steve kolowich at inside higher ed: on evaluating the digital humanities

Steve Kolowich has published an excellent piece entitled, “The Promotion That Matters,” on evaluating the Digital Humanities in Inside Higher Ed.

In it, he discusses the growing problem of evaluating scholarship within the Digital Humanities. The article is worth a read. Here are my initial comments:

The humanities have finally caught up to business, law, science, and medicine and have discovered methods both to digitize classical works in the Humanities, as well as employ the latest technologies and methodologies to generate new knowledge within the Humanities.

Of course, two persistent problems remain for new disciplines (and methods within disciplines):

  1. There are those who do not appreciate (or understand) the new technology and/or discipline. People always fear (or are at least skeptical of) that which they do not understand. This goes especially for established scholars who used traditional methods (read: typewriters and bound dictionaries) to generate their research. While these scholars are always looking for new and better ways to do their research, they are not often the first adopters of new technologies, and are therefore wary of them at the beginning. Until established scholars have had enough time to review research generated by new digital methods and deem it credible, they will rightly be skeptical of what the young digital humanists are doing.
  2. There is no accepted way to evaluate the research generated by scholars in the Digital Humanities. Since you cannot manage what you cannot measure, and since you cannot promote what you cannot manage, it is essential that those scholars who do understand the Digital Humanities make themselves available to serve on the rank, tenure, and promotion committees for scholars at neighboring institutions. In fact, there may be a small cottage opportunity for those willing to establish a Digital Humanities evaluation group within the academy.

One other thing: even if “Digital Humanities” fades as an independent discipline (which I believe it will), those humanists hired into established departments need peers with knowledge of the new technologies and methodologies to evaluate their research. As a digital humanist hired into a traditional department within the Humanities (Classics and Religious Studies), it is understandably difficult to find a classical philologist or medieval religious historian who understands virtual reality and 3D digital reconstruction of archaeological remains. For this reason, many universities like UCLA (Center for Digital Humanities) and Iowa (Digital Studio for Public Humanities) have established centers for the Digital Humanities where scholars trained in both traditional Humanities disciplines and new digital approaches to the Humanities research can assist scholars with Digital Humanities research.

Give the article a read.

our first iowa caucus experience

Republican Iowa Caucus Precinct 16 at Lucas School in Iowa City, Jan 3, 2012.

The outgoing and newly-elected Chairs speak at the Precinct 16 Republican Iowa Caucus at Lucas School in Iowa City, Jan 3, 2012.

Roslyn and I (and baby Mac) just finished our first Iowa Caucus experience. After participating in the Coffee Bean Caucus at Hamburg Inn this weekend, we did the real thing tonight in Iowa City, home of The University of Iowa Hawkeyes, as well as the Departments of Religious Studies and Classics (where I teach).

As most of you know, we are registered as unaffiliated voters in Iowa (just as we were in California). This means we do not belong to a political party. Because the Democratic and Republican caucuses take place at the same time at different places, you can only attend one. And, you must be registered with the party that is caucusing in order to participate. Luckily, you can register with the party at the door. So, since the Democratic Iowa Caucus is uncontested, Ros and I chose to attend the GOP Iowa Caucus, and registered as Republicans at the door.

(Fear not, we’ll re-register as unaffiliated voters in a couple of weeks and reassert our independent status. But we wanted to attend a contested primary and as moderate independents, either party will work for a night.)

So we went and we participated. And I tweeted the process live. We listened to short, 5-minute speeches from representatives of some of the candidates. And then we voted. And this is the big difference between the GOP and Democratic caucuses: at the GOP caucus, after the 5-minute pitches, you take a secret ballot vote. The votes are then counted and the winners announced. However, at the Democratic caucus, you ‘vote with your feet’: you physically walk to areas for each candidate and are counted. Then, after an initial vote, backers of different candidates walk around and attempt to convince other caucus participants to join them in support of their candidate. This is especially important for candidates with less than 15% of the vote, who cannot receive delegates. But at the GOP caucus, we simply voted and awaited the result.

MacLaren couldn't handle the excitement at the Precinct 16 GOP Iowa Caucus at Lucas School, Jan 3, 2012.

All of the excitement was too much for MacLaren to handle at Precinct 16 of the GOP Iowa Caucus at Lucas School, Jan 3, 2012.

We were told that Republican Precinct 16 is one of the larger GOP precincts in the People’s Republic of Johnson County, so Precinct 16 may very well be a decent model for the larger GOP Iowa Caucus field.

