Monthly Archives: October 2022

[Colin + Gemma + Zico] on how to hook your audience: the latest in-person workshop experience

@zico @cgeraghty @gemma5teva

Last week we attended the workshop “How to Hook Your Audience”, an event held in person at the Graduate Center aimed at sharing helpful tools and strategies designed to better craft research narratives in both an informative and engaging way. The session was led by Dr. Machulak, the founder of a company that supports both scholars and professionals in bringing their research and ideas to either new or different contexts. Dr. Machulak is also a writer and editor.

The three of us individually decided to join this seminar, but immediately agreed on the opportunity of doing something different by deciding to co-write this post. The idea is to share our views and takeaways, while avoiding potential repetitions on describing the contents and dynamics of the seminar.

In an effort to allow the reader to compare and contrast our personal takeaways and learning experience, we came up with four questions that we decided to separately answer before finetuning the below “interview style” blog post.

Premise: the workshop revolved around 3 key points:

  1. how to deliver the same message, or argument, to different people;
  2. ways of studying and approaching these audiences;
  3. suitability of communication channels based on the above.

Questions we asked ourselves:

1.The moderator described the perfect ‘hook’ as the interception among logos, ethos, and pathos or, in plain English, rationale (or argument), audience, and credibility. Do you agree? If so, in your view, what are the main challenges?

[Colin answers] I sort of agree. Incorporating rationale, audience, and credibility into your hook is great. But I also think that the main challenge could be ending up in overthinking the product: a hook is a hook! It doesn’t necessarily have to sound too clever or anything – that can come later, possibly after you’ve already grabbed an audience’s attention. Even if the hook seems an unsophisticated clickbait, most people will still take that bait – even though they would never admit it!

[Gemma answers] Similarly to Colin, I only sort of agree. Certainly, reading the audience is important, alongside with ensuring that the argument presented is solid, however, credibility could be an issue. Credibility is something that gets built over years, generating a number of difficulties for students who might have, undeniably, valid theses to present, but not that immediate confidence that would translate into authority into the eyes of the audience. Other challenges might rotate around non-native English speakers or international individuals who might find the current lingua franca an impediment to their credibility.

[Zico answers] I kind of agree. However, the challenge lies within the answer. At a glance, questions around logos, ethos, and pathos seem straightforward; nevertheless, answering these questions is rather difficult. At some point, to cater to or hook the audience, one might have to pivot and present ideas in a different way, and this might be extremely challenging.

2. How can what you have learnt at the workshop be applied to Digital Humanities?

[Gemma answers] Digital humanists, by nature, heavily rely on online platforms which, inevitably, entail a huge exposition to different types of audience. As for everything, the keys are the message and who the message is intended for. Hence, simultaneously crucial are the intention and the crafting process. It might sound obvious, but one’s message goes hand in hand with the communication style and the distribution channel/s chosen. In brief, do not assume your audience understands you; do your due diligence, spend some time to prepare, and do not be afraid of tailoring your research to meet your listeners’ or viewers’ needs. 

[Colin answers] Hooking your audience with DH is a different, but exciting, challenge. And that’s why we’re here! For instance, Dr. Machulak showed us the photograph below to showcase what a good hook looks like; in this case the cougar was portrayed to visually represent what 2 meters (6ft) looks like in the context of social distancing.  This sign is also a great example in terms of incorporating Aristoteles’s principles of persuasion. An image or using some form of multimedia to hook your audience, done right, could be a more powerful draw than words.

[Zico answers] The approach introduced by Dr. Machulak might be extremely helpful to push DH projects outside the academia universe. Since asking questions like who we have left behind is at the core of DH, I believe that, by following the logos-ethos-pathos structure, serving a broader audience will be achievable.

3. How could the tension between public and academia be addressed when trying to hook multiple communities outside academia with your research?

[Zico answers] In my opinion, the tension between the public and academia lies within the expectations. Publics expect results while academic research not only has to come up with them but must also address ethics and morals that surround the approach chosen to produce those results. To address the tension between the public and academia, academic research often has to rephrase the message by adopting an audience-first approach, where results will shadow critical topics like ethics and morals. I am not in favor of wall gardening the critical aspects, but highly believe that higher abstraction is a requirement of greater magnitude.

