DH Event off campus Pedagogy UVA Collaboration

DH Pedagogy Roadshow

Crossposted to the scholarslab blog and Brandon Walsh’s blog.

[The following post was co-authored with Mackenzie Brooks, Digital Humanities Librarian at Washington and Lee University. It follows up on a previous post on digital pedagogy and the Praxis Program. So if you’re just joining us, you might start there first. The first section below offers Brandon’s thoughts on a sequence of collaborative events with W&L, and the second section offers Mackenzie’s thoughts on the same.]

Brandon’s Perspective

In my last post, I mentioned that the Scholars’ Lab piloted a unit on digital pedagogy for the Praxis Program this past year. Over the course of a few weeks, the students each drafted the materials they would need to deliver a low-tech workshop on a digital humanities method or concept relevant to their own interests. The unit gave the students the opportunity to explore their chosen topic in dialogue with one another as they felt their way through how they would go about teaching the material to a broader audience, and it also gave the program a chance to speak directly to each student’s own reasons for being in graduate school and for exploring digital humanities. I ended that last post on something of a cliffhanger – I had intended the unit on pedagogy to end there, with each student in possession of all the makings for a DH workshop of their own design. But the students wanted to go a step further – they wanted to actually use these materials and deliver these workshops. I wanted to honor this good energy, and I’ll use this monthly installment in the Scholars’ Lab year of blogging to write a quick note about how we did so.

At the same time that the Praxis Program was running, I was in contact with the digital humanities group at Washington and Lee University about an ongoing collaboration that brings UVA graduate students working in DH to W&L to deliver one-off workshops for undergraduate DH courses. For each of these visits, the students work with the relevant faculty member to design a workshop in line with both their own research interests and the course material. It’s a challenging program to coordinate logistically – for each of these visits, W&L’s DH Librarian Mackenzie Brooks and I have to align the schedules for faculty members and students while also making good matches between interests and course syllabi. In spirit, this collaboration seemed like it could be a good fit for the new set of workshops designed by the Praxis programs. But we were not quite sure how to make it work logistically. We didn’t have obvious course fits for some of the topics, and it’s difficult to coordinate a couple workshops a semester, let alone six.

So we decided on a slightly different approach. Rather than trying to spread the workshops out among six class visits, we consolidated them. As luck would have it, this spring semester Mackenzie and Sydney Bufkin, Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow at W&L, were co-teaching a small capstone course for W&L students minoring in Digital Culture and Information. As a part of the course, Mackenzie and Sydney were eager for their students to get broad exposure to a range of DH topics. Rather than coordinate six individual trips from UVA to W&L, Mackenzie and Sydney suggested bringing their W&L students to UVA. With this in mind, on two separate occasions, Mackenzie and Sydney brought a group of students to the Scholars’ Lab to take part in a series of workshop sessions by our Praxis students. Because these workshops fell under the purview of the workshop exchange component of W&L’s Mellon grant, we were able to pay the students a small honorarium to compensate the extra time required to prepare the workshops over and above what we would usually expect of Praxis participants. In conversations with our Praxis students I started calling the event the Praxis DH Roadshow.

We had a lot of conversation internally about how to handle invitations for these workshops. After all, while the Praxis students were eager to deliver their work and get feedback, they were still learning about the field. We worried that throwing the doors open to the general public would be unfair to these students who were, after all, teaching in public so as to learn. We wanted to construct a space that helped to mitigate these risks, so we settled on a partially open format, aiming for about fifteen participants total in each workshop. Besides the five participants from W&L, we also counted on about five participants from the Scholar’s Lab. For the remaining audience members, we selectively invited members of the UVA community: subject librarians who would be interested in the work being done by students in their departments, experienced and generous collaborators who we could count on to offer constructive feedback, and library colleagues who might simply be interested in learning about the method under discussion. We couldn’t invite everyone, but we hoped that these targeted invitations might give our students the chance to show off the work they were doing in the library in a supportive environment.

