Julian Chambliss wants to reframe the way we think about history and the work of historians in the digital age. A scholar of urban landscapes, “both real and imagined,” he moves freely between traditional and more experimental/experiential modes of scholarly production. He studies community planning and development in real historic Black towns and settlements, yet he also explores the “Black Imaginary” and the “Black Fantastic” through comic books and popular culture. He’s a self-described digital humanist, “chasing ideas” (as he puts it) across old and new media platforms. This e-book is a product of his restless, inquisitive mind, his faith in DH community-building, and his relentless commitment to “critical making” in the classroom and beyond.
So what is being made here? Anyone who has discussed history, technology, and digital public humanities with Julian at the AHA or OAH or SACRPH or HASTAC understands that they — we — all of us — are co-conspirators in his much larger, ongoing project. When Julian invited me to collaborate on Reframing History – Season 1, he explained that he saw podcasting as an emerging, yet largely untested, medium for scholarly communication. He admired what my UCF colleague, Robert Cassanello, had done with podcasting in the classroom, and he wanted to use our project — a community study involving the rewriting of civic narratives — as the basis for a series of conversations about publicly engaged history in theory and practice. Pragmatically, he saw our Reframing History – Season 1 podcast as an opportunity to teach himself how to create and share interviews with the broadest public audience, in the simplest possible way, while producing something of value for the public and the profession.
With Reframing History – Season 2, Julian saw an opportunity to expand the conversation from our community-based project into broader realms of digital scholarship. He invited fifteen leading practitioners in the fields of digital history and digital public humanities to discuss their work and how it might contribute to the “reframing” (pedagogical, methodological, epistemological, etc.) of History in the digital age. Rather than simply add another season of downloads to the Reframing podcast, Julian decided to explore another emerging format for scholarly production: the e-book. Those who wish to listen can still find the podcasts on iTunes, Anchor, Stitcher, and other commercial podcast platforms. Yet the e-book adds value in several ways. First, it ensures that the information and knowledge conveyed in the audio interviews will be preserved in transcribed/edited/curated form through the Open Educational Resources of Michigan State University Libraries, with the appropriate metadata and a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) attached. Second, it makes the podcasts more widely accessible — and searchable — by teachers, researchers, and public audiences. Thirdly, it models a promising new way to transform serialized scholarly communication (podcasts, blog posts, Twitter threads, etc.) into a more stable, citable, PDF-able book format for purposes of promotion and tenure review.
Grouped thematically, the interviews presented in this volume reflect the critical diversity of DH theory and practice at the dawn of the 2020s. At the same time, they demonstrate the shared values — collaboration, experimentation, open access, etc. — that, as Lisa Spiro contends, define the field and unite its diverse communities of practice. Who better than Julian Chambliss, a historian of real and imagined communities, to ask where we are and what we are doing at this moment?
University of Central Florida
September 9, 2020