[Colin answers] Identify the specific tension your research brings between academia and the public: most of the times, the tension is just a misunderstanding between two parties, so stating the miscommunication in your hook could be a great way to bridge the gap. Nevertheless, there will be times where you won’t be able to get beyond stubbornness. In those cases, you should use the Context/Audience(Broad)/Audience(Specific) approach learned at the workshop that helps to tailor your hook based on your public and how to ensure the latter actively engages in your research and ideas.

[Gemma answers] There should be no tension in first place, however, sadly, some form of gap is there. In this sense, an academic audience might need far less details when it comes to technical explanations of terminology and contents but could require higher level of information on one’s work’s limitations and methodology. On the other hand, an audience made of non-technical individuals, might not even be aware of issues related to the methodology used, hence the hook should reflect that.

With this in mind, it was interesting for us when a CUNY neuroscientist, who was attending the workshop with us, brought to our attention how she was struggling in explaining to the general public how brain waves work. It was thought-provoking as she confessed to us how “easy” it had been to present her thesis to a purely academic audience, while now having issues in handling non-experts’ expectations and questions. 

4. Overall, what’s the most important thing you’ve learnt?

[Colin answers] Overall, Dr. Machulak presented her material well, and her qualifications on the topic were evident. I particularly liked how she asked us not to disclose any personal projects any of us would choose to share with the group. The most important thing I have learned was the idea of incorporating Aristotle’s principles of persuasion into a hook. Easier said than done, but that will stick with me.

[Gemma answers] My main takeaway rotates around the importance of being able to situate any work I would like to present in the right context, which includes ensuring that my rationale (what are my core claims and evidence?), credibility (why am I the best person to make this argument?) and audience (how will I connect with my target audience?) are intersecting in a point where my hook will become effective and memorable.

[Zico answers] How to introduce academic research into a project and attract a diverse public has always been a difficult question for me to answer. In my opinion, Dr. Machulak’s idea of structuring a project by asking specific questions on the argument presented is extremely helpful. She specifically introduced the terms logos (will it support my immediate argument?), ethos (is it within my areas of expertise?), and pathos (will it resonate with my target audience?). These are all important questions to identify how to hook broader audiences.

Media in Life

As usual, this week’s readings were very thought provoking.  The readings that resonated with me were by Chatelain and Deuze et al. I appreciated Chatelain’s insight about how time is compartmentalized for most of us yet is not brought to our forethoughts. It was insightful for her to point out that in the academy, one is evaluated by their use of time, which is a bit unusual in the working mode for most people.  How time is spent, evaluated and treated was the criteria in her academic career.   She was able to shift the dialogue to an expansive view to include social media.  Her success in using Twitter to engage many people to become actively involved in their community as well as connect to other communities across physical boundaries was a successful use of social media to stimulate change.  Her act of rebellion against staying in the Ivory Tower caused a cascade of actions where scholars connected with a wide variety of fields not usually tapped, such as elementary school teachers.  This dual aspect of social media to cause global connections and at the same time stimulate the local community was also seen in the Deuze et. al. article. As they state,” …media that our children experience are[…] a mixture of national, regional and global. These media can serve to maintain national allegiances and offer a view of the world that reconnects children with another history or opens a window to a new world.” It makes sense that a young adult watching a TikTok video of a person dancing or playing a prank on the other side of the world will connect to it as well as the person.  Ah, they are another person just like me is an unconscious idea.  No matter that they are Asian, Indian, Nigerian or Swedish. A connection is made on a purely human level eradicating a bias and thus causing one more iota of an ism to fade away. Whether it is racism, sexism or any other.  Both the global and the local are affected. Yet, I have a hindrance to me, a human, being negated and my ontological existence is subsumed by media and I am unable to” live a life without by wireless.” There is an assumption being made as well that one cannot live without being fully immersed in media to the point where my body is media.  This is overkill to say the least. “…a life in media is at once connected and isolated, requiring each and every individual to rely on their own creativity to make something out of life: not just to give it, but to symbolically produce it,” is a stretch of a statement. It reeks of being  patronizing and deterministic because it assumes that we, as individuals, are helpless without media to develop ideas, identities, goals, aspirations.  Tools determine my upbringing and consequently my being.  It is not my parents, my socialization, my learning.  It is the tools.  While media tools do in fact expand one’s connection to the world, they do not form the individual. People use media and let’s hope the converse will never be true.

