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Big Hairy Project

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’ve been working in technology for the past 15 years.

Topic & working title:
Women Tech Pioneers 1970s to Present: Dreamers, Drivers, Do-ers and Doulas.

Dissertation and/or Documentary Film or Both plus more?
The “discussions” are centered around presentation and delivery in order to prove scholarship & understanding what’s required and what sub-topics need to be covered. For centuries, 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 back in 1997, I’ve been trying to have a completed historical film checked one off my bucketlist. So I’m totally game for this adventure!

For a fuller 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 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.

How you can help:

  1. Know any women who I should interview? Introduce me! Know anyone who knows someone who should be interviewed…. don’t be shy: introduce me!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 pollenate and help each other advance our lives and careers. Additionally, I’ll give you credit in some form, act as a job reference, etc.
  5. 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.


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