01/09 – 08/09 Jon Greenaway

Some of you may already be familiar with next week’s curator, Jon Greenaway, better known as @TheLitCritGuy, a prodigious tweeter on literary theory, who I never would have pegged as an early career researcher. Looking forward to hearing about the beer too.

Firstly, hello! My name is Jon Greenaway though I usually go by @TheLitCritGuy. After following the account for a while, it’s a little nerve wracking to be stepping in for a week as in terms of academic career I am very much an early career researcher. I finished my BA and MLit at the University of Stirling and will be starting my PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University in a little over 3 weeks. My thesis is an examination of the relationship between theological and cultural discourses around evil and monstrosity throughout the Gothic 1800s – the idea of sticking to just one field was one I just couldn’t bring myself to expect, so look forward to monsters, the Victorians, theology and discussions of things that go bump in the night to crop up over the next week.

As my Twitter handle probably gives away, I have another humanities-related passion too. After starting an account, I was a little at a loss with what to use it for until after I finished my Master’s thesis, (an analysis of late 20thC Gothic writing with heavy doses of Slavoj Zizek and Foucault)when I decided to concentrate on talking about literary and critical theory online.

It may seem initially counter intuitive to try and summarize and communicate some of the most abstract (and occasionally verbose) writers in academia in 140-character bursts, but the account has been a great success. I assumed that it might attract only a couple of dozen word nerds but it gained followers much more quickly than I could have anticipated. It seems that there is a wider audience for critical theory outside a narrow slice of the academic world and given the fascinating conversation that’s been developing over on @WeTheHumanities about public engagement and communication it would be great to talk about how it is possible to leverage social media for purposes other than academic networking. So expect Foucault, Derrida, Zizek, Lacan, Butler, Marx and a few others to show up at various stages throughout the week…

Finally there’s one more angle that is bound to make an appearance. As someone who is just making their first steps into academia the next week represents a great opportunity for me to ask some questions of a wider audience: what do you wish you had known when starting in academia? What things should ECR’s focus on? What’s the best thing that ECR’s can offer to any department?  It would be great to hear some of your thoughts on these questions and any other advice you think I might need!

In order to pay for all this academia I’m a manager at an independent craft beer bar too so at the very least I’ll finish this week by leaving you all a little more savvy about whatever you use to take the edge of after a long day.

So. Let’s get tweeting shall we?


25/08 – 1/09 Janet Tyson

We are moving this week from Australia to the US, as Janet Tyson offers us a view on art and art history from her many roles over the years, as teacher, curator and exhibitor among others. I’m particularly looking forward to her take on “humanities as lived experience”.

Hello all. Janet Tyson here, tweeting from semi-rural west Michigan, USA. I’m an independent art historian who specialises in historical research, critical interpretation and audience engagement. That said, I have been working part time at a nearby brew pub, so that I’ll have extra money when I travel to England for three months, to teach art history in a community education centre.

I come from a middle-class family and my educational record is middling in its own way. I’ve got three Master’s degrees—in studio art, art history, and art librarianship—all from universities that are decent, if not stellar.

I claim a broad range of professional experiences, most of them, extra-academic. They range from working as an art journalist and critic for about 20 years; as an exhibition curator for more than 12 years; and as an exhibiting artist, intermittently, for some 40 years. But I also have sold tropical fish, worked in a food-processing plant, and bagged groceries.

In terms of academic employment, I’ve taught art history as an adjunct; conducted undergraduate writing workshops; and assisted academic curators as a catalogue editor and a writer of exhibition texts. I also have curated exhibitions for academic galleries.

Some highlights of my various careers include serving as a founding trustee of the San Jose [California] Institute of Contemporary Art in the early 1980s; as Texas correspondent for The Art Newspaper during the late 1990s; and as curator/interlocutor of artists’ talks for the Kimbell Art Museum in the early 2000s. As an artist, I’ve had solo exhibitions in Dallas, New York and San Jose, as well as group exhibitions in Houston, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Budapest. As a researcher, I’ve presented papers at major conferences in the United States, Canada, England and Scotland—most of them focusing on affinities between fifteenth-century Netherlandish imagery and René Magritte’s oeuvre (the general topic of my Master’s thesis).

If I were to summarise the way my life seems to be heading, it would be that, materially, it’s very low-budget, but much enhanced by tweeting, online reading, and generally feeding my mind/spirit. My approach to the humanities is as diverse lived experiences with numerous formal glosses. If I can point to someone whose writing I find most relevant to that paradigm, it would be Michel de Certeau.

PS Someday, I hope to earn a PhD in art history or material culture.
PPS Please, let’s get tweeting!

18/08 – 25/08 Fiona Tweedie

The final week of this Australian stint sees us move West along the coast from Adelaide to Melbourne where Fiona Tweedie is based.  Her blog post reminds me why the digital humanities can be so much fun: we’re in for a week of Romans, hackathons, text-mining and Open Access!  

Hello there. My name is Fiona Tweedie and I usually tweet as @FCTweedie, although you’ll sometimes find me over at @OKFNau and occasionally @ITS_Res (more on that later). I completed my PhD in Ancient History at the University of Sydney in 2009. My thesis looked at the relationships between Rome and the independent peoples of Italy and the place of the ‘Italian Question’ in Roman politics towards the end of the second century BCE (133-91, for any other Romanists out there!). I haven’t entirely abandoned the Romans and have managed to publish a few articles, but my quest for stable employment has taken me away from ‘straight’ academia.