To my mind, the events were a success in many ways. The slate of workshops the students put together was broad and diverse:

  • Catherine Addington (Spanish) – Transcription and Digital Editions
  • Cho Jiang (Urban and Environmental Planning) – Sentiment Mapping
  • Emily Mellen (Music, Critical and Comparative Studies) – How to Cite and Work with Sound Sources in Writing
  • Eleanore Neumann (Art and Architectural History) – Digital Curation
  • Mathilda Shepard (Spanish) – Minimal Computing
  • Chris Whitehead (History) – Network Analysis w/ String

The lineup of topics was a tad scattershot to be sure, but the goal was never to cover the broad range of things possible in digital humanities. We engaged the graduate students where they were and had their interests set the agenda. To my mind, the workshops themselves were not really for the audience. They were a chance to offer the Praxis students a chance to teach with a safety net – an opportunity they don’t often have. It also gave the students a chance to watch each other teach – something that is even more rare. But I’m very pleased that we were able to turn this exercise for graduate students at UVA into something that could be of use to the group at W&L.

I’m so pleased that Praxis could become a supportive space for pedagogical growth this year, and I’m very thankful for everyone who made it possible. I’m especially grateful to the many library colleagues who attended and shared their constructive feedback with the students (with apologies if I miss anyone): Hanni Nabahe, Lauren Work, Abby Flanigan, Brandon Butler, Maggie Nunley, Regina Carter, Erin Pappas, Keith Weimer, and Sue Donovan. The events would not have been possible without the work of Mackenzie Brooks, Sydney Bufkin, Amanda Visconti, and Laura Miller. They were each instrumental in making sure that the events took the shape they did and that they proved productive for the students. And, of course, I am very proud of and grateful to the students for sharing their work with us.

Mackenzie’s Perspective

As one of the instructors of the capstone course that Brandon mentioned, I wanted to share my perspective on the workshop roadshow and its role in our course. At the Washington and Lee University Library, we are in our first year of offering a minor in Digital Culture and Information (DCI). Sydney Bufkin and I decided to design and co-teach the capstone course this year, before we had any declared minors, as a way to test out the structure and feasibility of an upper-level digital project-based course.

We embarked on this trial with two students, both of whom had some experience with DH projects, but not much coursework in DCI. Because it was such a small course, we were able to customize the schedule to fit the needs of the students and their projects. Katherine Dau ’19 was interested in building a web map to complement her honors thesis in art history and MaKayla Lorick ’19 wanted to design a digital exhibit to house an oral history project she began the previous summer. We quickly filled our 12-week schedule with the theoretical and technological grounding necessary for our students to meet their project goals. But we still wanted our students to get a sense of the breadth of DH work.

Moreover, I knew from previous experience with UVa graduate students that they could be a great model for our undergrads as they learned new digital modes of research. As part of our ongoing collaboration with Scholars’ Lab, I regularly bring in a UVa graduate student or two in my 100-level Data in the Humanities course to introduce a new methodology (text analysis or GIS for example) and share its use in their own research. It has been a great way for my students to see someone only a little bit older than they are engaged in scholarship and the kind of experimentation that often goes on at Scholars’ Lab. I try to schedule the visits when my students are beginning to form their research questions so that they can bounce ideas off the grad students and hear someone other than me engage with their ideas.

Therefore, I was delighted to find out that this year’s Praxis students had prepared workshops they wanted to deliver. Our small class size made for an easy field trip up to Charlottesville for two marathon workshop days. The visits fell in the latter half of the course, but I think they would have worked just as well in the earlier half when we were still surveying methods. Not only did we all learn a lot from each of the workshop leaders, but our students were (gently) forced to articulate their own work for a friendly and knowledgeable audience. By the sixth workshop, they were comfortable explaining Jekyll or the reasoning behind their project name. This is what I like best about our collaboration with Scholars’ Lab – it creates an opportunity for all the people involved to learn and grow in a welcoming, low-stakes space. The Praxis students even insisted on formal feedback from us, so we took class time to fill out an evaluation form and discuss the workshops. For us, this was just a continuation of an ongoing conversation about sharing your work. Both Katherine and MaKayla had been presenting their projects to various audiences throughout the term, but the workshops helped them see new possibilities for their own emerging pedagogical practice. Most capstones will involve some kind of public presentation, but this experience reminded us that there is room for sharing and reflecting on your work in incremental ways, not just at the end of a project.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible!

