02: An End-of-Semester Link Roundup

so very tired

Welcome (or welcome back!) to Futures Past

This installment will be a bit short because I’m in the midst of end-of-semester work at three different colleges. Doing public history work in the classroom as an adjunct, digital or otherwise, can be pretty difficult. Thinking of friends in similar positions who may be overworked, underpaid, or just generally exhausted after a particularly challenging pandemic semester. I have more to say on this topic, but it’s been a long week of catching up on work and I’m a bit fried at the moment, so this email will mainly highlight some readings and links I’ve come across recently. 

-”After we said our good-byes, I sat there silent for at least 15 minutes, unable to really deal with what I just recorded.”Troy Reeves, head of the Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, writes about oral history and self-care

-“Of the 7,124 books for which we identified the author’s race, 95 percent were written by white people.” Richard Jean So and Gus Wezerek reviewed publication trends in English-language fiction sold by “prolific” publishing houses from 1950 to 2018. Useful to see how nimbly the piece describes its approach, incorporates quotes from relevant parties, juxtaposes visualizations of data with antiracist statements publishers released on social media and the #publishingpaidme conversations this past summer, and connects its findings to the ways “that progress toward diversity can be as short-lived as a single editor’s tenure.”  Also worth noting the collaborative dimensions driving this work: the co-authored article references three research assistants and names a few additional folks who made contributions. Initially I was hoping that the visualizations would be interactive here, but it’s good to remember how much great work and research is already on display in this piece without those additional features.

-”There are plenty of ungoogleable things that we google anyway.” Megan Marz writes in Real Life about search engines as confessionals and the ways that they have “transformed texts into answers.”

-I recently subscribed to the Spatial Journalism newsletter, which is a great resource by Amy Schmitz Weiss (Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University). The most recent installment highlights Living Nations, Living Words, the “signature project” of current U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Created with ArcGIS StoryMaps, the project is a gateway to recordings of poets reading original work on “the theme of place and displacement.” I would strongly recommend users begin with a scroll through the curated overview and discussion of the project by Harjo, which introduces its scope and aims, introduces selected poets and works, and discusses the work of place-making and orientation involved in reading and making maps. I’ve come to strongly prefer projects that offer these kinds of directions, especially when they balance models of use and instruction with additional context on methodologies and motivations.

-The new issue of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (JITP) is out, and it features a forum on “Data and Computational Pedagogy.” The essay on “Teaching Data Literacy with African Diaspora Digital Humanities” by Jennifer Mahoney, Roopika Risam, and Hibba Nassereddine looks particularly interesting (and I’m not just saying that because I work part-time for SSU!). I’m also looking forward to Cherrie Kwok’s piece on working with students “to examine the relationship between Wikipedia’s content policies and white supremacy, and Wikipedia’s claims to neutrality.”

-The December 2020 issue of archipelagos “considers the ways Caribbean subjects in the digital realm have refashioned the terms, the tools, and the terrain of representation of the self in the world.” Co-editor Alex Gil has a nice Twitter thread highlighting the range of pieces that specifically discuss sound in this issue. I found the review and discussion of the Mapping The Haitian Revolution project in this issue useful too, especially the remarks by Stephanie Curci and Christopher Jones on the project’s history and development. It’s also great to see a team using a review as an opportunity to implement project improvements recommended by the reviewers.

-Savannah Jacobson surveyed recent indie publications and zines for Columbia Journalism Review. Included in the mix is Marc Fischer’s Library Excavations, which may be of particular interest to some newsletter readers, given its documentation and re-use of library collections and archival materials. Lots of content comes from access to physical collections from libraries in the Chicago area, but due to the pandemic recent issues have relied upon the Digital Public Library of America and The Internet Archive for materials. Fischer is also publishing a daily “Quaranzine” one-pager on risograph, which looks very cool.

-I volunteer as an Affiliate Editor for History@Work, the blog of the National Council on Public History. My efforts there focus particularly on “Project Showcase” pieces, which are generally short descriptions of active public history projects (digital initiatives, exhibitions, educational programming, etc.). In 2020 I helped to edit Jessica Mack’s discussion of the Pandemic Religion initiative at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (George Mason University), Maya Brooks’ reflections on Along the Ridge at the University of West Georgia, and Ray Smith’s description of efforts to collect oral histories about the Manhattan Project at the K-25 History Center (among other pieces). History@Work offers guidelines for potential contributors and I’m happy to talk to anyone interested in writing a Project Showcase. 

-In local (Greater Boston area) news, Arielle Gray discussed the recent demolition of The Harriet Tubman House in the South End. “It's the story of Black and brown residents feeling powerless or hopeless [...] in the face of city development.”

-This weekend, some folks on the Boston subreddit have been sharing photos of “abandoned bridges over highways.” There are two images so far; I’d love to see more!


I haven’t had much spare time for reading anything recreational, aside from looking at the artwork of Heavy Metal and Metal Hurlant artist Richard Corben, since my Twitter feed was full of remembrances this week after learning that he had passed away. Corben’s wife does note that the artist’s personal website will remain active for the foreseeable future, but I am curious to know if any archive or institution has already made arrangements to preserve some of the work and papers of such a seminal artist. 

My Richard Corben rabbit hole led to my discovery that Heavy Metal maintains a fairly active and retro web presence, and that they recently published an augmented reality cover and comic excerpt of Neon Wasteland, a “smart comic” by Rob Shields.

I also caught a 1976 Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Candace Bergen that featured a particularly fun performance by Frank Zappa (via Hulu, which probably has better sound quality for that clip). Because time is broken, I’ve been choosing to spend my holiday season with festive reruns from the 70s and 80s.

I’m off to drink some spiked egg nog, trim a Christmas tree, and avoid any more work-related screen time this weekend. See you next week!

-December 13, 2020

Futures Past is written by Jim McGrath. Feel free to email me (jimmcgrath.us@gmail.com), or you can find me on Twitter @JimMc_Grath.