Since graduating, I’ve mostly worked in the public sector as a researcher and policy adviser. While working at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, I discovered a passion for open data. Opening up government-held data for reuse by the community seemed both obvious but also incredibly exciting to me. Following this interest, I’ve joined the Open Knowledge Foundation in Australia as a local ambassador and board member and have now been involved in running several hackathons. My next goal is to up-skill enough to actually compete in one. I’d like to talk open access at some time during my week driving @WeTheHumanities, as I think that a lot of the models are very science-driven and (as is often the case) not a great fit for humanities.

Since February this year, I’ve been working for ITS Research at the University of Melbourne, a role that combines my background as a humanities researcher with my love of open knowledge and research technology. My job is to connect researchers to the tools that will make their lives easier and help them to ask bigger questions of their data. I work mainly with researchers in the humanities and social sciences, so I’ll be really interested to talk about digital humanities this week and hear about what you think it means and how you’re using digital tools to support your work. I’m particularly interested in text mining at the moment as I’m designing a course on it, so I’d love your input.

Like many of you, I also like books, knitting and tea. I’m looking forward to meeting you this week and having an excuse to further indulge my massive Twitter-habit.

Curators Wanted (yes, we’re looking at you)

From @academicjess:

Since our launch in February we have been thoroughly spoiled by the wonderful people who’ve come from more than a dozen countries and many of the far-flung corners of the humanities to offer their ideas, interests and work as weekly curators of the account.  As a result of their generosity we’ve got curators scheduled through to November but since we’ve (finally!) reached the end of our list of people who’ve put themselves forwards we wanted to try and spread the word a bit further.

Curation is open to anyone happy tweeting in English who identifies themselves as having a link to the humanities.  We’d also love to reflect more of the diversity of the discipline, with curators from outside of academia and from inside lesser known jobs or subjects.

Whoever you are, if you’re interested in tweeting about what you do we’re interested in hearing from you.  You can find out more and put yourself forward here.

If you’ve already curated for us I’m afraid you’re not off the hook either: please share this post and/or the poster (link below) as far and wide as you can so that others can join our illustrious band of curators.

And whilst I’m here – a big thank you to everyone who’s following the account and chatting to the curators.  Every week we get an enthusiastic email from the outgoing tweeter telling us what a great time they’ve had and that’s down to you.  Thanks for taking part!

Curators Wanted

11/08 – 17/08 Matthew Smith

‘What constitutes the humanities?’ is a question inherent in the @wethehumanities project and one that @krisreadsbooks and I have discussed many times.  At no point did we think they might include a software engineer/web developer – until, that is, we Twitter-met @smiffy.  We’re so pleased to have a guest curator who’s coming from the perspective of a ‘user’ of the humanities rather than a researcher and we’re looking forward to hearing how he sees the discipline.
Hello, and thank you for for your forbearance in having a technologist at the helm of We The Humanities! My name is Matthew Smith, more commonly known as @smiffy (my real nickname) – you may remember me from such WtH blog posts as STEM > STEAM.

“Technologist,” I hear you say, “what are YOU doing here?” Which would be a very good question. I am neither an academic, nor do I work in the humanities; my work encompasses the ‘T’ and the ‘E’ of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths,) I am an ‘S’ groupie, and trying to get my head around ‘M,’ but would like to show you how integral the Humanities are to in the life of an incorrigible techie.

Academically, I guess the last contact I had with the Humanities would have been ‘O’ level English Literature. (‘O’ levels were the basic secondary/high school exit examinations in the UK, more years ago than I would like to admit.)

I guess you could say that I have worked in the Humanities, all but briefly – if you count sticking yellow spots on the spines of library books undergoing their first electronic cataloguing. This was my first job after dropping out of ‘A’ levels due to having completely lost the ability to see any point whatsoever in education. And I was a student librarian at school, although it was a non-stipendiary position. (Not without benefits, though; great for getting out of activities that weren’t to my taste.)

After my library stint, I spent the next sixteen years working for a pump company, initially in technical sales, moving gradually into the world of IT.

The sixteen years ended with a number of significant and simultaneous changes – I quit my job to follow my heart and left England for Australia, to marry my (Australian) fiancée.  (Long-distance relationships are painful, believe me, especially when going through onerous visa processes.)

Moving to rural South Australia didn’t put me in a position where I could find regular employment, so these last thirteen years, I have been freelancing as a web/software developer and technology consultant. Technologist is as good a label as any, if you really feel the need to apply labels.

The last few years have been disrupted by chronic ill-health, so I have had to re-think how I work, what is needed to work – and many issues relating to working with a disability. That I have a strong focus on social inclusion, and that I was working in the web accessibility sphere before this all came to pass has been interesting and given me real-life experience and a much better understanding of the issues that people with a broad spectrum of issues face, when interacting with the web, and computer systems in general.

I am now working in a development role for four wonderful clients, one of these being the creation of a Learning Management System (that’s Humanities isn’t it?) Despite impairments, which include not being able to get more than about sixteen working hours in a week, I’m not doing too badly with my business.

So, where do the Humanities fit into my life, what with me being a technologist? I think the answer to that is that being a technologist is my profession – the Humanities are integral to my life, staying sane, and being – just me. [Sidenote: some academics might not agree with this but, for the purposes of this discussion, I am treating the Arts as a subset of Humanities; if it makes you feel any better, I can simplify to “not STEM.”]

It is my goal this week to show just how important the Humanities can be to an academically non-Humanities person. In addition to this goal, I also have a personal agenda – getting people in STEM and people in the Humanities talking to each other; I’ve been reasonably successful as a facilitator between disparate groups in the past – if I can pull this one off, I will be a very happy person indeed. I guess the underlying theme is inclusion – but I will try to cover a mix of topics, to keep things interesting.