The importance of asking good questions; or, Reflections on “Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures” at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The Old Books New Science lab had a field trip to the Gothic Boxwood Miniatures exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario today, and I came away impressed and inspired by their example of “digital humanities” research that really delivers on the promise of new insights. I often talk with “DH” people — and even more often with researchers skeptical of “DH” — about the difficulty of producing something which is relevant in and of itself. All research is fundamentally exploratory, an attempt to discover something not yet known, but the risk seems particularly easy to imagine with computational or technological approaches, that one might invest enormous effort to discover nothing except that the effort required was enormous. The AGO exhibit, I think, reveals a way to use exciting new tools without getting stuck just researching the tools themselves.

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MLA 2017 conference reflections

My first MLA annual convention has come to a close! I had the honour of presenting on the Book of Fame project I’ve been part of, and the good fortune to present at the end of the first night so I could attend the rest of the conference worry-free.

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Three Minute Thesis, “Reading Books by the Hundreds”

I didn’t end up winning UVic’s Three Minute Thesis competition, but I’m so glad I seized the opportunity to be part of such a fun and fascinating event. Sharing my research with a broader audience was exhilarating, because I knew I had to make the case for English research as a whole and for distant reading. I was so pleased to have several students want to talk to me afterward about studying English! And of course, spending a solid week pacing my apartment muttering about my research all hours of the day was great preparation for my oral defence.

UVic has posted videos of all the finalists’ talks online, so you can scroll all the way to the bottom to watch me eagerly wave my hands around (and forget my lines right near the end) if you want!

This is the slide I had up in the background: