What does what OR How to get things done OR Let’s all get it done together
As Sara notes, 37 Signals, Getting Real (2009) definitely operates in the discourse of start-up. The text is snappy and feels like a pitch. It certainly presents an image and tone for agile development. While I appreciate many of the strategic impulses (not tying yourself down to padded check ins, establishing a minimum version for the sake of getting things done and testing them, finding a common “enemy”, and making things in a spirit of passion not tedium), I find the flashy presentation a bit off-putting. The fact that they preemptively address this potential resistance in the caveats does not, in my mind, let them off the hook. I think Sara is onto something when she raises the concern about what people this approach may or may not encourage. The in-and-out quick model is easier to support if you are more accustomed to fallback securities — it’s easier to fail from a place of privilege. I would also argue that letting the users have a say is a way of outsourcing focus-groups. The way statistics and feedback are built into tools is a personal pet peeve. I once received a promotional email that claimed “people need to hear what YOU think”…on clothes? The way the burden of feedback is put on the user strikes me as a devious redistribution of labor. I am now responsible for improving the tools I use? I can’t just pick out my tool at the store and consider the transaction finished? The app after app after app culture with constantly evolving features promotes this “user-oriented” development that seems to displace a lot of assessment, much the way we are the product in the free tools we use, we are the developers in the tools we comment on.
In academic development, I feel less cynical about the shared responsibility of use and revision. Without the paranoia about who is profiting from my feedback (because education as profit seems to me universally worthwhile), I am more forgiving in academic loops. Miriam Posner’s digest of digital tools, How did they make that?, is an amazing resource. The question of what to learn to make the things you want is persistent in Digital Humanities. When I revisited Bamboo DiRT, I revisited my sense of possibility and subsequent panic. I have poked around DiRT many times and I am continually overwhelmed by the breadth of tools and the degrees of use and disrepair of certain projects. DiRT is looking much better than when I first went on a year and a half ago, and the Assignment-in-a-box demonstrates a reciprocal action of use and evaluation that might be dubbed agile development in 37Signals. Are these built-in measures which invest students in the outcomes of their tools part of what we were talking about in terms of dynamic teaching last semester? Or is just a productive way to get conscientious feedback?
I find that these catalogs can be less terrifying when you start to meet people at events like Media Res (1&2), last week’s NYCDH events, and the GC Digital Research Bootcamp (everyone should apply for June). The community in NYC is remarkably open and encouraging, and the GC is such a vibrant part of that. I’m really looking forward to hearing former ITP students Sarah Litvin, Christina Shane-Simpson, and Pamela Thielman talk about their Independent study projects!
Response and motivating thought:
I would like to sound a rallying call for us to work together!
I think the working group evenings (Mondays (2/29) and (3/21) 6:30-8:30, (4/18, 2-4pm NOTE TIME CHANGE)) are going to be a really excellent way for us to share our learning and build our projects. I also figured I would bookmark the remaining Digital Fellows Office Hours:
Mondays in the Digital Scholarship Lab, Room 7414
- February 22 (2:00): Michelle & Patrick Sweeney
- February 29 (5:30): Mary Catherine & Ian
- March 7 (2:00): Michelle & Jen
- March 14 (5:30): Ian & Jeremy
- March 21 (2:00): Patrick Sweeney & Keith
- March 28 (5:30): Mary Catherine & Jeremy
- April 4 (2:00): Jen & Keith
- April 11 (5:30): Hannah & Jeremy
- April 18 (2:00): Patrick Sweeney & Ian
- April 25: Spring Break – No office hours
- May 2 (5:30): Hannah & Jeff
- May 9 (2:00): Michelle & Keith
- May 16 (5:30): Hannah & Jeff