The announced results were as follows:

Romney: 62
Paul: 48
Santorum: 28
Gingrich: 10
Perry: 10
Huntsman: 2
Bachmann: 2
Undecided: 1

It was simple and I must admit, it was the most fun and most personal experience I’ve ever had as a voter (although MacLaren was completely overwhelmed by the excitement). I like the Iowa Caucus process, and next election we’ll attend the Democratic Caucus to actually ‘vote with our feet’.

getting bigger: maclaren december 2011

image

using religion for political gain: a response to rick perry

There are few things that piss me off more than those who use religion for political gain. I especially despise those who use faith in one interpretation of a religious belief as a wedge to marginalize a believer of a different interpretation. And, I particularly hate (yes, a strong word, but i HATES it) those who use religion to discriminate against others who do not share their particular religious belief, and to suppress their civil rights.

This is why everything that Rick Perry is bugs me. And now, his most recent political ad is nothing other than a political wedge ad simultaneously targeting Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith (about which he is usually (and rightly) silent, as it should not be a political issue in a secular nation where matters of church and state are to be separate) and Newt Gingrich (whose Baptist turned Catholic faith also receives little discussion from Gingrich). So, Rick Perry is out to capture the Evangelical Christian vote, and in doing so has produced one of the most ridiculous ads in history:

Now, in response to this ad, I must choose one of two routes: I can rail against folks who simply make stuff up. For instance, can kids really not pray in school, or can they not do so in an organized, school-sponsored fashion, as if they were in a private Christian school? And, are students really not allowed to celebrate Christmas, or are they taught to acknowledge that maybe not all kids in a public school profess the same Christian faith their parents have taught them to profess so proudly in class? (UPDATE: For rules about praying in public schools, read Dr. Paul Flesher’s article on the Religion Today blog entitled, “It’s OK to pray in Your School.” – see comments)

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

The other route of criticism would chastise Rick Perry for being upset that gays are not openly discriminated against in the military. Apparently, the ever-faithful Rick Perry believes that some Americans, who happen to believe differently than Rick Perry, should be disqualified from offering their lives in service to this nation precisely because they differ in religious belief from Rick Perry. (UPDATE: And is it coincidence that the jacket worn by Perry subconsciously matches the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain? HT: Al Schlaf – see comments)

I shake my head.

However, methinks I shall ultimately choose to fault Rick Perry for making things up, like falsely claiming that a president who doesn’t pander to the Evangelical right is somehow engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ Because that is precisely how you use religion as a weapon in a political campaign: you claim that anyone who does not believe precisely the same interpretation of Christianity as you do is engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ In doing so, Mr. Perry makes himself the Christian equivalent of the leader of an Islamic state, who believes the laws of their religion’s holy book should be the law of the land. Rick Perry is a sharia Christian (if such thing can be said to exist).

So, Dear Mr. Perry, this is why your numbers are tanking, and this is why people think you’re not qualified to be President (or speak the English language for that matter). You will never be President because you use your faith as a political wedge against your opponents, as a tool to discriminate against others, and as a weapon against those who don’t agree with you.

So, with a tip of my hat to Emory University Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, Dr. Jacob Wright, for pointing me to this video, I offer you the perfect response to Rick Perry’s most recent exploitation of religion. This video by Rabbi Jason Miller makes the point, makes you think, and makes you laugh. Enjoy!

the ‘iranian influence on judaism’ at bible and interpretation

There is an excellent article by Jason M. Silverman (Trinity College Dublin) entitled “Iranian influence on Judaism” at Bible and Interpretation.

It’s a topic of great interest to me, and I’m assigning it as immediate reading to my Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys class here at the University of Iowa, where we are presently discussing potential Zoroastrian influences on Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife. The article (and forthcoming book) will be great resources for the study of Second Temple Judaism.

At one point, Silverman discusses the problem within Biblical Studies of quantifying one culture’s “influence” upon another, especially when the former culture favors oral means of communication:

It is perhaps not surprising in a field centered on the study of a collection of written texts (the Bible) that researchers sometimes assume that all ideas that appear in that collection come from other texts. This assumption can lead to real interpretative difficulties, but it also ignores the many ways in which humans communicate and share concepts. The realm of spoken communication is very important for Iranian influence on Judaism (as it is for the origins of the Hebrew Bible).

When investigating influence, one needs to take into account the ways ideas travel in a world run primarily through spoken language. The search for quotations and direct borrowings from other texts has dominated past research. The direct use of earlier texts—while important—is not the only nor even the most important way in which ideas could be transmitted between peoples and even authors. More nuanced ways of looking for influence are needed. The key, as noted above, is to look for interpretive changes in texts. Once these are identified, one can ask whether or not said changes relate to the cultural milieu of the time, one of which was the Achaemenid Empire.