Reflections on “A Life Lived in Media”

Below is a deep dive (possibly complemented with periods of floundering) into Deuze, Blank, and Speers’ A Life Lived in Media. My initial aim was to investigate/interrogate their use of David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity but this led to a jumble of elsewheres. I recall the issue of scope being mentioned in class recently?

In A Life Lived in Media, Deuze, Blank, and Speers advance the notion that an additional ontological turn is necessary for how we understand, interact, and individuate through media. Approaching the question of the “media life perspective,” or the “realization that the whole of the world and our lived experienced” are framed by and mitigated through media, through four terms perspectives (that of invisibility, creativity, selectivity, and sociability), the authors of the piece argue on behalf of the artistic autonomy afforded to us via “media life” and the “endless alternatives and versions” of self-creation that are made possible should one learn to position oneself within media networks and the “always-available global connectivity” that they allow (2012, p. 1, 36). Aware of the possible readings of their piece as a reductive argument made unsuccessfully against the “existential contemplations” of the “panoptic fortresses of governments and corporations that seek to construct a relatively cohesive and thus controllable reality,” Deuze, Blank, and Speers seem satisfied with such a slight-misreading, ultimately concluding their piece with a vapid case of “life being art” bolstered with cherry-picked quotes from the likes of Foucault, Bauman, and Nietzsche (2012, p. 37). With that said, I did like this article.

Much of what Deuze, Blank, and Speers discuss in this piece struck me as salient, familiar, and interesting, such as Harvey’s notion of flexible accumulation and Hearn’s discussion of compulsive outer-directed self-presentation. However, I feel as if whatever conclusive argument was being attempted lacked both clarity and an applied awareness of the severity of the inevitable “loss of self” through the increasingly imperceptible “Mediapolis” (Deuze, et al., 2012, p. 3). In what follows, I will attempt to outline, critique, and expand on Deuze, Blank, and Speers’ four provided terms (invisibility, creativity, selectivity, and sociability), addressing both the arguments made in their respective sections and the appropriate or misplaced employment of thinkers therein.


In addressing media’s ontological possibilities, the term invisibility is used by Deuze, et al. to represent “the disappearance of media from active awareness” (2012, p.1). This disappearance of massive forms of psychological power into our societal, cultural, and political background despite their ongoing creation of the world, to paraphrase Brian Arthur, is discussed in reference to David Harvey’s work on space-time relationships (Bourdieu’s symbolic violence might have found apt application here as well) and their ongoing compression through the transition to “flexible accumulation” and the “rapid deployment of new organization forms” and new technologies of production (Harvey, 1989, p. 284). This brings about the first point of contention I had with the authors’ approach and development of their argument. In Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity, flexible accumulation is said to accentuate the “volatility and ephemerality of fashions, products, production techniques, labor processes, ideas and ideologies, values and establishing practices,” perhaps acting as the groundwork for Deuze, et al.’s referencing of it as something of an origin for the fragmentation of self-identity that (ultimately/supposedly) leads to the “potential power of people to shape their lives and identities” to be found in the ever-evolving forms of media available amidst such precarity (Harvey, 1989, p. 285; Deuze, et al., 2012, p. 5). This suggestion that a life lived in media, that the media life perspective, offers some political, economic, artistic, or spiritual program of agency, expression, or self-realization contra the will of the market and in opposition to the logic of production will operate as the crux of my critique throughout what follows. Harvey’s employment of flexible accumulation doesn’t operate as a function in the formation of “fragmented identities” but rather an economic condition that begets “capital flight, deindustrialization of some regions, and the industrialization of others, the destruction of traditional working-class communities as power bases in class struggle” impacting everything from “local networks of influence and power” to the “accumulation strategies of ruling elites” (1989, p. 295). As flexible accumulation found new virtual materials of accumulation in the Digital Age, the precarity found in its nascent neoliberal form has been exacerbated due to the hyper-speed at which technologies of power have advanced and continue to accelerate far beyond our capacity of understanding, leading to what Baudrillard described as a crisis of explanatory logic (1986) and what Bernard Stiegler has simply described as disruption. Perhaps I included references to these thinkers and their decontextualized concepts primarily to highlight the hazy methodology of Deuze, et al. here and the occasional ineffectual nature of academic namedropping in advancing a point. Perhaps I just did it to be cool. Moreover, in a statement intended to align their scholarly approach with Harvey’s, suggesting that along with him, “we do not see people as hapless victims of this seemingly disjointed worldview,” I fail to see or understand how Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity distinctly participates in this notion. In fact, Harvey laments this disjointed worldview via the “fragmentation which a mobile capitalism and flexible accumulation can feed upon,” suggesting that it is difficult to “maintain any sense of historical continuity in the face of all the flux and ephemerality of flexible accumulation… [resulting in] the search for roots [ending] up at worst being produced and marketed as an image, as a simulacrum or pastiche…” (1989, p. 303).

