Briefly Noted for November 16, 2022

Ryan Cordell posted his remarks from the 30 Years of Digital Humanities at UVA conference. He makes some great points about the importance of collaboration in digital humanities. One thing he says, that I’ve often thought myself, is how bad the standard DH curriculum is at teaching collaboration to students. It’s very hard to teach the ins-and-outs, ups-and-downs of working in a team in a one semester classroom course, especially when each student must be graded individually. We can teach skills in the classroom, but we all know that’s not really what matters for successful digital humanities work. That’s why centers, notwithstanding recent critiques of them, are so important and why we have to do a better job of integrating our classroom teaching and center-based research.

I don’t think Ezra Klein reads this blog, but if he does, I want to tell him that he should do more Q&A episodes with Aaron Retica, his editor, as he did in his post-election podcast. It’s great to hear Ezra’s opinions unfiltered by his interactions with a guest, and Aaron Retica’s questions (and voice!) are challenging and insightful. It’s obvious they make a great team.

Speaking of Klein, like him and his old partner, Matt Yglesias, I’m extremely skeptical of the hype around Ron DeSantis’s presidential prospects. It’s true that he scored a big win in a purplish state. He’s certainly a talented politician. But his win wasn’t bigger than other purplish state Republican governors (Dewine in Ohio or Sununu in New Hampshire). Furthermore (and I don’t hear anyone talking about this) DeSantis was running against, for all intents and purposes, another Republican—former Republican-governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. The conventional wisdom was that running Christ against DeSantis would peel off moderate Republican votes. Did no one remember that the same strategy lost him and the Democrats the governor’s race to Rick Scott in 2014? Did no one imagine that running a former Republican might also depress Democratic votes? What committed Democrat wants to vote for a guy they hated a few short years ago just because he changed the letter in front of his name? It would be like asking Democrats to vote for Paul Ryan for President in 2024 because he didn’t go full-MAGA and might pick up some disgruntled Republican and Independent swing votes. I’m all for running moderate Democratic candidates in the Biden mold. But if they’re going to be right of the party’s base on policy, then they absolutely must be trusted party members. People want to know what side they’re voting for. In any event, I don’t think DeSantis’s victory is all it’s being cracked up to be. He ran a good race against a bad candidate with the underlying national fundamentals (inflation, crime, etc.) as wind at his back. That puts him in the conversation for 2024, but it doesn’t make him a strong favorite for the nomination, much less the presidency. Remember President Scott Walker? Neither do I.

Briefly Noted for November 7, 2022

With news that the new owner of Twitter has decided to sell verified accounts, I’ve decided to keep @foundhistory to prevent anyone from impersonating me (though Lord knows who would want to). You won’t see me tweeting for the reasons I laid out last week, but I figure if I’m keeping the account, I might as well push links to posts on this blog to the platform for those of you who remain there.

More Twitter: Zeynep Tufekci on ad-supported social networking sites (Twitter in particular): “Humans have strong in-group and out-group tendencies — sociology-speak for my team versus your team…. If you want to keep a group of people engaged, fueling that group competition is a pretty good method…. This means that whatever the topic, by design and by algorithm, social media often elevates the worst, most divisive content…. This is an infrastructure of authoritarianism, created to deliver ads more effectively. It’s a terrible model for the digital public sphere.” I spent an hour in my class today trying to explain this dynamic, and Zeynep just did it in a paragraph. Sigh.

And in non-Twitter news: UConn is launching a new streaming service for its athletics program, the first in the nation.

Briefly Noted for November 3, 2022

Nearly 200 years ago, the United States promised to seat a delegate from the Cherokee Nation in Congress as part of the treaty that forcibly removed the tribe from Georgia to Oklahoma. There’s a renewed movement to make good on that promise. The United States should meet its treaty obligations. It’s not just a matter of justice for indigenous peoples (though that’s the most important part). It’s about being a nation that deserves the trust of its citizens and the world. In that way it’s part and parcel of the fight against creeping authoritarianism in this country. Autocrats lie, cheat, and steal. Liberal democracies aren’t supposed to do that.

