Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Modern Lanugage Association

At the 2012 MLA annual convention in Seattle, the "peripheral" discourses of libraries, digital humanities and media studies were strikingly central--a very new development, in my experience.

* Before the convention, I attended a digital humanities workshop. The most useful part of the workshop was a roundtable on peer review; we discussed the changing conditions for peer review not just in digital journals but websites where various scholarly projects are aggregated. How do you address the temporal dimension of projects where the content, the links and the interface will degrade over time?

* A very interesting early session was on Google Books and other mass digitization projects. There is profound concern among literature faculty that the poor quality of Google Books metadata obscures differences between editions, and that library collections decisions (de-accessioning) based on the availability of digitized copies of books may not take into account the important differences between copies, even for industrial-era printed material. A related issue came up in the session on "Old books, new tools": print-on-demand publishers get a lot of metadata wrong, and are publishing facsimiles of single copies as "editions."

* The new discussion group on libraries and literary studies hosted two sessions; I attended the one on libraries and learned journals, and was very pleased by the quality of the presentations, the discussion, and the interaction between faculty and librarians.

* There were a variety of digital poster sessions, a format new to the MLA. (Welcome to the 21st century, MLA!) I saw several of these; two sessions on digital pedagogy were packed beyond capacity. There was also an ongoing exhibition of e-literature projects, including some projects from the 1980s presented on the original Mac Classic.

In addition to the digital humanities workshop and regular MLA sessions, I spent time in several intensive planning meetings for the digital journal for which I serve as an editor,, putting into practice some of the issues that were being raised at the conference... serendipitous!