While I know these authors are attempting to draw optimistic attention to the potentialities of individuation still existent through digital networks, their borrowing of Hjarvard’s notion of mediatization, suggesting that “media may no longer be conceived of as being separate from cultural and other social institutions” points to what I perceive to be the complete opposite outcome. The production of the self (and each other), as advocated by Deuze et al. in a compressed space in which the interweaving of simulacra into the quotidian forges a cohesive world of life and commodity such that it “conceals almost perfectly any trace of origin, of the labor processes that produced them, or of the social relations implicated in their production” renders any individuation of the self solely mobilized by invisible market forces (Harvey, 1989, p. 300). As I will touch on shortly, this degree of immersion in mediatization does not allow for resistance to anything but the outward protocol of these mediated structures of power, rather than addressing the way in which such protocol clandestinely sculpts life itself (Galloway & Thacker, 2007, p. 78).


Deuze, Blank, and Speers, as they do throughout the majority of this piece, fluctuate between being on the mark and offering a hodgepodge of tech-optimism-somehow-effectuated-via-quotes-from-tech-pessimists. For example, the authors state, “When the organizing categories and principles of life are in constant motion, uncertainty reigns” (2012, p. 10). Though I would trace this uncertainty as leading that which was mentioned briefly above (i.e., the “perfected completion of nihilism” posited by Stiegler as being the effective accomplishment of computational capitalism or the hyperreality of Baudrillard – cool, huh?), the authors here, despite their acknowledgment (or celebration?) of the dissolving distinctions between man and machine, posit that a “life lived in media inspires a “creative” outlook to one’s world (2012, p. 13). Deuze et al. briefly root this force of creation in James Carey’s emphasis on “the ritualistic nature of the way people use media and technology to make sense of the world,” drawing the emphasis on this potential for creation away from the “categories of media production and consumption within the parameters of the capitalist project” and shifting focus to how such technology impacts the creative potentials of those interacting with that which is produced-from-above. However, if we are to understand rituals are symbolic acts that stabilize and structure time, then Deuze et al.’s subsequent advocacy for increased production via widespread multimedia literacy directly opposes this notion of the ritual. The “relentless consumption” of rapidly produced and disseminated media, such that we exist within it and are unable to notice, surrounds us with “disappearance, thus destabilizing life,” to borrow the words of Byung-Chul Han (2019, p. 4). Han goes on to note that “rituals produce a distance from the self, a self-transcendence,” rather than a production-of-the-self via “a life lived in media” as advanced by Deuze et al. (2019, p. 7). The authors’ arguments on behalf of data and information networks positioned through this piece that work to advance the necessity of engagement with media platforms in order to continue “existence in a networked digital age” not only negate the symbolic incapacity of such platforms to meaningfully bind people together (Stiegler’s symbolic misery, anyone?) and restore a solid structure to time, but also seemingly fails to recognize their political program is doing little more than advocating the melding of oneself into the digital under the “threat” (hyperbolic, sure) of nonexistence.

