MLA 17 Session Overview: That’s Not How Scholarship Works!

MLA 17 Session Overview: That’s Not How Scholarship Works!

“That’s Not How Scholarship Works: Exploring the Process of Multimodal Critical Making.”

Most scholarly works published in digital forms reprise the written essay: they may be unconstrained by publisher’s desires for page limits, but otherwise they are often so bound to the pseudo-printed form as to be published online as PDF documents, paginated and static. Despite the promise of many disruptive technologies for collaboration, annotation, open peer review, and the integration of multimedia, relatively few literature and humanities journals operate with these mechanisms. Digital humanities discourse has embraced the collaborative project, which is often large in scale, grant-funded, and requires the dedicated labor of programmers and designers. However, these projects do not offer us an accessible alternative to the scholarly essay, bound as they are to structures of privilege, access, and knowledge. Instead, we look to multimodal journals, where works are often constructed by individuals and small teams who among them balance the demands of diverse skillsets.

This session will gather an interdisciplinary group of scholars and editors who engage with critical making as scholarship to reveal their process: the post-it notes, sketches, planning, code experiments, and nonlinear piecing together that becomes an individual or co-authored multimodal work of scholarship. Through curating their own acts of critical making, the scholars and editors involved will offer models to others that reveal some of the invisible labor behind multimodal scholarship. Participants will interact with these works through a digital roundtable, with exhibited materials and fragments gathered at eight stations with free circulation and discourse around the room. The scholarly works selected for self-reflexive analysis include works drawing on a range of methods and platforms, from comics and visualizations to webtexts and bots. These featured works include:

  • Roger Whitson and Jason Helms, “Making Comics as Scholarship” explores the editorial complexities of working in alternate modes. Working from 2011 to 2015, Salter and Whitson asked Helms and the other participants of the Digital Humanities Quarterly special issue devoted to “Comics as Scholarship” to write their work in sequential art. Whitson and Helms’s booth will present both finished and in-process work from that special issue, as well as analyze the complications for traditional editorial assumptions when confronted with scholarly comic books.
  • Helen Burgess, “Publishing Things in Hyperhiz 13” recounts her experience publishing the highly popular issue 13 on “Kits, Plans, Schematics.” The issue was predicated on the question “how do you publish things as opposed to, what is standard for many journals, essays and texts?” In addition to the actual issue, Rutgers University Press helped Hyperrhiz put together a physical exhibit of the kits themselves, some of which Burgess proposes to display. During the roundtable, Burgess will discuss how conversations evolved during the process of editing the “Kits” issue, and what such conversations might mean to the future of scholarly publishing.
  • Cheryl Ball, “How Design-Editing Really Works in Multimodal Scholarship” presents several videos (2–3 minutes each in length) that discuss best practices for authoring, editing, and publishing multimodal projects. While technologies have dramatically changed since the founding of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, the standards of rhetoricity, accessibility, usability, and sustainability have remained remarkably stable. Ball’s booth will introduce scholars to design-editing so they can adapt these guidelines for their own multimodal projects.
  • Micki Kaufman, “Quantifying Kissinger” investigates the use of new tools in archival work and their impact on transforming how we understand the history surrounding controversial Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kaufman’s booth, in particular, explores how emerging methodologies in distant reading and metadata analysis can be presented in a variety of modalities. How does presenting such data visually, sonically, and spatially — as well as textually — afford new dimensions of interpretation?  
  • Tom Scheinfeldt and Clarissa Ceglio, “Critical Unmaking and Collaboration by Design” rethinks the role of collaboration in scholarship by rejecting the scholarly vision that sees collaborators as merely “implementors” of a scholar’s or professor’s vision. Scheinfeldt and Ceglio’s booth will, on the other hand, use doodles, photos, and other artifacts to present a three-part methodology for “unmaking” this paradigm, eliciting different models for collaborative thinking, and mapping the invisible structures in the University that reinstate the implementation model of collaboration.
  • Dan Anderson, “Making on the Edge of Chaos: Recasting Scholarship Through Digital Mindfulness” features a series of scholarly articles published by Anderson in the journal Kairos from 1998, 2003, and 2012. Each of these works of scholarly making represents a foray into an emerging digital edge — for instance, Web frames and forms in 1998, digital video in 2003, and modal interfaces in 2012. Anderson’s booth will demonstrate how a technology-first mindset can create productive chaotic edges where digital modes and scholarship can emerge together, foster increased creativity for scholars, and open pathways for reinvigorating scholarship in ways that can be more mindful.
  • Matt Applegate and Yu Yin To, “Adversarial Design as Multimodal Process: The Digital Manifesto Archive & @DHManifesto_Bot” present a Twitter bot that lines from the Digital Manifesto Archive, an archival resource that aggregates manifestos that are primarily disseminated online. By adopting Carl DiSalvo’s work on adversarial design, where antagonistic or contentious political expression is emphasized, Applegate and To’s booth discusses both how adversarial design informed their work, and how it can have benefits for future directions in multimodal scholarship.
  • Kimon Keramidas, “Interfacing with the History of Personal Computers: Stories and Meta-Conceptual Experiences From A Cross-Platform Scholarly Project” chronicles his experiences working from 2010-15 on The Interface Experience: 40 Years of Personal Computing exhibit, which chronicled the material culture and design histories of personal computer devices. Kerimadas’s booth shows how an ancillary book, website, GitHub repository and other texts developed in tandem with the exhibition played with the expectations of what appears in a catalog or academic monograph by appealing to multiple platforms and anachronistic norms from the 70s and 80s in academic book design.