DH Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Speaker Series: Anne Leader

Portrait of Anne Leader

We’re happy to welcome Anne Leader to campus on January 16th, 2019 for a public talk on her DH project called “Digital Sepultuario.” Supported by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) team at the University of Virginia, Dr. Leader’s project charts the locations, designs, and epitaphs of tombs made for Florentine families in sacred spaces across the city from about 1200 to about 1500, and then uses archival data to analyze social networks, patterns of patronage, and markers of status in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period. The places people interred their forebearers said a lot about who they were and who they aspired to be. George Bent, our own Sidney Gause Childress Professor of Art, shared, “This project will be of great interest to those of us whose research and pedagogical interests revolve around burial rituals, concepts of the afterlife, commemorating the dead, and burnishing personal reputations. It will be geared to both students and faculty, and will address issues and challenges facing those of us engaged in Digital Humanities studies.” Dr. Leader will be joining Prof. Bent’s Italian Renaissance Art course as well.

Pray for Us: The Tombs of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella
Wednesday, January 16th, 2019
Northen Auditorium

Announcement Event on campus Pedagogy People Research Projects

Winter Academy 2018 — rescheduled!

[FYI this event has been rescheduled for January 16, 2019 from 12:15pm-1:15pm. Join us for the same great lineup! Please register on Event Manager.]

With a fresh snow and impending finals, it is certainly time to look toward Winter Academy offerings. The entire line-up looks great this year, but we invite you to join us for the following DH event:

Monday, December 10th, 2018
Hillel 101
Lunch provided

Digital Humanities Summer Research Panel
Curious about how “digital humanities”–whatever that means–can fit into your research? What it’s like to work collaboratively with undergraduates working on humanistic questions? What impact the research can have on your pedagogy? Then, you should hear from Mellon Summer Digital Humanities Faculty Research awardees and a Special Collections project.

Presenters: George Bent, Professor of Art History; Sydney Bufkin, Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow; Megan Hess, Assistant Professor of Accounting

Don’t forget to register at!

Looking to fill out the rest of your week? We recommend the following:

  • Leveraging Technology to Cultivate an Inclusive Classroom – Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy (UNC Chapel Hill), Monday at 9:15-10:45pm
  • Imaging in the IQ Center – Dave Pfaff, Monday at 2:15pm
  • How is Technology Affecting Your Mojo? Finding Mindfulness – Marsha Mays-Bernard (JMU), Wednesday at 2:30-4pm
DH Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Speaker Series: Roopika Risam

We are beyond excited to welcome Dr. Roopika Risam to campus next week! Join us for her talk on September 20th, 2018 at 5pm in Northen Auditorium. Refreshments will be served.

Historicizing the College Color Line: Digital Humanities, Activism, and the Campus Climate

As our students renew demands for equity and justice on their campuses, how can digital humanities be engaged to address the college color line? Risam begins this talk by exploring the complicated relationship between digital humanities, public scholarship, and activism through her work on the Torn Apart/Separados team. She then considers how digital humanities can be used to assist activist-minded students in addressing pressing issues of race on our college campuses, based on her work at Salem State University. While Risam urges caution against quick conflation of digital humanities and activism, she argues that its methods can be effective tools for shedding light on histories of campus activism and supporting today’s student activists.

Roopika Risam is Assistant Professor of English, Faculty Fellow for Digital Library Initiatives, and Coordinator of the Digital Studies Graduate Certificate Program, and Coordinator of the Secondary English Education BA/M.Ed. Program at Salem State University. Risam is the author of New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Worlds in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy (Northwestern UP) and co-editor of The Digital Black Atlantic for the Debates in the Digital Humanities series (University of Minnesota Press). She is the director of the NEH and IMLS-funded Regional Comprehensive Digital Humanities Network and co-founder of Reanimate (, an intersectional feminist publishing collective. Her scholarship has appeared in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Digital Humanities Quarterly, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Popular Communications, South Asian Review, and College and Undergraduate Libraries, among others. Risam is also a recent recipient of the Massachusetts Library Association’s Civil Liberties Champion Award for her work promoting equity and justice in the digital cultural record. More information and her CV is available at

Announcement DH Event on campus Incentive Grants Pedagogy Speaker Series

Day of DH at Fall Academy 2018

DH @ W&L is holding two Fall Academy sessions this year. Don’t forget to register and check out all the other amazing-looking sessions. Join us on Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 in Hillel 101 for the following:

10:45AM-11:45 AM Creating Open Course Websites
Course websites are a great way to increase access to your courses, share your teaching strategies and materials with colleagues, and organize information for your students. Creating a course website is also an opportunity to re-evaluate the structure of your class and imagine how a student will navigate the different parts of the course. Learn about the benefits of making course materials open and accessible to audiences beyond the university, hear how other people in DH are using course websites, and learn strategies for organizing your own course into an easy-to-navigate website.