Perhaps the oddest element of this section is Deuze and friends’ awareness and inclusion of quotes from Alison Hearn, who suggests that “social media are forms of self-branding mandated by a flexible corporate capitalist project that ‘has subsumed all areas of human life…’”, and Zygmunt Bauman, who states that people “recast themselves as commodities: that is, products capable of catching the attention and attracting demand and customers,” and fail to do anything substantial with these provided frameworks of thought (2012, p. 18). Rather, the authors advance a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” program to “take advantage” of the potential of creativity provided by the media and the golden possibility of sustained existence should one find success in doing so. To semi-conclusively return to Harvey, he states presciently in The Condition of Postmodernity, “Images have… themselves become commodities. This phenomenon has led Baudrillard to argue that Marx’s analysis of commodity production is outdated because capitalism is now predominantly concerned with the production of signs, images, and sign systems rather than with commodities themselves” (1989, p. 287). As Deuze et al. advance the mastery of creative production in opposition to the forces they seem so frustratingly aware of, one must recognize that that which is created through the “life lived in media” is little more than a baby gazelle being born under the gaze of a pack of lions. To paraphrase Gramsci, when incurable structural contradictions have revealed themselves (thanks Netflix’s The Social Dilemma!), and through their incessant and persistent efforts to maintain power despite the growing acknowledgment of their toxicity, a new “terrain of the conjunctural” will form, and “it is upon this terrain the forces of opposition organize” (Gramsci, 1971, p. 178). The terrain of resistance to the exploitative nature of digital capitalism can not be formed on the virtual terrain that such institutions have created and continue to maintain.

Selectivity & Sociability

For the sake of whoever has made it this far, I’ll condense these two critiques together and attempt to keep it brief. In their analysis of the ways in which social systems or institutions are depicted via the media, Deuze et al. note, “All institutions are dependent on societal representation… This means that an institution’s success in the media becomes necessary for the exertion of influence in other areas of society. Therefore, all functional areas within society have learned to look at themselves through media glasses” (2012, p. 20). Through a process of exaptation, institutions and organizations, regardless of their ethos, have adopted a methodological amalgamation of market strategies, public relations campaigns, and propagandistic approaches, prioritizing (by necessity) their status and position amidst digital networks to the same degree (or, perhaps even greater) that they must in the “real world.” Regarding the subsumption of societal institutions into the wider networks of media, the article does a great job detailing stances on the “non-neutrality” of such networks and their deindividuating effects, primarily through Bauman’s suggestion that “benevolent readings of networked potential of contemporary media life” can quickly lead one to engage in fallacious “internet fetishism (2012, p. 22) and Žižek’s (optimistically framed by the authors) “being together alone” (ibid, p. 23). Seeing as I have neither the blog-space nor the comprehensive understanding of networks as such to tackle each of the authors’ rattled-off references individually, I’ll briefly detail what I found in reference to networks in my readings of outside texts I came across in trying to grapple with the arguments presented here.

In Robert Hassan’s The Condition of Digitality: A Post-Modern Marxism for the Practice of Digital Life, the author resembles Harvey in his assertion that “there is no meaningful past or future in the network, only the digital present,” suggesting that such a resultant time-space compression (à la The Condition of Postmodernity), amplified by the hyper-industrial nature of capitalism and the culture industry, has destroyed the capacity of cultural signs and symbols to linger, producing what Han has described as serial perception, or “a constant registering of the new incapable of producing the experience of duration… instead rushing from one piece of information to the next” (Hassan, 2020, p. 174; Han, 2019, p. 7). Through this process, the marketization and distribution of commodified symbols are accelerated, creating a logic in which the aforementioned institutions and their associated cultural forms are “marked by an inherent lack of originality… where culture ‘eats its tail…”, creating an assimilated sameness that operates fluidly in an “Otherless” market – Han discusses this in The Expulsion of the Other (Hassan, 2020, p. 163). Considering this (and many more salient points made in this work that I won’t include here), networked systems of computational capitalism work to facilitate the flexible accumulation that Harvey described,” rather than to act as an element in the evolution of “media as a playground for the search of meaning and belonging,” as advanced by Deuze et al (2012, p. 5). Sure, networks might allow for novel forms of individuation and transindividuation across networked digital communities but there is no possibility of this occurring without such connections producing raw material for programs of virtual accumulation that allow for the individuation of the network as an entity itself.

So, what’s to be done?

As per usual; I dunno.

However, I did find and partially read a wildly interesting and topical book called The Exploit: A Theory of Networks that provided some unconventional approaches to addressing the issues at hand. To keep things short, I’ll provide a quote from the work rather than trying to slyly incorporate it into a greater discussion:

“When existence becomes a measurable science of control, then nonexistence must become a tactic for any thing wishing to avoid control. ‘A being radically devoid of any representational identity,” Agamben wrote, “would be absolutely irrelevant to the State.’ Thus we should become devoid of any representable identity. Anything measurable might be fatal. These strategies could consist of nonexistent action (bonding); unmeasurable or not-yet-measurable human traits; or the promotion of measurable data of negligible importance. Allowing to be measured now and again for false behaviors, thereby attracting incongruent and ineffective control responses can’t hurt. A driven exodus or a pointless desertion are equally virtuous in the quest for nonexistence. The band, the negligible the featureless are its only evident traits. The nonexistent is that which cannot be cast into any available data types. The nonexistent is that which cannot be parsed by any available algorithms. This is not nihilism; it is the purest form of love” (Galloway & Thacker, 2007, p. 136).

