About me

I currently serve as the Creative Lead at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As I may demonstrate on this blog today, that title includes a lot of different responsibilities, and takes me into everything from contributing to grant narratives to fixing bugs in software. Those responsibilities include development coordinator for Omeka, CHNM’s web publishing software for cultural institutions.

I helped found THATCamp, the Humanities and Technology Camp, which was originally hosted at CHNM in 2008 and has since spread to include regional camps around the US and in parts of Europe. THATCamp is an unconference, almost wholly user-generated, and collaborative. Much like the way we work at CHNM. I’m currently helping Tom Scheinfeldt coordinate One Week | One Tool, a digital humanities barnstorming where, for one week, twelve people will come together, and concieve, build, and disseminate a digital humanities tool, and plan for long-term sustainability.

When I’m not working at CHNM, I’m a PhD Candidate in the Department of History and Art History at Mason. My dissertation, tentatively entitled “The Designing Historian,” is a methodological study on how historians can use design theories and approaches to doing digital history, for both front-end design (graphics, user interface) and software development. You can find me at any of the following networks and services:

I love coffee, nice fonts, and bluegrass music.

Getting Started

Sign in front of the CHNM office door. Room 470 in Research One

CHNM is in Research One, one of the research buildings on the campus of George Mason University. We are, as much as I can remember, the only humanities research group in this building.

At this point, I haven’t checked anything on my computer: No email, Twitter, foursquare, et cetera. I haven’t even turned on my computer yet, and don’t look at my iPhone. I don’t do any of this stuff until I get to work in the morning. I like to think of my morning before work as the calm before the storm. But its a great storm. I like thunderstorms.

Most of the time I’ll work at the big table in front of my office, which is in the “Robot Room” at CHNM. We call it the Robot Room because this space used to be occupied by the Autonomous Robotics Lab, until they moved in a new building. The space is really nice for collaborative work.

Meetings!

I probably couldn’t have a busier day to document than today. Among other things I have a lot of meetings scheduled. We had a meeting with James Loewen, author of Lies my Teacher Told Me and Sundown Towns. Dr. Loewen is working on a database of sundown towns across the U.S., and was interested in using Omeka for that project. He had questions similar to those that other interested Omeka users have—how to get data out of his current system, what the advantages and limitations of the software, what other options were available. I think its important to note that even though we develop Omeka, we don’t recommend it for every single project, and don’t even use it in house for every project. We discussed lots of other options, like Filemaker Pro, Drupal, WordPress, and pointed out that in the end, the software you choose should help facilitate the goals you have in mind for a project, instead of pigeon-holing your projects goals based on a particular piece of software.

After that, I was part of a meeting with potential history PhD students who are interested in the work CHNM is doing, and opportunities they might have in the program. I and a few other current and former PhD students—Ken Albers, Sheila Brennan, Lee Ann Ghajar, Jenny Reeder, and Ammon Shepherd—discussed our experience not only in the PhD program, but also as research assistants and employees at CHNM. One of the things that we all had in common was the opportunity to learn new skills on the job and working with people of many different levels of expertise. I started at CHNM in 2003 as a graduate assistant, with practically no technology experience, but gained confidence every time one of the senior staff at the Center entrusted me with some task or project, and gave me the time to learn new skills. One thing we told the potential students was that there are opportunities at CHNM and in the program to acquire these skills and, more importantly, an attitude and approach to digital humanities work at Mason that encourages experimentation, collaboration, and learning-as-you go.