Presenters: Sydney Bufkin, Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow; Mackenzie Brooks, University Library; Sarah Horowitz, History.

12:00 PM – 1:45 PM DH Incentive Grant Panel
Come learn about DH funding opportunities for research and the classroom. Hear from current grant holders how they incorporate DH tools and methods in their classrooms. Presenters include Paul Youngman, Chair of Digital Humanities; Ricardo Wilson, English; Shikha Silwal, Economics; Stephen Lind, Business Administration; Stephanie Sandberg, Theater.

Come learn about DH funding opportunities for research and the classroom. Hear from current grant holders how they incorporate DH tools and methods in their classrooms. Presenters include Paul Youngman, Chair of Digital Humanities; Ricardo Wilson, English; Shikha Silwal, Economics; Stephen Lind, Business Administration; Stephanie Sandberg, Theater.

Event on campus Speaker Series

Reinventing an Ancient Wheel: Developing a Digital Resource for Pompeian Graffiti

We’re bringing it home for our final event of Spring Term with a special event from our Ancient Graffiti Project directors. Rebecca Benefiel, Associate Professor of Classics at W&L, and Holly Sypniewski, Associate Professor of Classics at Millsaps College, will present on their work on the Ancient Graffiti Project, a landmark DH project at W&L. Since 2014, the AGP team has been collecting inscriptions and figural graffiti from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Sara Sprenkle, Associate Professor of Computer Science, has led the development of the search engine and mapping visualizations so the data can be published widely and to other repositories. Over twenty undergraduates have contributed to all aspects of the project – fieldwork, translation, and web development. Join us to learn about this inspiring project!

Monday, May 7th, 2018
Northen Auditorium, Lower Level 1, Leyburn Library
Refreshments provided!

Holly SypniewskiRebecca Benefiel

Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Speaker Series: Podcast Producer Kimmie Regler

Headshot of Kimmie Regler
We’ve got a busy Spring Term planned! Our next guest speaker is Kimmie Regler, a podcast producer at Gimlet Media. Before joining Gimlet, she worked for WNYC’s On the Media. In a past life, she pursued a PhD in Classical languages and literature. Most recently, she’s been the senior producer on the Peabody nominated Uncivil, a history podcast on the Civil War. We’re delighted that Kimmie will be giving two talks during her visit – one on her work on Uncivil and another on using podcasts in research and teaching.

Podcasting the Past: How to Make History Come Alive through Audio

Thursday, May 3, 2018
IQ Center

Make Me Book You: How to Integrate Podcasts into Research and the Classroom

Friday, May 4, 2018
Hillel 101
Lunch served, please register at

Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Speaker Series: Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux on Metagaming

Metagaming book cover

Join us for a DH lunch with Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018. Boluk and LeMieux are joining us from UC Davis where they teach English and Media Studies respectively. They recently published Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames and will be speaking on video game culture and pedagogy. Boluk and LeMieux are here at the invitation of Prof. Andrew Ferguson who is teaching a course on video games in the English Department this spring.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
IQ Center
Register at

Metagaming uncovers alternative histories of play by exploring the strange experiences and unexpected effects that emerge in, on, around, and through videogames. One of the only books to include original software alongside each chapter, Metagaming transforms videogames from packaged products into instruments, equipment, tools, and toys for intervening in the sensory and political economies of everyday life.

UVA Collaboration

Writing in Public (on Purpose) at Washington & Lee University

[Enjoy this guest post by Catherine Addington, graduate student in Spanish at University of Virginia. She came to W&L to give a workshop in Prof. Sydney Bufkin’s WRIT 100: Writing in Public course through a Mellon-funded collaboration with the Scholars’ Lab at UVA. More information about this initiative can be found here. This post is cross-listed on the Scholars’ Lab blog.]

I am a graduate student in Spanish, a freelance writer, a newsletter creator, a former full-time media professional, a prolific blogger, a website manager, and an incessant tweeter. As such, I felt particularly excited to be invited to give a guest lecture in Prof. Sydney Bufkin’s course, Writing in Public, as part of the Scholars’ Lab collaboration with Washington & Lee University. In order to give students direct experience with public writing themselves, Prof. Bufkin had encouraged them to purchase their own domain name, set up their own website, and try out a Twitter account. I visited during the last week of classes to describe how I had used these tools in my own career, and help students envision how they could use them after the course draws to a close.

