Hero or Villain: Digital / Public History and Me

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."  Harvey Dent --  The Dark Knight (2008)

What a way to start. Don't worry, I'm not planning on taking the supervillain route...yet. You know I like comics and I've shown myself capable of framing those ideas in a way to talk about larger questions. I'm talking at University of Florida in February 2017. I'm a proud graduate of History program at UF. I'm duly employed, so I'm thinking they can't complain from their perspective either.

Still, I find myself in a space not exactly defined by the things I learned in school.  Harvey Dent's quote came to mind as I thought about where I stand. I do a end of the year retrospective. I check in with people, talk through ideas, see where the landscape has taken us all. Ask myself questions about what I've done and what I should stop doing.  I'm honored to be asked back to speak by UF Digital Humanities Working Group. In many ways, this group is on the cutting edge of creating tool and crafting frameworks linked to digital humanities.  Clearly, my time as a working academic at a teaching institution has forced me to be flexible and creative. Core principles of my training as a historian of urban America are in everything I do, but not in a straightforward manner. This talk, which I named after my blog, will give me a chance to map out how I got where I am. I often say to students, "I'm the villain in your story" as a way to acknowledge their frustration. As much as a strive for them to have a positive experience, I also commitment myself to a practice that unstructured and inquiry driven for the purpose of intellectual growth.  The upside is that it pays off for them later. The downside is that it pays off for them later.  This is not a joke as I recognize the benefits are perhaps too detached from the process. The modern academic in a teaching space like mine is under a variety of pressures.  Our rewards and professional assessments are linked to specifics kinds of outcomes that students and parents don't care about. At the same time, creating the mechanisms to nurture the 21st century learner increasingly pushes professors to create experiential spaces in and out of the classroom. As I think about this presentation, I will sketch out that process and its implications.



Dr. Julian Chambliss, “A Hybrid Graphic Space: Thematic Explorations of Digital History Practice” LibraryPress@UF presenter, Feb. 23, 2-3:30pm, Smathers Library, room 100

February 23, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

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Please join us for a presentation by Dr. Julian Chambliss, the first invited speaker for the new LibraryPress@UF which is bringing in experts on the changing nature of academic publishing.


Julian ChamblissA Hybrid Graphic Space: Thematic Explorations of Digital History Practice

This talk will explore the intersection of digital practice and history in order to discuss how collecting, preserving, and presenting history within the broad landscape of digital humanities can be used to enhance teaching, service, and scholarship. Deeply informed by the ideas of critical making and generative scholarship, the talk will explore the differing mode of engagement linked to the integration of digital tools and techniques in and out of the classroom. From interdisciplinary projects that blend curatorial and research practice to immersive evolving classroom based projects, the opportunity for the modern humanities scholar to teach, learning, and engage across platforms offers unique opportunities and challenges.


A Blended Space

I'm gearing up for the AHA in Denver. I'm talking about Winter Park's gilded age origins. My approach to local history has been defined by the intersection digital pedagogy and African-American History. Since 2007 I have worked with my students in projects such as the History Engine. Designed with the goal of "enhancing historical education and research for teachers, students, and scholars alike" the collaborative nature of the History Engine project fostered the development of community oriented projects.

Word cloud generated by HIstory Engine episodes from my courses.

Word cloud generated by HIstory Engine episodes from my courses.


Exploring the archival narrative through the History Engine sharpen my thinking about how the local context could inform broader historiographical debates.  I've developed a critical making practice informed by the work of scholars like Roger Whitson.   Critical Making is defined by Whitson and others as  "hands-on productive work" that can supplement and extend critical reflection on technology and society.  Heavily influenced by design thinking, contemporary art and engineering fields, these scholars blend and extend the way we see and understand technological development.  I pursued this same thinking with goal of making my course a vehicle to increase historical understand in my students and the community.  

This is a process in my mind. It is ongoing and inclusive and as such it aligns with Ed Ayers definition of the generative scholarship.  Ayers made his mark by creating the Valley of the Shadows project.  I remember the first time I saw the project and I recognized how transformative the project was for fostering public understanding about history.  Ayers' perspective on digital history and the need for historians to engage the public is guidepost for me.  There is not a guidebook in this space, but my plan is to keep going.  My instinct is the blended space around creation, curation, and traditional scholarly production offers a way to achieve the outcomes historians traditional achieve in exciting new ways. For me, the ideation linked course design offers the space to discover new knowledge even as it educates students (see what I did there). 

Stay tuned.