Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meeting with Upward Bound student

Today, we coordinated an event for students in UTSA's Upward Bound program. Our Fellows discussed their recent trip to New York City with the high school students, provided opportunities for students to respond to a series of questions about travel and cultural landmarks, and then provided information on college.





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AALCI in NYC

From Thursday, June 20 - Monday, June 24, we spent time in New York City, an annual activity for our summer program. We visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the African Burial Ground, Strand Book Store, the Brooklyn Museum, Chinatown, and other destinations during our time in the city.
Fellows in Harlem

Program founder/director with Fellows outside the Schomburg

In the African Burial Ground museum

Outside the African Burial Ground

Outside the main branch of the New York Public Library

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The AALCI Poster Session

June 18, the Fellows held a poster session to discuss their research projects with various UTSA guests.







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Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 1 photos: selection of images








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The Multi-data artist currently known as Bridget Drinka


She's visited in 2010, 2011, and 2012, so of course we had to have her back again this year. Professor Bridget Drinka stopped by to meet with our group this year to talk linguistics, sociolinguistics, the histories and migrations of speech, the New York subway announcers, and of course those whole Rful and Rless patterns.

I've been trying to figure out or perhaps quantify why the 30 students who have participated in our program have found Drinka's presentations so compelling. Maybe the answer is in the data. Or more specifically, perhaps the expanded body of data and metadata that she presents the students with draws their interest.

For one, she offers fascinating, short research stories, telling narratives about linguistics with key characters such as William Labov, often considered the founder of sociologlinstics, the different people he studied, and John Baugh, a student of Labov and former professor for Drinka. She takes on different regional dialects from England and Ireland to various places in the U.S. At moments, she highlights her own speech patterns from Illinois where she was born; she highlights her accommodations of Texas speaking pattern where she lives now; and for the purposes of her discussion, she emulates speech patterns of people from Massachusetts, New York, and Georgia.

Each year, she'll pick up on the side conversations the Fellows are having about a popular phrase from a rap or R&B song and then attempt to pronounce the piece as the students do. They always get a kick out of her attempt. I always take note that she works to absorb a speech pattern or phrasing that might be unfamiliar to her.


Beyond the verbal, she draws images on the board--shapes to represent countries and arrows to signal the travels of peoples and language practices. She pauses at moments to ask students where they are from so that she can mark their places with stars on the map that she draws. She returns to those stars during the course of the presentation to pose questions to Fellows about how people from their areas speak. She also writes the names of people and key terms on the board: Labov, covert prestige, and monophthongization.

Finally and throughout all of this, there are the body movements, facial expressions, and hand movements. She gestures, poses, points, emulates others, stretches her arms wide to show expansiveness, draws her arms in to signal closeness. Her physical movements and expressions are synced to the changing paces and pitches of her voice as well as to the contours of the narratives she presents. 

Some folks refer to her as a English, linguistics professor. Others of us know the truth: Bridget Drinka is a multi-data artist and storyteller. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tara Schmidt and those Clarifying Questions

Tara Schmidt introducing the session to the group

An important yet almost invisible time-stamp for AALCI occurs every year near the close of the Fellows' meeting with research services librarian Tara Schmidt. She has each of them mention their projects, and she and her co-presenter Juli McLoone, special collections librarian, begin asking follow-up questions that will allow them -- Schmidt and McLoone -- to better assist and direct the Fellows to appropriate library resources.

I've watched the exchange between Schmidt and the Fellows play out in 2010, 2011, 2012, and now in 2013. I have come to realize that the brief question session with Schmidt is a key moment for the Fellows to really start thinking about where primary and secondary materials concerning their projects might be located. Over the last four years, Schmidt is the first professional, beyond me in the classroom, who engages the Fellows in a series of questions, clarifying questions it turns out, about their proposed research projects in the early stages of those endeavors.

There's always considerable talk about mentors and mentorship, you know, how students and junior faculty and even early-career administrators and professionals need mentors. Agreed: mentors are important and conversations about why and how people need more of them are important. But too often the conversation stops there, and we hardly have an adequate label, much less a sustained conversation, about the added value exchange that results when someone other than mentors step in and ask series of clarifying questions.

My guess is that few undergraduates, graduate students, and junior and senior scholars have opportunities to hear and address those kinds of questions at the early, pre-abstract and conference paper stages of their projects. Each year, we have Fellows rethinking and refining their projects shortly after considering some of the clarifying questions that Scmidt poses. What would it mean if more scholars--at various stages of their careers--considered participating in such exchanges right as their projects were in initial phases?
 
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DH special collections librarian or special collections DH scholar?


Is Juli McLoone a special collections librarian who works in digital humanities, or is she a digital humanities scholar who works in a university's special collections library? That's one of the questions I was posing to myself yesterday as McLoone led a presentation concerning digital collections for Fellows in our program. I chose not to pose my question to her just yet, for not knowing allowed me to linger on the issue a little longer and consider multiple possibilities.   

The question of whether we view DH as adjective or noun, first or second, reminds me of those sometimes intense debates in African American literary history about "black artists" vs "artists who were black." One of the most notable examples, of course, was Langston Hughes signifying on Countee Cullen. And perhaps, even further back, the more fitting analogy in this case would be some form of double consciousness, in this case, the DH'er and archivist.

As far as I could tell based on past observations -- 2010, 2011, 2012, and yesterday -- McLoone is as comfortable guiding people through an archive and items in special collections at UTSA as she is leading a group to and through various digital collections. These days, I suppose, high digital competency is fully encoded into the DNA of contemporary folks in the field of library science. In this regard, McLoone and her co-presenter research services librarian Tara Schmidt would likely not separate and classify their activities as DH over there and library work over there the way that I was doing with my question. For them, it is more of a fusion, both/and rather than either/or. 

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