Prof. Bufkin and I had three main goals for the lecture:

  1. Model both personal and professional relationships with an individual digital presence for students.
  2. Inform students about public writing careers and the publishing process, particularly as a freelancer.
  3. Lead students in brainstorming plans for their own domain name and Twitter account.

The text of my talk follows. The presentation slides are also available here.

Writing in Public (on Purpose)

aka how to grow up on the Internet and reverse-engineer that into something professional

Thanks to all of you and to Professor Bufkin for having me. I’m currently a graduate student in Spanish at the University of Virginia, but I’m also a longtime public writer, onetime professional journalist, and a part-time website manager. I’ve called this talk “Writing in Public (on Purpose)”, but the subtitle is what I really want to focus on: how to grow up on the Internet and reverse-engineer that into something professional. Because that may be the one thing in which I am a bona fide expert. So today I’m going to talk to you about my own relationship with public writing, and hopefully help you to work out what you’d like yours to be.

But I’d like to start with a short exercise: please Google yourself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask for results. But raise your hand if you found something positive, something you’re proud of. Now raise your hand if you found something negative, or something you feel is kind of silly. Now raise your hand if you found nothing in particular.

You can see for yourselves: most likely, you’re going to have an Internet presence of some kind. It’s just a question of how much control you have over it. Today I want to share with you what getting control over that looked like for me, and what it might look like for you.

First, I plan to discuss my own experience with balancing personal and professional public writing. Then, I’ll describe what public writing is like as a career. Finally, I’ll turn it over to you all to workshop how you can use public writing for your own goals, and specifically what you plan to do with your domain name once this class ends.

I’ll start with my own experience.

My first website was a fandom-heavy Tumblr, and an angsty teenage diary. I didn’t think of this as public writing at the time. My friends and I all used Tumblr as a social network, not a blogging platform. It was all Champions League highlights and emo song lyrics. But because someone felt the need to run my account through the Wayback Machine, this early iteration of my Tumblr blog, and the various URLs it took on later, are preserved for posterity.

That’s actually still my website, but now it’s a portfolio and blog, too. If you go far back enough in the archives, you’ll still find plenty of fandom and angst. In fact, you’ll still find plenty of both. What’s changed is my intention and self-awareness about it being a public-facing platform.

Similarly, my Twitter also started out as fan enthusiasm. Here you can see me waxing poetic about FC Barcelona’s former goalkeeper.

Now, Twitter has become my professional network too. Here you can see two examples of my writing being shared and commented on by other writers. (But of course, I still tweet plenty about soccer.)

My point is: you know how sometimes a friend will comment on an old profile picture on Facebook so that it’s at the top of everyone’s news feed and suddenly all your college friends know what you looked like when you were 14 and a mess? Well, having had a blog and a public Twitter since I was in high school is like that, but in public, and your employer is invited. I have more embarrassing tweets and angsty tumblr posts out there than I could ever take back. That may not be the case for you, but if it is, I have some advice. If you, too, are growing up on the Internet:

  1. Be able to laugh at yourself (and forgive yourself, when you need to). Everyone has had a phase they wish everyone else would forget. Nobody cares about your embarrassing memories as much as you do. The Internet has not fundamentally changed this, we just have to laugh at ourselves a little louder.
  2. Personality is an asset. People actually do not want the sum total of your human existence to be a soulless LinkedIn page. I mean, you might need a LinkedIn if that’s common practice in your field, but just remember that people like people, not brands. I once interviewed a potential intern because she worked on a blueberry farm. Of course, she actually got hired because she was qualified and seemed like someone we’d enjoy working with, plus there are real professional skills from working on a blueberry farm—talk about initiative and teamwork! But being able to actually stand out from a pile of papers is a good thing. More importantly, there’s more to life than work, and you are going to want to spend it as a person, not an idea.
  3. Kill it with excellence. This is my main strategy, to be honest. You can’t always take things back, but you can often drown them out. The Internet is great for making a lot of noise. People are welcome to dig up my nonsense tweets but they’ll have to pass by a fair amount of intelligent conversation to get there too.

Now let’s put that into practice and talk about how to professionalize your digital presence. I used two main tools for this, and they’re the same ones you use in this class: a personal website and a Twitter account.

As I see it, the personal website has three main functions: place, process, and product.

