharing this post Jeanette. It gives me a lot to think about regarding my own online identity and scholarship. I should also put “privacy lock” down on my ever growing to-do list. I also like all the question you ask about putting the process of your work up online. One of the things I love about certain blogs is that I get to follow along someone’s journey (be it conversion to Buddhism, dealing with cancer, going on an adventure, etc.) so why not academic projects? There are so many cool things scholars do that don’t ever get published or disseminated and it’s such a shame. I also think about all those course papers I write that are read by only one or two people. Some of those projects were really fun (and grueling) to put together. It would be awesome to share it with others somehow. There are also some dangers too like plagiarism or putting out half-baked ideas that end in bust but the idea of embracing the process is really appealing. About tone, I struggle with this too when I blog. But I really like the tone in this post. It’s easy to read and I feel like you’re letting readers into your reservations or anxieties about the DH world. It’s honest, which I think goes a long way with most reader. Here’s to hoping that regular blogging with help work out our “tone” issue.

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