And Silverman hits the nail on the head when he argues that influence may take the form of adoption, reinterpretation, or rejection of and apologies against another culture’s religious conception:

It bears repeating that the kinds of influence will vary in different instances. In some cases, Iranian texts may have been borrowed and adapted for new Judaean texts. In other cases, existing Judaean concepts may have been reinterpreted in line with Iranian ideas. In still others, Iranian ideas may have been rejected and argued against, perhaps being inverted as a rhetorical strategy. Further, there remains the possibility that biblical texts became re-interpreted after they were written by Jewish and Christian communities, using ideas ultimately derived from Iran.

Do head over to Bible and Interpretation and read the article.

thank you fresno city college – transcript of robert cargill’s 2011 fcc commencement address

Fresno City CollegeI offer my heartfelt thanks to Fresno City College for this honor.

I was truly humbled by being named one of Fresno City College’s 100 Stars for 100 Years late last year, and I am once again humbled and honored to be named 2011’s Distinguished Alumnus and for being invited to speak as the 2011 commencement speaker.

As one who has experienced every level of California public education:

  • John Adams Elementary (Madera, CA)
  • Thomas Jefferson Jr. High (Madera, CA)
  • Madera High School (Madera, CA)
  • Bullard High School (Fresno, CA)
  • Fresno City College (A.A.)
  • California State University, Fresno (B.S. Human Physiology)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (M.A., Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations; Ph.D., Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

I can attest to the fact that the California public education system works. California public education can continue to be the premier education system in the country, but only if we continue to fund our teachers and students, and only if we do not seek to bail out our state’s fiscal mismanagement by forcing our educational system to bear the brunt of the financial burden. California’s public universities (Junior Colleges, CSUs, and UCs) should not have to pay for California’s fiscal missteps elsewhere.

Education is the magic bullet in the heart of poverty, socio-economic inequality, racial tension, social and religious intolerance, and unemployment, but we must continue to fund our public universities at all three levels or else risk mortgaging the future of our state to avoid some present discomfort.

Special thanks to President Anthony Cantú for the invitation, Vice President Christopher Villa for the warm introduction, and to Kathy Bonilla and Ernie Garcia for making the entire experience flawless. Thank you to Ray Appleton for having me on his show. Thank you again for this honor. I hope that I can continue to advocate on behalf of public education for years to come.

Below is the text of my 2011 Commencement Address:


2011 FRESNO CITY COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., UCLA

President Cantú, Marshal Larson, Vice President Villa, Members of the Board of Trustees and President Smith, Parents and Relatives, Ladies and Gentlemen, and most importantly, members of the Fresno City College graduating class of 2011: thank you for the honor you’ve bestowed upon me today, and for the invitation to address this commencement ceremony this evening.

Graduates, I am you, 18 years from now.

18 years ago, I received my Associates degree from Fresno City College. And since then, my life has had its ups and downs.

I am 38 years old, married, divorced, and now married to my wife, who makes me both proud and very happy. I have a daughter, and now a son on the way. I bought a house, sold it for a profit, and used the money to buy a new house, which is now underwater.

I am you, 18 years from now.

I have experienced tremendous successes, and some terrible failures. I have gotten to meet many fascinating people throughout my young career, and I’ve watched many people dear to me die long before their time. I have done things of which I am incredibly proud, and I have made decisions I truly regret.

I am you, 18 years from now.

After receiving my AA, I enrolled at Fresno State and received my Bachelors in Human Physiology following a pre-med curriculum. Wanting to pursue matters of faith, I enrolled in Pepperdine University and completed my Master of Divinity degree. I experienced both the boom and the bust of the dot com bubble. Wanting to study biblical literature and archaeology, I enrolled in UCLA and earned an MA and PhD in these fields, and now, having taught at UCLA for the past few years, I have accepted a position to teach Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. But all of that – ALL OF IT – began right here at Fresno City College.

I am you, 18 years from now.

I enjoy the things you enjoy. I like watching the Fresno Grizzlies play ball. I love playing Angry Birds obsessively every time I pick up my phone, planking various landmarks in the Tower district, and like you, I am always quick to argue against anyone who even hints at cutting funding for education and for California’s Community Colleges.

I ask the same questions that you ask. Will she love me? Or will she leave me? Will I be rich? Will I make my parents proud? Will my children be proud of me? The only thing I possess that you do not is nearly two decades of experiences that all began with me sitting right where you are right now, because I am you 18 years from now.