  • Place: the personal website as business card. Many professionals have a website that includes a short bio, links to their social media, and ways to get in contact. Some include a print or digital version of their resume as well.
  • Process: the personal website as blog. Sharing “process” writing looks different for everyone. It can be a reflection on your study abroad travels, a step-by-step description of your latest experiment and results, a discussion of the readings you did for class, or even just stray observations from your day that you find interesting. Personally, I develop ideas best in conversation, and find that blogging is a good way to get feedback. I also use my newsletter, Cartas de América, for this purpose—that’s where I talk to friends and readers about my academic research.
  • Product: the personal website as portfolio. Sharing “finished products” will also look different for everyone. I have two of these: a “writing & media” tab for published writing and podcast episodes, which I link at the bottom of my resume; and a “teaching portfolio” with example lesson plans and a statement of teaching philosophy. For you, it might be a multimedia gallery with art or design samples, a list of relevant coursework and job experience, a web store, or photos of events you’ve planned or projects you’ve collaborated on.

As for Twitter, making it not just my personal thoughtstream but also my professional network was a complicated process I’m not going to get into here, but I will say this. Twitter is a great place to get mentorship, directly or indirectly. Follow people who have your dream job, and watch how they use it. Classroom instruction will often prepare you with the existing knowledge in a field, but online conversation can inform you about what those same experts are working on next. Twitter is a good way to plug into conversations you might not have access to in your daily life as a student. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity to talk with professionals who are where you want to be—and lets you get your name in front of potential future employers, too.

I’m not saying that it’s essential for you to have a personal website and a Twitter to be successful in life (though they help a lot if you want to work in media). I’m just saying it worked for me. You might need different tools depending on your own goals. But I do think that over time, digital literacy is becoming less “impressive” and more “expected.” Even if all this isn’t a “requirement” for your field, it may be an opportunity.

Now that we have an idea of how to balance a personal and professional online presence, I’d like to share with you what I’ve done with mine and talk briefly about public writing as a career. I want to emphasize that I only worked one year as a full time journalist—and actually I spent most of that time producing a magazine, not writing for one. Most of my writing has been published as a side gig while a student, both undergraduate and graduate. This is called “freelancing”, and it paid my rent for several months this past year. (And if you’ve got friends in Charlottesville you know that’s saying something!) I want to highlight that up front to remind you that you’re already in the so-called “real world,” and what you think of as hobbies (like extracurriculars, clubs, fundraising, volunteering, events) are giving you real professional experience that you can and should frame as such.

Freelance writing is a fairly straightforward process: pitch, edit, and publish.

A “pitch” is just media lingo for a proposal: briefly explain what you want to write, why you’re the one to write it, and why this particular editor or publisher is a good fit. Each magazine or outlet has their own process for taking pitches, and usually they’ll post that on their website. But I usually contact individual editors—often people I’ve met through Twitter. In fact, most of my pitches have started as conversations or DMs on Twitter.

The next step, once a piece is accepted, is to discuss expectations with the editor. I always ask for a deadline, a word count, and an idea of my compensation amount and procedures right up front. Some places pay upon publication, others upon acceptance of your piece. I want to pause here to encourage you to resist our collective social allergy to talking about money. This is especially crucial for freelancers, because plenty of places won’t pay you if you don’t explicitly ask to be paid. Young writers are particularly easy to scare with the concept of “writing for exposure.” But writing is work like any other, and you should be paid for it. I only give stuff away on my own terms (i.e. a blog)! This applies not just to writing, but to any professional field—do not be afraid to get and give straightforward money advice.

After writing and submitting, a piece will go through rounds of editing and fact-checking. This usually happens on the magazine’s end, though sometimes a writer will be contacted with fact-checking questions. That’s why it’s important to carefully reference sources in a draft, as though writing academically, even if it’s a totally different medium.

Once the piece is published, celebrate, because that’s awesome. And if you haven’t already, go get paid: invoice the publisher for the agreed-upon amount and keep a record for tax purposes. There are great online templates for invoicing freelance work of any kind, writing or otherwise. Meanwhile, I always make sure to save a PDF copy of my published work, since URLs aren’t stable. I also update my social media, website, and resume with any new pieces that I’ve published (which we call acquiring “clips”).

The last step is crucial: engaging readers productively. That adverb is doing a lot of work. It means I don’t read the comments unless I’m prepared to see cruelty, but I do try to engage in interesting conversations that arise on Twitter in response to the piece. After all, what’s the point of public writing if you don’t actually want to talk to or hear from the public?

