Scholarly Conversations and SACRPH

I served as co-chair of the 2017 Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) program committee with David Freund from University of Maryland. This was an incredible opportunity to help shape the conversation around planning history in the United States. One goal that David and I set for ourselves was to make sure the “conversations we have in the hallways” somehow make it out into the wider world. I know the folks at the Tropics of Meta and I thought they would be a great partner. I first met Alex Cummings at Urban History Association meeting and found out about Tropics of Meta as a project that he developed along with several other scholars with the intention of bringing the scholarly discussions to the masses. As they describe on the site, “Tropics of Meta aims to offer a fresh perspective on history, current events, popular culture, and issues in the academic world. Founded in 2010, ToM has published over 700 essays by historians, social scientists, artists, filmmakers, and creative writers both within and outside the academy, giving voice to communities across the United States and the world.”

We recorded several conversations at the SACRPH meeting. The dirty secret of DH work is finding the funding to support every project. Most of us are using our “off” time to get this done. My thanks to the Tropic of Meta crew for getting these conversation to the world.

Take Off

I’m excited the the exhibit on Canadian comic artist I co-curated with Zack Kruse is open. 

 

Exhibit Ad

Exhibit Ad

This exhibit is in conjunction with the 2019 MSU Comics Forum. Since the keynote artist is Seth, the theme for the exhibit is Canadian Comics.  

I was not planning on curating exhibit my first semester, but the oppportunity arose as Randy Scott, the librarian behind the Comic Arts Collection opted to set back a bit from activities.   

Enter the new guy and Zack Kruse. Zack has been operating as the academic director for the festival. With his departure (he is finishing up a Ph.D.), I’m setting up to take that role. I’m learning the ropes from Zack and we handled this exhibit pretty well. Installation was made easier by the Amazing MSU Library staff.  

 

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The exhibit

This exhibit will be on display until February 24th. If you get the chance, drop by and check it out. 

Reframing History: A Making Experiment?

I talk about chasing the idea across platform. I'm influenced by the public humanities practice articulated by community engagement ideology that shapes teaching and learning at Rollins College. While I'm leaving Rollins, the scholar/teacher I am is pretty much defined by the idea of marrying the classroom to the real world in some way.  I always caution people that "I'm not expert", but of course expertise is relative. I know more than many and think and act on the those ideas that align with my goal. The critical making ideology that guides my action in and out of the classroom mean I want to take ideas and knowledge and apply them in the project that create objects that demonstrate learning by student makers, but add to public knowledge.  How can I do that if I don't play around myself? 

Podcasts are a D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) digital form. Indeed, there is an argument among digital humanist whether or not a podcast project is a "digital humanities project."  This came up during the Organization of American Historians meeting this year.

This exchange was meaningful to me as Jeff McCluken is the Digital Review editor for the Journal of American History.  Robert Cassanello is my friend and colleague and he has created a number of noteworthy podcast projects (and other things). Perhaps the most notable is his History of Central Florida podcast, which arguably is a major digital humanities project. I think the core of this argument is that podcasts don't strictly speaking, create knowledge. At least they don't create knowledge in the form that we associate with academic discourse.  History, in particular, is a written art (or science) and therefore, if you don't write it, you didn't do anything.  Ok. I'm making that argument a bit more harshly than I should, but the core critique is not that complicated. Real historians write long, single-authored monographs exhaustly thinking through a topic. Fake historians do not. That construction is not productive and the nature of historical learning requires a multi-tiered approach that places the core meaning around historical analysis on multiple platforms.  If you want the public to know what you know, you might consider how talking about the idea in a podcast might reach people in a way the journal article will not. We see the mediated environment distorting our ability to understand arguments and one way to combat that reality is to create narratives that work for our digital age.  I would not advocate abandoning the kind of serious engagement with material that we talk about with students every day, but I will always stress that communicating ideas across different platforms is an important skill and meaningful exercise.  I'm using Anchor to create the Reframing History podcast. This does three things. First, this is an opportunity to engage the public around the creation of "new" historical narrative for the Winter Park, Florida community. Second, we (Scot French and I ) can provide context to what we are doing when we say "re-write" the history. This question is crucial because this community history project is at some level emblematic of the anxiety linked to academic history. By seeking to tell a more accurate story, we trigger fears within the community we are "erasing history" and we can address in this context and everyone can listen (or not). Third, I get to see how I might use this platform in class. I was fully intending to create a podcast series in a class at Rollins. The podcast idea isn't going away. I always advise students that the simplest tool is best when embarking on a digital project. I follow that advice myself, so the re-design of ANCHOR opened the door to an easy to use widely available podcast tool, your smartphone.  There are always hidden pitfalls for commercial digital products, but if Anchor allows students the opportunity to create podcast easily so they can concentrate on the content instead of the process, I think it is a winner.  The process will always change, but the intent of creating a clear narrative will always be useful.  You can listen my first conversation with my colleague Scot French below and find the podcast online. 

Every Tongue Got to Confess

The 2019 Zora Neale Hurston Festival for the Arts and Humanities is rapidly approaching. As is the tradition for this event, the podcast project, Every Tongue Got to Confess is available. Every season of ETGTC is recorded at the Zora Festival. The last two years, those interviews have been conducted by Holly Baker, podcast producer for UCF Department of History (with some assistance from me). The host has been Robert Cassanello, but I agreed to take on the hosting duties for this year as Robert shifted to other projects. Of course, this all became more complicate when I accepted a position at Michigan State University. We crafted a special episode just about me, to give people some background on the changes.

Listen