I found this bizarre, Schopenhauerian “denial-of-the-digital-will” approach to becoming-through-a-digital-unbecoming to be totally fascinating. As Thacker and Galloway later note, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, the prescient authors of Networks and Netwars, once noted that where programs of resistance once focused on “bringing down the system,” many current network-based political movements have shifted their focus to developing and maintaining connections, to hyper-communication via “a life lived in media” rather than on addressing material mechanisms of control. Much in the same way Deuze et al. advocate for individuation through media forms, Thacker and Galloway note that networks are similarly continuously expressing their “own modes of individuation, multiplicity, movements, and levels of connectivity,” developing with a rapidity that the human is increasingly surpassed by, creating a sense of malaise, impotency, and disempowerment. As Nietzsche notes (since the authors also enjoyed employing his thought in their finale), mankind has always “mercilessly employ[ed] every individual for heating its great machines,” degrading him to a mere “instrument of general utility (Nietzsche, 1986, p. 585; 593). Perhaps continuing to operate these networked machines, despite the different attitudes, protocols, and programs applied from-within in an attempt to simultaneously resist and exploit the digital tools afforded to us via media, does not offer the effective, fulfilling means of self-creation that the authors suggest? Perhaps the tech-pessimists and network-skeptics Deuze, Blank, and Speers reference throughout this piece have more to offer than whatever point it is that they are really trying to get at? I’m not sure. However, to “round out” a quote from Thacker and Galloway used above (as a Deleuzian motion to “look for new weapons“);
“The set of procedures for monitoring, regulating, and modulating networks as living networks is geared, at the most fundamental level, toward the production of life, in its biological, social, and political capacities. So the target is not simply protocol; to be more precise, the target of resistance is the way in which protocol inflects and sculpts life itself” (2009, p. 78).


Baudrillard, J. (1986). America. Verso.

Deuze, M., Blank, P., & Speers, L. (2012). A Life Lived in Media. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 6(1).

Galloway, A. R., & Thacker, E. (2009). The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. International Publishers New York.

Han, B.-C. (2019). The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present. Polity.

Harvey, D. (1989). The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Wiley-Blackwell.

Hassan, R. (2020). The Condition of Digitality: A Post-Modern Marxism for the Practice of Digital Life. University of Westminster Press.

Nietzsche, F. (1986). Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits. Cambridge University Press.

Yes But

The readings for this week were a bit less connected than I had anticipated, not bad, just surprising since the other readings revolved around 1 topic. The Risam reading pointed out simple concepts yet with profound ramifications.   The design concept of ‘Less is more.” applies in DH also.  Not having to chase the latest and most powerful tools, one can still get the work done and even make it more egalitarian.  However, I noticed several points which seemed inconsistent. I appreciated the mention in the reading of, “documentary culture… has been profoundly shaped by colonialism” while they acknowledge “being postcolonialist advocating for a universal implementation to computing’ as being contradictory, yet they do not satisfactorily respond to it.  They go on to state,” At the heart of this state of affairs is the role of capital in the control of scholarly production.” Yes, but doesn’t that have to be so? Isn’t having capital also a necessity for having access to digital computing or archives.  Something seemed missing from the conversation.

The Michael et. al article reminded me of a Drucker article I read, The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space. We are in the digital realm and it is expanding to engage us in the realm of books.  Drucker discussed that books are not about what they are but what they do, and for us to continue along that line of thinking we must access digital realms that extend what books do. The way a book works is best described with an architectural metaphor of ‘program,’ which constitutes activities. The ‘program’ of a book is the activities derived from it. So, it makes natural sense that Manifold or hybrid publishing is the next iteration of the activity.  