I want to share two examples of this process from my own work, that I think exemplify varying degrees of success. Here’s the first one: one time at a work event in DC, I met an editor for The Spectator, which is a conservative British magazine with a significant following. I really like a lot of their arts and culture content, but I don’t personally share the magazine’s politics, so I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to pitch the editor. But I also thought it would be a good opportunity to share my own perspective—and of course to get my name in an old, fancy magazine. So I pitched the editor on something I knew would get his attention: the then- (and still-) collapsing political and economic situation in Venezuela. Everyone likes a story about their political enemy doing poorly, and Latin America happens to be my academic specialty. The article was accepted, and the result was…interesting.

As you can see here, the headline that the editors put on my article was exactly as I expected: look how terrible socialism is. But in my article, I argue that authoritarianism, not socialism, is to blame. My instinct was to take a self-aggrandizing lesson from this: well, when you’re a public writer, you have to be prepared for the public to see whatever they want to see. I think the real lesson is one in humility: you need to own your work. If you want to pick a fight—which I clearly wanted to here—you need to actually do that, instead of trying to sneak in your viewpoint. It’s a matter of respect for your audience.

A more successful example of writing to a specific audience is this article I wrote for my former employer, The American Conservative.

On the left, you have my undergraduate thesis, which you will not be surprised to hear was about soccer (specifically in Argentina). On the right, you have an article I wrote during the summer of 2014, when the World Cup was on. In the article, I used my thesis research to argue that Americans denouncing soccer as European and therefore socialist are playing into a long tradition of denouncing and then adopting foreign customs. Because that’s exactly what happened in Argentina—they denounced soccer as an English import but over time it became the popular obsession it is today. This article was more successful because I wrote with my audience in mind: they would likely be aware of the ongoing World Cup, and may have seen other conservative publications’ negative reactions to it. I took that established knowledge as the point of departure, and added more context. Instead of trying to sneakily insult my audience’s opinion (like I did in The Spectator), I directly engaged and responded to events that my audience would be familiar with.

Most of my public writing career consists of work like this, taking scholarly research and turning it into public writing—and taking work about Latin America and making it accessible for an English-speaking audience.

Now that I’ve shared my own experience with public writing, it’s time to turn it over to you. But I doubt that all of you are in the very specific market of writing for niche magazines about soccer, saints, and Latin American politics, so my roadmap will be of limited use. So I want to start with the basic premise of project management: identify your goals first, and then pick the tools best suited to execute it.

So before we talk about that domain name that you bought, let’s brainstorm. What are your goals for your digital presence? Let’s take five minutes to take notes individually on the following questions:

  • What do you want people to know about you?
  • When someone mentions you in conversation, what do you hope it’s in reference to? What do you hope people associate with you?
  • Whom do you imagine as your target audience—the people reading your website? Family, friends, coworkers, industry experts, potential employers?

Now, let’s look at some examples of what other young professionals have done with their personal websites. These are all people I know in real life, and few of them are professional web designers, so I want you to keep in mind that all of this was done with free or cheap tools to which you also have access.

As you look through a site or two, think about these questions:

  • Based on this person’s website, what do you know about them? What are you likely to associate with them?
  • Whom do you think is this person’s intended audience? How does their website reach that audience?
  • What do you like and dislike about the website? How could it be improved?

(Students noted that Jorge Ariel Escobar used a visual-heavy website to showcase his photography, which matched his apparent goal of marketing his skills. They also reflected on Matthew and Maggie Loftus’s use of their more text-heavy website to keep a blog about their medical practice in a way that was accessible to non-medical professionals, perhaps for a more personal audience since they describe living and working far from home. Finally, we discussed Eric L. Silver’s website as an example of taking a colorful personal tone, even while aiming at a professional audience. After all, I pointed out, if you’re a podcast producer and writer, you want people to spend hours listening to your voice or reading your words. It doesn’t make any sense to excise your personality if that’s exactly what you’re selling!)

Now that you have an idea of your own goals and a few examples to work with, let’s make an action plan for your domain name. Think about these questions:

  • What elements of the example sites you looked at, if any, would help you achieve the goals you laid out in your brainstorm session?
  • Think about the personal website as process (blog), product (portfolio), and place (business card). Which of those three elements would be useful to you, if any?

I’ll leave you with a few recommendations for further reading and research pertinent to the topic. If you have any questions, feel free to ask now or get in touch.

