Big news: I’m starting a big new project & I’d love some help! I’m in discussions to re-matriculate back to American University to complete my PhD in history. I was ABD in 2000, but I took a second MA diploma and walked away. I’ve been working in technology for the past 15 years, and I’ve owned a small business for several years. I still really enjoy technology and I don’t plan on switching careers… but I’d love to find a way to integrate all my life’s interests together. Maybe this project is the way to begin the integration.
Topic & working title:
Women Tech Pioneers 1970s to Present: Dreamers, Drivers, Do-ers and Doulas.
Oral History Backbone
The backbone of this project is going to be Oral History interviews. I’ll be conducting several of the interviews myself, but I’m also reaching out to troves of already-amassed interviews. An Oral History interview done by a person who has been trained as a historian is a little different than an interview performed by someone trained reporter, a psychologist, or an entertainer (such as a talk show host.) For the Oral History portion, my original mentor/professor was Bernice Johnson Reagon, and it is likely that this current incarnation of me being an Oral Historian would be overseen by Professor Daniel Kerr, a very recognizable name in the field of Oral History. So, I’ll benefit from multiple perspectives on gathering valuable Oral Histories. Since I really enjoy speaking with interesting people and hearing their interpretations of past events, I anticipate having a lot of fun. While an exploration of memories is meaningful in and of itself, I’ll primarily be using those conversations to uncover the heretofore “hidden” role of women in the early years of tech. I anticipate a lot of fascinating insight. If you know of any women who you think ought to be interviewed for this project: please introduce me.
Dissertation and/or Documentary Film or Both plus more?
The “discussions” around the dissertation that I referred to earlier in this blog are centered around presentation and delivery in order to prove scholarship & understanding what’s required and what sub-topics need to be covered. For over a century, the word “dissertation” has been synonymous with writing a manuscript. But it’s 2013 and a few people are getting permission to do digital dissertations in Humanities-related subjects. I’m angling to be one of the first and possibly the first one at AU. Trust me when I say that there are very, very few people who have gotten permission to do a digital dissertation for a PhD in history. Less than 6, so far as I can tell. Everyone seems to accept that there’s an inexorable march of technology that even the History department won’t be able to avoid being changed by, but it’s still terroir nouveau.
Again…. this digital concept isn’t a definitive “go” on the dissertation side yet. But when I started to tell a few people what I was thinking of doing, the initial response has been amazingly positive. One of the people who has taken me under his wing is Robert Lundahl, an Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker (IMDB entry) and friend. Robert, in turn, is mentored by David Hoffman – a truly amazing documentary filmmaker (see his TED talk and IMDB entry.)
So… it may be that this was all a circuitous way of arriving at the opportunity to make a documentary film. Ever since conceptualizing and starting my history/movie-industry side-business BackinTime.com back in 1997, I’ve been trying to have a completed historical film checked off my bucketlist. So I’m totally game for this adventure!
Here is a fuller list/explanation of what this project might entail:
- Videotaped oral history interviews
- Transcripts of oral history interviews
- Production of a Documentary film
- Production of an Online Museum-quality exhibit (see USHMM’s Some Were Neighbors exhibit, as an example)
- Data analysis combining similar projects (I’m identifying other big data troves such as http://innovatingwomen.org/ and Cisco’s STEM stories project)
- Data visualization production
- Significant amount of written essays that could be similar to chapters in a book. This written portion will include analysis of primary and secondary sources, as well as synthesis of, and participation in, on-going scholarly debates.
Want to help?
I need lots of help. This is not anywhere near an exhaustive list. If you feel like making an offer, please reach out.
- Know any women who I should interview? Introduce me! Know anyone who knows someone who should be interviewed…. don’t be shy: introduce me!
- Donate technology, suggest technology, or refer me to cool examples of implementing technology for scholarly purposes. Note: at some point, I’ll probably need to publish a subset of the total project on the Omeka or Scalar platform, since those are beginning to be recognized and adopted by academia.
- Donate money (soon I’ll be doing a kickstarter!) I am going to be partially self-funding, but I’m not rich and this ambitious, archival-quality/museum-quality/scholar-quality project will take a decent amount of money to do it well.
- Donate (or signficantly reduce rates?) for your services. I will be learning a lot of new skills and brushing up on a few old skills. Along the way I may need help with web design, implementation/analysis, editing, research, film editing, and a hundred other things I haven’t even considered yet. Heck, I even need to brush up on how to be a historian. I hope to find like-minded people with projects where we’ll be able to cross pollinate and help each other advance our lives and careers. Additionally, I’ll give you credit in some form, act as a job reference, etc.
- Check in on me regularly and give me encouragement. I’ll be doing this in addition to my “real job.” Doing a big dissertation or project like this can have moments where one feels as though he/she is in a dark tunnel of despair with no light at the end of the tunnel. Since I’m not always a great cheerleader for myself, if I “go dark” please reach out and give me some encouragement.
Recently, I decided to get a certification…. just to be legitimized by an authority for a way of working that comes naturally to me. So I took an Agile Scrum class. Today, I took the test and passed. So, I’m officially a Certified ScrumMaster, in the Agile Alliance.
In the coming months, this blog may come back to life and take a different turn. I’m designing a way to be the female business and technology mentor that I never had.
And this time… there will be video.
Wish me luck & stay tuned.
I haven’t posted in forever. Ah well, all I can say is that I’ve been off doing a million other things. Not the least of which is moving to Florida and finding real estate.
Here’s two photos of the house. Front yard and back yard.
I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything by Albert Camus, but he had an interesting philosophical interpretation of the world.
Camus was known to be a philosopher of the absurd. His work poses interesting paradoxes. Is it possible to destroy everything in your life except for your lust for life? Can an atheist long for salvation and meaning? Is it possible to be authentic and principled, yet estranged from societal norms? To that I would add what seems a logical tangent (given his other notions): is it possible to be happy yet accept the absurdity of an inherently indifferent world?
As I interpret Camus’ work, I find it “works” for me to believe that we live in an an indifferent universe, but make meaning along the way. Meaning is the meat and potatoes of life. It is meaning that sustains and nourishes us. So what is meaning? We make a story about meaning (and call something meaningful) when our actions take care of our concerns, or when we think that a situation forces action.
So the task of life is to create robust stories of meaning: even when that meaning is provisional and ephemeral and across generations and geography. We have to make up our stories of meaning, then believe them, and share with others because we are always betwixt and between (l’envers et l’endroit.) Life really is inherently absurd. We make meaning out of our lives in order to make the world a little less absurd, in order to find the happiness and reject those nihilistic tendencies. Meaning sustains us and we are the master storytellers in our own life.