How can the richest man in the world be worried about money? The Verge explains how Elon Musk is kind of desperate for Twitter to make money.

Forbes reports this morning that a Beijing-based team at TikTok had plans to monitor the physical location of specific Americans. No word yet on which Americans or whether they are members of the government. I’ve been banging the “TikTok is dangerous” (and not just for teen self-esteem) drum for years now to eye rolls from friends and colleagues. This isn’t quite an “I told you so” moment, but it’s getting close.

Farewell, Twitter

Yesterday, I decided to deactivate my Twitter account. I’m just waiting to download my archive (if that remains a thing under the new regime) and I’ll be gone. As I said in my last thread, I’ve watched as Twitter, a place I once loved, has decayed into a fever swamp of vitriol and hate.

I was one of Twitter’s earliest users, back when it was SMS only. No website, no API, no app. I created @foundhistory upon the advice of my colleagues Ken Albers, Jeremy Boggs, and Josh Greenberg, who were attending SxSW in Austin in March of 2007, where Twitter made its big debut among the technorati. We may have been the first digital humanists on the platform.

In those early years, say from 2007-2012, I made a ton of friends. Some of them I’ve gone on to meet in person. Some of them I still only know by the time we’ve spent together on Twitter. It’s where we built the #DH community.

I have had some of the best discussions of my academic career on Twitter. Twitter has given me some of my best ideas. Twitter made possible projects like One Week | One Tool, THATCamp, and Hacking the Academy. Twitter has gotten me speaking gigs. It has helped me publicize my work. It has allowed me to keep up with the work of colleagues in the field.

These are the reasons people in the ideas biz (journalists, professors, etc.) are on Twitter. They are the reasons they stay on Twitter when they know (as I’ve known) that they’re complicit in the hatred and even violence it stokes.

But, for me, “I have to be on Twitter for my job” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Sometime between 2012 and 2017 (it wasn’t just the 2016 election, though that was a big part of it) the benefits of being on Twitter started to be outweighed by the costs of being on Twitter—to my mental health, to my self-respect, to my ability to think clearly, to my sense of decency. Elon Musk’s purchase of the company, and more pointedly his recent (and recently deleted) tweet fueling conspiracy theories about the cause of the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, is the last straw. If before this week, Twitter was full of ugliness, now it’s wholly owned by it. It’s time to go.

Whatever benefit having 7000 followers has to my career, it’s no longer worth the cost to my dignity and our culture. I’m leaving Twitter, and it makes me really sad. If any of you find someplace else to be, please let me know. I want our conversations to continue.

My new outfit: Greenhouse Studios | Scholarly Communications Design at the University of Connecticut

Looking down the page, it seems I haven’t posted here on the ol’ blog in nearly three years. Not coincidentally, that’s about when I started work on the initiative I’m pleased to announce today. It was in the fall of 2014 that I first engaged in conversations with my UConn colleagues (especially Clarissa Ceglio, Greg Colati, and Sara Sikes, but lots of other brilliant folks as well) and program officers at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation about the notion of a “scholarly communications design studio” that would bring humanist scholars into full, equal, and meaningful collaboration with artists, technologists, and librarians. Drawing on past experiences at RRCHNM, especially One Week | One Tool, this new style digital humanities center would put collaboration at the center of its work by moving collaboration upstream in the research and publication workflow. It would bring designers, developers, archivists, editors, students, and others together with humanist faculty members and at the very outset of a project, not simply to implement a work but to imagine it. In doing so, it would challenge and level persistent hierarchies in academic labor, challenge notions of authorship, decenter the faculty member as the source of intellectual work, and bring a divergence of thought and action to the design of scholarly communication.

A planning grant from Mellon in 2015 allowed us to explore these ideas in greater depth. We explored models of collaboration and project design in fields as disparate as industrial design, engineering, theater, and (of course) libraries and digital humanities. We solicited “mental models” of good project design from diverse categories of academic labor including students, faculty members, archivists, artists, designers, developers, and editors. We visited colleagues around the country both inside and outside the university to learn what made for successful and not-so-successful collaboration.