So if I may, I’d like to share with you 3 things I’ve learned over the past 18 years that may help you in your next 18 years:

Number one: Be nice. Be kind. We live in an aggressive and cynical world, especially when we are young. We are taught to compete for jobs, compete for partners, and compete for goods. And yes, you have to compete in life. But while you are competing, be nice. There is nothing more comforting, nothing more disarming, and nothing more enjoyable than someone who is kind. Be kind. Be patient. Don’t go off when you’re wronged, but give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t set out to “earn respect.” Simple kindness will make far better impressions on people than any harsh words you might use. So be kind. It’s simple, it’s free, and it will do more for you than just about anything else you can possibly do.

Number two: Be proud of having attended Fresno City College, and of being from Fresno. We get to make fun of our hometown. Letterman can make fun of New York because he lives there. Conan can make fun of Los Angeles. And we all can certainly tease about Fresno because we’re from here. We carry the membership card. But never apologize for being from this beautiful, vibrant, diverse town. Never apologize for having to work hard to earn what you have. Apologize when you’ve wronged someone. Apologize when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. But, be proud having attended City College. It only makes you stronger, and when you make it, it will only make those around you all the more impressed. Be proud of Fresno and be proud of Fresno City College.

Number three: Say thank you. Be gracious. There is an Arab saying which says: “Blessed is the one who can say thank you in a thousand languages.” People love to be thanked, and people love to be around grateful people. So say thank you to your parents for raising you. Say thank you to your friends for sticking up for you, and covering for you, and for supporting you. Be sincere, look people in the eye, and say thank you.

And if you’ll allow me, I’d like to practice what I preach and take this opportunity to say thank you to a few people.

First, thank you to my coaches, Ron Scott, Eric Solberg, and Mike Noakes. I played baseball for these coaches at Fresno City College and Bullard High School. These men not only taught me to play baseball, but how to compete with character and confidence in life. Thank you Coach Scott, Coach Solberg, and Coach Noakes.

Thank you to Reuben Scott, who taught me to argue both sides of every issue. I came to Fresno City College knowing how to argue my side of an issue, but Reuben Scott taught me to understand opinions other than my own, and to write and argue cogently, to the point, and on the merits of the argument. He taught me to think critically, and for this I am eternally grateful. Thank you Reuben Scott.

And finally, I would not be here this evening, and I would not be a professor today, were it not for this evening’s Faculty Marshal, and my Western Civ. professor, Mr. Don Larson. I love this man for more reasons than I can count. For one, to me, this man is Fresno City College. I took Mr. Larson for Western Civilization, and on the first day of class he said, “I can love you and give you a ‘C’ and I can not like you, and give you an ‘A’. You will get the grade that you earn, and earn the grade that you get.”

Well, Mr. Larson must have really liked me, because he gave me a ‘C’. (Oh no, I haven’t forgotten.) But Mr. Larson also invited me to talk to him whenever I needed advice, or guidance, or just someone to listen. His facilitation of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings greatly influenced me by introducing me to successful role models, and afternoons spent at his home talking about religion and politics helped to frame many of my present positions on these topics.

By the way, you must visit Mr. Larson’s home during Christmas time. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine all of Christmas Tree Lane crammed neatly inside a single house. That is Mr. Larson’s house at Christmas time.

After my days at Fresno City College, Mr. Larson became a lifelong friend and mentor, and although I have not yet mastered the art of your ever-present bow tie, you have meant more to me than you will ever know. You are the most fair, honest, upright, and faithful man I know, and I want to take this very public opportunity to say to you, “Thank you.” Thank you Mr. Larson.

By the way, if you haven’t yet come up with a name for the renovated Old Administration Building, I’ve got a suggestion: how about the “Don Larson Administration Building”? I’m pretty sure he was already teaching here in 1916 when they built it, so you might as well name it after him. Thank you again, Mr. Larson.

So when you leave tonight, hug your parents and say thank you. Find a teacher who has taught you and say thank you. Find a friend who studied with you and say thank you. Be kind to them, and always be proud of what you’ve accomplished here at Fresno City College. And while I know it is incredibly cliché, go forth from here tonight knowing that you really can be whatever you want to be. Do these things and who knows what your next 18 years will bring.

Thank you again, and congratulations to you graduates on your hard work and your graduation from Fresno City College. Thank you.


Dr. Robert R. Cargill delivers the 2011 Fresno City College commencement address at Selland Arena, May 20, 2011.

2011 Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Robert R. Cargill delivers the Fresno City College commencement address at Selland Arena, May 20, 2011.

Sharon Cargill, Roslyn (and MacLaren) Cargill, Robert Cargill, and Don Larson

Sharon Cargill, Roslyn (and MacLaren) Cargill, Robert Cargill, and Don Larson

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