DH Pedagogy UVA Collaboration

All About the Archive

[Enjoy this guest post by Lauren Reynolds, doctoral candidate in the Spanish, Italian & Portuguese Department at University Virginia. She came to W&L to give a workshop in Prof. Andrea LePage’s Contemporary Latinx and Chicanx Art course through a Mellon-funded collaboration with the Scholars’ Lab at UVA. More information about this initiative can be found here. This post is cross-listed on the Scholars’ Lab blog.]

I was invited to guest lecture for Professor Andrea LePage’s course, Contemporary Latinx and Chicanx Art. After discussing possible topics for the workshop, Professor LePage and I decided on the topic of “Archive as Protest.” It overlapped with my research on cultural memory in US Latinx texts and presented me with the opportunity to learn more about digital archives. As I developed the plan for the workshop, I organized the information into questions surrounding digital archives, preserving cultural memory, and cataloguing a variety of experiences.

These are very broad questions, so I outlined two goals for the class: First, I wanted the students to begin to think about information storage in the broadest sense. Then we would narrow the idea of seemingly endless information down to a conversation about cataloguing and metadata. Second, I aimed for our discussion of cultural creation and preservation to help the students understand one way in which preserving information through archives can have a positive social impact.

After introductions, we began the lecture with a brief discussion of Jorge Luis Borges’ short story La biblioteca de babel. This story gave me the opportunity to sneak a bit of Latin American literature into the course and provided an entry point for talking about information storage. So, we began with questions about Borges’ conception of an infinite library: Why do you think some people say that Borges “discovered” the internet decades before it was invented? What similarities do you see between the infinite library and the internet? What are some differences? How is a library organized? Is the internet organized? What possibilities/challenges do a universe of information pose?

Next, we zoomed in to a more focused discussion of archives, their purposes, and how the internet has changed the preservation and accessibility of information. We talked about documenting history from many perspectives and, in small groups, the students reflected on the following quote from Daniel Mutibwa:

“The overarching argument is that local, alternative, bottom-up approaches to telling (hi)stories and re-enacting the past not only effectively take on a socio-political dimension directed at challenging dominant, hegemonic, institutional narratives and versions of the past, but – in doing so – they also offer new and refreshingly different ways of understanding, representing, remembering, and rediscovering the past meaningfully in ways that local communities and regions can relate with.” (Mutibwa)

The students began to connect this quote to their own interests as we discussed the possibilities of digital archives. We specifically looked at the Hurricane Katrina collection to talk about the pros and cons of bottom-up archives:
We noted how such archives allow for individual stories to be shared and they can become part of a community’s healing processes after a tragedy.

This digital archive also prompted interest in logistical questions, such how stories are collected, saved, and mapped in the creation of an online archive. Specifically, the students were asked to think about:

  1. Development: How to choose what to include, authenticity
  2. Retrieval and Collection
  3. Reaching the Community: Supporting Research, Learning, and Teaching
  4. Reference Information and Providing Access

Our last activity gave them the opportunity to learn about different types of metadata and its role in cataloguing. We discussed social media presences as types of personal, living archives and how hashtags such as #TBT, #breakfast, and #gooddog can be seen as a means of organizing Instagram posts. In pairs, the students were then given three photos of different US Latinx artworks and asked to assign categories to each photo. They thought about specificity and accessibility: how to make the photos both accessible in broad searches, but easily found for specific inquiries. Each pair shared their selected words with a larger group. After comparing their different hashtags and debating which labels were most useful, each group came up with a definitive set of categories. We compared the different “data sets” created in class, noting the benefits and possible drawbacks of each set.

The class concluded with small group discussions of overarching questions:

  1. Difficulties posed by the fact that technology is always changing
  2. How to establish trust between archive curators and communities
  3. Library neutrality, the library’s role in community engagement, and the line between memorial and protest
  4. Advantages and disadvantages of allowing anonymous submissions
  5. Oral Histories: Who determines what questions are asked? How are these interviews and all texts edited and by who? Can “alternative” truths be abused to represent dangerous falsehoods?
  6. How do we preserve horrific histories? Do we reproduce offensive terms?

With the time remaining, the students talked about whichever question interested them most in their work and, more broadly, in their lives.

Mutibwa, Daniel H. “Memory, Storytelling and the Digital Archive: Revitalizing Community and Regional Identities In the Virtual Age.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 12, no. 1, 2016, pp. 7-26.