Workbook for Introduction to Digital Humanities: A-State

Aimie Michelle's Bio Analysis

I chose my four biographies based on Inside Higher Ed's article, The New Wave in Digital Humanities, which features "rising stars" in the Digital Humanities whose careers have involved the kind of innovative, service-oriented digital humanities work to which I aspire [1].  Each of the practitioners I have selected are university-affiliated, and maintain  other digital presences in addition to their university-hosted biography, as can be seen in these links:

Alex Gil:
Columbia University faculty profile
NYC Digital project biography
Twitter account personal website

Lauren Klein:
Georgia Tech faculty profile personal website
Twitter account

Marisa Parham
Amherst College faculty profile personal website
Twitter account

Miriam Posner
UCLA faculty website personal website
Twitter account

The faculty biographies for each practitioner are - as might be expected - written for the professional academic audience, usually keeping an impersonal third-person tone and focusing on the information most relevant to other scholars, such as their research or interest areas, publications, titles or achievements, and university contact information. Miriam Posner's university page is bare facts, more like a digital CV, while Marisa Parham's Amherst page includes a warmer one-sentence first-person invitation to learn more about her scholarly work and view her CV, which links to her personal website.  Miriam Posner and Lauren Klein also have links to their personal websites included on their university biography page, though these are simply listed as links within their contact information.  Their personal websites are still written for the academic audience, reflecting their personality through the artistic arrangement of the page rather than telling a more personal story, and still limiting their focus to their authorship and research activity.

All four practitioners maintain Twitter accounts, usually linked from their personal webpages, and for the most part, their Twitter activity reflects their professional activity, featuring links to articles or news of interest to fellow scholars, comments on colleagues' work, or celebrations of professional achievement.  There are few glimpses, or even traces, of their personal journey, their family life, or the person you might meet if you were informally discussing daily life or world events over a glass of wine. These are carefully cultivated professional portraits, which are made more welcoming and human through the artistry of their personal sites and their social media links - but only within limits.

It is clear that these practitioners keep careful attention on their professional image in their online work, realizing that these sites are the ones that are most commonly found through search engine queries, and thus reflecting not only on their own credibility but upon their affiliated institutions.  Miriam Posner distances her Twitter account slightly by noting in its "about me" section that she is an "Assistant prof @UCLAIS, digital humanities person, own opinions haver." Her following statement "This is me trying." hints that the management of these different roles isn't always easy, and may involve a risk of conflict.  Marisa Parham's understated Twitter icon on her personal page leads to her "Marisa Parham, per se" Twitter feed that reflects a more personal tone of opinion and activism, yet her content remains academically-oriented. She also features a wider range of social media, including Pinterest and Instagram, though these still concentrate on her teaching and research, acting as a repository of images and articles for her classes.  

Alex Gil - the only practitioner who does not list his personal website on his university biography - more directly emphasizes this divide between his university position and his digital persona in the name of his website: "The Other Alex".  The link for "" can be found on his page at NYC Digital Humanities, which offers a wider view of his community of practice and activity.  Though "elotroalex" playfully teases that this is the page of his naughty boy alter-ego with an introductory story about his grandmother's admonishment for misbehaving, the content of the site is still restrained to scholarship, with posts showing the breadth of work he is reading and thinking about.

In the nearly two decades I worked as university staff, the line between the personal and professional was similarly important.  My "personal" Facebook page had to be used not only for keeping contacts within my university community, but also for organizing registered student groups and as a more "millennial friendly" option for students wishing to contact student support specialists in the College of Science Dean's Office.  I had to make several decisions about what circle of "friends" had access to this social media profile, and also had to constantly remember that public posts could associate the university's name or the Dean's Office with my own opinions or behaviors.  This is one of the dangers of the digital world. Though, as Anne Burdick et al. point out, the digital humanities offer liberating possibilities for silenced voices [2], it can also allow too much to be said for those wishing to preserve the lines between the private and public sphere.  All of the diverse roles and personas we may separate with different communities and activities "in real life" can be linked together and in some cases, expose the contradictions we naturally manage in the course of sympathetic communication with different interest groups or cultures.

The analysis of these "rising stars" has confirmed my decision to be more cautious about the information I put online about myself, keeping to a more pared-down biography focusing on my academic work, roles, and future plans.  Our online selves are part of a performance of identity (in keeping with Judith Butler's theory of performative acts), and one not solely bound to our own desires, but tangled into the networks of systems and powers that we both influence and are shaped by, creating a multi-layered embodiment of meanings via our digital representation [3].  Technology has made this process more immediate (a bad night on Twitter can wreck a career in minutes), more subject to complications of the Foucauldian regulating gaze, and more far reaching, as personal information (such as one's home address) can be more easily found [4].  Yet with the risk comes a dynamic ability - the "playful mischief of grace" that Alex Gil recalls - to expand the borders of one's world, to create intrigues which bring people off the page and into searching and questioning, and to fluidly explore new ideas and even a little drama. 

Works cited:
[1] Will Fenton, "The New Wave in Digital Humanities," (August 2, 2017), accessed February 3, 2018,
[2] Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp, "The Social Life of The Digital Humanities," in Digital_Humanities, Open Access (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), 93.
[3] Judith Butler, "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (1988): 521, accessed February 3, 2018,
[4] See Thomas Mathieson, "The Viewer Society: Michel Foucault's `Panopticon' Revisited," Theoretical Criminology 1, no. 2 (May 1, 1997): 215, accessed February 5, 2018, Mathieson discusses the "viewer society" created by the gaze of modern media in relationship to Foucault's theory and argues that it results in a two-way process in which people more strictly control themselves based on the expectation of being viewed by a multitude. 

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