Greenhouse Studios

The result of this work was a second proposal to Mellon and, ultimately, the launch this week of Greenhouse Studios | Scholarly Communications Design at the University of Connecticut. Starting this year with our first cohort of projects, we will be pioneering a new, inquiry-driven, collaboration-first model of scholarly production that puts team members and questions at the center of research and publication rather than the interests of a particular faculty member or other individual. Teams will be brought together to develop answers to prompts generated and issued internally by Greenhouse Studios. Through a facilitated design process, whole teams will decide the audience, content, and form of Greenhouse Studios projects, not based on any external expectations or demands, but according to their available skills and resources, bounded by the constraints they identify, and in keeping with team member interests and career goals.

Stay tuned to see what these teams produce. In the meantime, after three long years of getting up and running, I plan to be posting more frequently in this space, from my new academic home base, Greenhouse Studios.

Lend CHNM a Hand

I have been happily distracted from this blog for a couple of months, but I’m returning with a quick post to ask your help in supporting the Center for History and New Media. CHNM is celebrating fifteen years of providing high-quality, free educational resources and tools to an audience that grows exponentially each year. Last year, sixteen million people visited CHNM’s websites and over two million people used our software.

Though the products are free, they’re not without cost. With your help we hope to continue our service and innovation for another fifteen years and beyond. The National Endowment for the Humanities has given CHNM a rare challenge grant, which will match donations to CHNM’s endowment for a limited time. To make your tax-deductable donation today, please visit:

Thanks for your support. I’ll be back blogging with some exciting news very shortly.

Found History's new imagery

I suspect most of you read this blog in syndication via its RSS feed, but those of you who visit the website will have noticed that I changed Found History‘s header imagery last week. As before, and in keeping with Found History‘s origins as a tribute to popular historymaking, the images are taken from a Flickr search on “found + history” for images licensed under Creative Commons licenses.

Here they are (at half size):


Original photo by phill.d


Original photo by Ozyman


Original photo by coyotejack


Original photo by Niznoz

A Few Small Repairs

Regular readers of Found History may have noticed that I removed the old tag line “unintentional, unconventional, and amateur history all around us” from the blog. When I first envisioned Found History, I thought I’d use it simply as a place to document my interest in and chronicle my chance encounters with non-professional history, mostly as it is done online. Long time readers will know that much of the work here at Found History has focused on things like “best ever” lists, timelines, and science fiction as historical narrative. These everyday engagements with the past are still of tremendous interest and very dear to me.

Over the years, however, I have been using Found History increasingly as a place to discuss some of my other main interests: public history, digital humanities, and my work and that of my colleagues at the Center for History and New Media. Obviously these interests—online history produced by the public, online history produced for the public, digital humanities in general, and CHNM’s self-consciously democratic brand of digital history in particular—are all very closely related and the connections between them are fascinating. I believe removing the old tag line will release me to explore each of these interests and the connections between them more freely and fully. Indeed, readers of Found History should see little change in the content of the site. But I thought it was time to formally recognize the ways in which Found History has grown over the years.

So today I renew my commitment to Found History with a new mission statement:

Found History explores public and digital history in all its forms. It pays special mind to the myriad ways non-professionals do history, sometimes without even knowing it. By taking seriously the work of amateurs and professionals alike, as well as new trends in digital history and digital humanities, Found History aims to foster a broader understanding of what history is and who should be called an historian.

I can’t say how grateful I am for the support of my readers. It has been a great ride, and I hope you’ll stay for the next leg of the journey. Thanks.

— Tom Scheinfeldt

WordPress Ho!

I finally took the plunge and switched from MovableType to WordPress. So far, I’m very happy. I had a few hiccups with with the .htaccess file, I had to manually carry over and re-upload some of my images, and the theme still needs some work, but otherwise I’m really surprised by how easy the whole process was. Everything should be working fine, but subscribers may want to refresh the Found History feed in their news readers just to be safe. Onward!

Back in the Saddle

It’s been nearly a month since my last post—the result of some project deadlines and a monster NEH proposal—but in that time I nevertheless managed to turn up a few hidden histories. Now I should finally have some time to write about them. Check back here in the next couple days for a few fresh nuggets of found history.