Monday, July 6, 2015

The New Digital Humanities with M.W. Bychowski

"As tools come under the control of certain persons and not others... disparity develops over who can claim narratives 
of bodily stability and change"

Transliterature Online


In honor of reaching 100,000 readers

We are hosting a digital humanities forum
showcasing the work of other fantastic young DH scholars

A History of Transliterature

Transliterature started as two blogs, one documenting the beginning of my graduate work as a Masters student and the second at the start of Ph.D study. The latter incarnation, which became the website you are reading today, aimed at being a public notebook where my various research, writing, and musings could be easily collected and archived. It was a pleasant surprise when my readership, which began in the low double-digits every month, started to incrementally expand. By the second year, I would get more readers in one day that I got in a whole month the previous year. These were no longer just passersby. 
I watched, part in horror, as I saw patterns in the readership. People hung around and came back again for more. Suddenly, I had an audience. My "public notebook" had a public. This meant people were interested in what I was doing in this corner of the internet and with that came an increased responsibility to make it worthwhile.

Over the years, I've taken steps to make the content and the presentation of the website more consistent, pleasing, and useful. Arriving at 100,000 readers, I work even harder to be of service to my growing digital community. This may be small potatoes compared to some the larger, more established scholars, more avid bloggers, and (to be honest) more gifted writers. But as in the classroom, I respect the precious time and attention of each person who turns their head to read or listen to what I am sharing. What this growth tells me is that people share an interest in what excites me (it is interesting stuff!), and that I am getting better at making this interesting stuff available, accessible, and contextualized. In this way, you, my readers, are not only helping to build the website but helping me to be a better digital humanist, scholar, teacher, and (I hope) writer. Thank you for that. And thank you for the many individuals in this community that continue to be my responders, questioners, challengers, teachers, editors, contributors, and friends. This is why I wanted to mark the jump into the 6-digits with a forum on some of the New Digital Humanists that inspire me to do well and do good. 

Now that you have heard from Tawnya Ravy and her Salmon Rushdie Archive, Derek Newman-Stille and his Speculating Canada, and Angie Bennett Segler and her Digital Piers Plowman, I wanted to share a few of the new things here at Transliterature Online and preview some of the things in the works for the future! All of these come in response to ideas and questions presented by my readers and fellow transliterati. A great benefit from more actively integrating Facebook and Twitter was that this increased the conversations between members of the community. Keep on talking, I'm listening! I'm very excited about where we are and where we are going. Let's keep our critical conversations going as we work to make the future that we want, to make Things Transform for the better.


What's New?

The movement from Transliterature's longtime home on to an independent URL,, marked an extension that was already taking place in the project away from exclusively blog-style posts to hosting additional digital resources. This came in part in response to educators reaching out for more tools to use in the classroom as they began to assign Transliterature as required reading for their seminars. Furthermore, my consulting work continues to bring up interesting projects beyond or alongside academia. What this amounts to is a desire to be more accessible and useful to all those interested in these thoughts, methods and stories.

As an educator, I believe in the tenant: meet people where they are. This is what lead me to the digital humanities - to share my academic scribbles, remembrances, and flights of fancy with a public beyond my personal notebooks and immediate colleagues. The success of these musings has brought requests for the best ways for readers and fellow educators to adapt our online conversations to the classroom. This spurred the development of a pedagogy section to the website where I offer (1) terminology, (2) policies, and (3) introduction forms. Additionally, I share several lesson plans from courses I have taught on transgender, disability, and sexuality in the middle ages.

In the course of my curation of trans literature, I come up against the need for more narratives on transgender that connect the personal with the political. Evidence and discussions of critical topics that need to be addressed in literature are not yet present in public discourse. There are things I know from experience and from conversations within the trans community that are not published, archived, and authorized in scholarly dialogs. Towards this goal of adding narratives that illustrate, evidence, and entertain the details of trans living, I work to expand my memoirs. An added benefit of this enjoyable work is that I get to give honor to the many other persons and stories that have impacted my life. To be a trans person in society is to be a magnet for stories. In our daily goings, society makes us archives, storytellers and nodes for conversations. May discussing the text of my life point beyond me to the important things transforming in the margins.

Coming Soon...

In the past two years, the Morpheus Database has built up an increasingly massive amount of data on transformation, transgender, and disability in literature. Last year, as part of phase II, the database expanded to include data drawn from non-fiction sources as well. This is key, especially in fields like medieval studies and identity studies where story and theory are inextricable. Furthermore, Mark II moved to a new home on where the information could be added, edited, and read by a greater number of participants. At this point, however, this remains limited to a core team. In the future, I am already in conversations on ways to make the information more user-friendly and useful to the public. Mark III aims to provide more data-visualization, a searchable database, and distinct project areas where independent researchers would be able to participate in the building of our knowledge about transgender and disability in the middle ages.

One of the most frequent questions from casual readers to scholars interested in going further into transgender and disability studies is where to start reading. I've composed a few targeted bibliographies as part of my academic community and consultancy. This ran from taking pictures of my bookshelves to sharing more comprehensive lists. Soon I will compose a variety of bibliographies that will help newcomers and more experienced readers to find useful and interesting texts that will help them learn and communicate on these important issues. Let's read together!

In recent years, I've consulted for acting troupes, businesses, churches, and educators on how to build more accessible, welcoming, and critical spaces for a wider diversity of persons. Soon, I will be collecting and expanding this material into workshops on gender, sexuality, and disability. The new program will be geared to a variety of communities and workplaces. These, "Transform Talks" will be available on different levels to suit a host of particular needs. Short, 1-2 hour bootcamps will help orient staff, faculty, and minsters on (1) key language, (2) best practices, and (3) context and background in targeted communities. Longer day to weekend long seminars will also be available where team members can become better oriented and trained in diversity, including (1) getting to know important stories and histories, (2) workshopping situations, and (3) transforming social and physical spaces to be safe and fruitful for a wider range of lives.


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