The intersections and insights revealed by these eight digital roundtable stations will reveal how structure and meaning are interwoven in multimodal works, as scholars move between coding, designing, and writing without a clear boundary dividing these labors.




ANASTASIA SALTER (presiding) is an assistant professor of digital media at the University of Central Florida. She is the author of What is Your Quest? From Adventure Games to Interactive Books (University of Iowa Press, 2014), an examination of the role convergent media platforms have played in reshaping interactive narrative, and co-author of Flash: Building the Interactive Web (MIT Press, 2014). Her recent projects include the editorial team of the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3 (2016), a curated international collection of electronic literature, and co-editing the “Comics as Scholarship” experimental issue for Digital Humanities Quarterly (2015).




DANIEL ANDERSON is Professor of English, Director of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, and Director of the Studio for Instructional Technology and English Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books on teaching include Connections: A Guide to Online Writing, Writing About Literature in the Media Age, and Beyond Words: Reading and Writing in a Digital Age. His latest projects include the PeerPress Online Conference Platform and the forthcoming electronic book, Screen Rhetoric and the Material World. He recently received the Technology Innovator award from the National Council of Teachers of English.

MATT APPLEGATE is an Assistant Professor of English & Digital Humanities at Molloy College. He is the co-creator of the Digital Manifesto Archive & DHManifesto_Bot. He has published articles in Amodern, Theory & Event, Cultural Critique, Telos, and more. He is currently completing his first monograph, tentatively titled, Guerrilla Theory: Political Concepts for a Critical Digital Humanities.

CHERYL E. BALL is Associate Professor of Digital Publishing Studies and Director of the Digital Publishing Institute at West Virginia University. Prior to coming to WVU, Ball received tenure in 2010 at Illinois State University with the first all-digital portfolio. Since 2006, Ball has been editor of the online peer-reviewed open-access journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which exclusively publishes digital media scholarship and is read in 180 countries. She is currently the co-principal investigator (along with Andrew Morrison) on a $1-million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to build an open-access multimedia academic publishing platform, Vega, and serves as the executive director of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

HELEN J. BURGESS is Associate Professor of English at NC State University. She is editor of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, and coeditor with Craig Saper of Electric Books, a multimedia monograph series in conjunction with Punctum Books. Her research interests include electronic literature, multimodal composition and digital humanities. Her most recent book is Highways of the Mind (Penn Press, 2014) with Jeanne Hamming.

CLARISSA CEGLIO is Digital Humanities Research Assistant in the University of Connecticut’s Digital Media and Design Department (DMD), where she collaborates with museums, libraries and communities on public humanities projects that engage diverse audiences. She is the Editorial Faculty Member-in-residence for a new Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded initiative to establish a Scholarly Communications Design Studio at the university.

JASON HELMS is an Assistant Professor of English at TCU where he teaches courses on video games, new media, critical theory, and the history of rhetoric. He has published multimodal scholarship with Digital Humanities Quarterly, Itineration, and Kairos, along with more traditional research with Philosophy and Rhetoric and PRE/TEXT. His digital monograph, Rhizcomics: Rhetoric, Technology, and New Media Composition (Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative and the University of Michigan Press), will be released in 2016.

MICKI KAUFMAN is a fifth-year doctoral student in US History at the CUNY Graduate Center (GC) and Director of Information Systems at the Modern Language Association (MLA). Micki has been been elected to serve on the Executive Council of the ACH (Association for Computers in the Humanities) starting in 2016. She is a recipient of ACH’s 2015 Lisa Lena Prize and ADHO’s 2015 Paul Fortier Prize for best paper by a new and emerging scholar. In her work at the MLA, Micki directs systems & data support teams, directs the print and online production units, and oversees software development.

KIMON KERAMIDAS (presenter, not included on submitted list due to lack of space) is Clinical Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in New York University’s John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program. Kimon is a cultural historian of media and technology. Kimon helped found and is on the editorial collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, founded and is on the steering committee of New York City Digital Humanities, and served as Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab at the Bard Graduate Center.

TOM SCHEINFELDT is Associate Professor in the Departments of Digital Media & Design and History at the University of Connecticut. Tom is also Director of the University of Connecticut’s Scholarly Communications Design Studio, which is dedicated to developing collaboration-first approaches to the multimodal creation and expression of knowledge. Formerly Managing Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Tom has directed several award-winning digital humanities projects, including THATCamp, Omeka, and the September 11 Digital Archive. Among his publications, Tom is a recent contributor to Debates in Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota Press) and co-editor of Hacking the Academy (University of Michigan Press).

YU YIN (IZZY) TO is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Binghamton University. She is is the co-creator of the Digital Manifesto Archive & DHManifesto_Bot. Her work focuses on American Literature, Post-Secularism, Digital Humanities, and Radical Pedagogies.

ROGER WHITSON is Assistant Professor of English at Washington State University. He is author (with Jason Whittaker) of William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media (Routledge 2012.). Roger is editor of the Critical Making in Digital Humanities digital archive and hosted a webinar series of the same name in 2014. He is also co-editor (with Anastasia Salter) of “Comics as Scholarship” for Digital Humanities Quarterly and also editor (with Andrew Burkett) of the forthcoming “Blake and Pedagogy” collection for Romantic Circles. He’s currently at working on Steampunk and Nineteenth-Century Digital Humanities: LIterary Retrofuturisms, Media Archaeologies, Alternate Histories, which is under contract from Routledge.