My Bio for Humanities Computing

In order to join the Humanities Computing mailing list, you have to apply. One part of the application requires that you compose a short biography about yourself with your interest in humanities computing as the focus. Here’s what I wrote:

> I am a folklorist whose primary field of interest is human ingenuity. While I have published on linguistic/literary topics, my primary interest is in material culture. My interest in computing has two dimensions: I am interested in technology itself as a manifestation of *techné* and because it helps me solve problems, both through its application as well as in grappling with it as a craft in and of itself. (I should also admit that I am the son of a mother and father who were themselves gadget freaks and firmly believed that technology, as the manifestation of progress itself, was capable of solving almost any problem. I inherited, I confess, some of their optimism.)

> I am currently at work on a book about boats that go on land and water here in south Louisiana. These are clearly technological creations, and computing offers me two things: (1) a better way to describe the archeological record I am creating — through the use of CAD and 3D modeling software — and (2) it gives me some opportunity to make machines of my own — I am currently teaching myself how to script in Ruby and I run my personal website on Rails. I had no formal education in computer science or in programming, and so this is a logic that is fairly foreign to me. Frankly, it makes my head hurt on a regular basis. But in making my head hurt, I am — I hope — training myself to think in new ways, to see new things in what I already know, and learning to communicate complex relationships in another language, in much the same way that I am trying to convert the complex relationships contained within these metal machines into words.

> I have for some time been thinking about computers and networks as the new platform not only for study but also for communication, and I have done a fair amount of experimentation in that direction. (There will be more on my website,, shortly, but I am slowly rebuilding it and that rebuilding will be delayed by the Project Bamboo meeting later this week.)

> I have experimented with using computing as a platform for teaching. Please see the current version of the Louisiana Survey of Folk Culture at [][ls] for the first survey. My idea there — I’m not claiming it was that grand or that well done — was that having students who were taking their first, and typically their only, folklore class write long, synthetic essays was an exercise frustration for both them and me. Better to involve them in some larger project where their steps were straightforward but the edifice within which they worked provided a path toward synthesis. Out of that, we began a wiki that allowed students to index discrete items — like jokes, anecdotes, dites — by genre, teller, location, use, etc. … goodness, this got long. Sorry.