The readings regarding Open Access gave me a pause.  I appreciate the concept of Open Access to make for a more egalitarian society. However, again, something seemed missing.  Something I can’t put my finger on yet is a big blind spot.  I appreciated the concept of allowing all to access anything.  I think OER is a good choice for some classes.   I think that breaking down barriers to education is important. But, I have questions that come up and some that are slightly below the surface where I can’t articulate them yet.  For example, how are we to pay for a writer?  How would a writer sustain a family with that sort of livelihood? The person or people who write text books take several years to write one, and the sales and circulation of the books is not substantial. How will they support a family if the book is made free of charge? What if they are not full time or tenured? Are we eradicating the profession of a writer?  What happens when everything is free?  Does the adage of ‘Too much of a good thing is not good.’ apply here?  There isn’t a person who knows me who has not heard me laud the tremendous wonders of free courses from iTunes University (just closed) to all of the Open Courses in many of the major universities, yet of the hundreds (if not more) of the people I have told how many actually took one or listened to one? Again, something is missing, but I’m not sure what. The concept seems nice, but I have questions as to the implementation and results The readings gave me many ideas about open access, but also gave me just as many questions.

For those interested in public access sites, OER or Open Courses here are a few:


Blog post (The Remix)

That word ‘remix’ keeps popping up in our readings, and every time it does, the synthesizer intro to Donna Summer’s “I feel love” starts playing in my head. Specifically, a remix of the song – Patrick Cowley’s 1978 nearly 16-minute version. Cowley adds his bold synthesizer, electric guitar(I think), and aggressive extra percussion riffs over the song’s unmistakable synth rhythm. The product is a musical flirt between Cowley and Summer. His additions run wild over the original track, only for Donna Summer’s warm, smooth voice to mellow things out. It was a pure labor of love for Cowley. Being a bootleg recording, his version didn’t earn him a penny, and only a handful of copies were ever pressed on vinyl. Yet, it’s known today as one of the best remixes ever, and I think it is an excellent example of the approach we should take when attempting to remix a thing. In other words, you must love the thing you want to remix. 

Cowley didn’t have access to the 16-track original version of ‘I feel love’ Giorgio Moroder produced in 1977. Instead, he worked with his own vinyl copy of the record. Lauren Martin, a collaborator of Cowley’s, recalls in an interview with Mixmag, “I used to stand there and watch over Patrick’s shoulder while he worked on these electronic boxes and patch-boards and I just had no idea what he could be doing…now…I realize that he didn’t have sequencers and he didn’t have MIDI. He was doing it the hardest way possible: by hand.” It cannot be overstated how painstakingly slow and tedious this process must have been compared to trying to create something even remotely similar using the digital wizardry tools available today. And yet he produced something that sounded like it was plucked directly from the future. Sadly, Cowley would not live long enough to see how influential his ‘I feel Love’ remix, along with his other music productions, would become. 

In the early 1970s, Cowley studied music at City College of San Francisco and made the city his home afterward. Later in the decade, he met the musical artist Sylvester and quickly became collaborators and friends. Cowley played synthesizer on Sylvester’s 1978 Album Step II, which includes the hugely inspirational hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” Cowley was instrumental in creating Sylvester’s signature pulsing disco sound. Probably the best example of this is their collaboration on the Cowley-written song –“Do You Want To Funk.” In late 1981, Cowley became ill; doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong with him. In truth, he was dying of undiagnosed AIDS. Patrick Cowley passed at his home in the Castro District in November 1982. His friend Sylvester died of the same disease in 1988. 

Patrick Cowley dying of AIDS and his work on “I Feel Love” are two separate things. All his musical work is an incredible gift to the world. But there’s something about Patrick Cowley being one of the beautifully creative people chopped down in their prime by a cruel stigmatized disease that makes his remix of ‘I feel love’ extra special. Not that it needs to be because — It’s so good.  

Doing Public Humanities: Open Access Publishing/ Minimal Computing / Digital Scholarship

The first time I came across the topic of public humanities was by reading the book Doing Public Humanities edited by Susan Smulyan. I learn that public humanities happens in collaboration and engages diverse public audiences. But as put by Robyn Schroeder in “The Rise of the Public Humanists,” digital technologies could be seen as disruptions that “have undermined the traditional source of authority for researchers and archivists.” (20) Fitzpatrick’s proposed ideas in “Working in Public” encourages me to think further how to engage openly and explore widely together to create, support, and promote projects/works toward the public good, particularly in a digital age.

The most complex challenge in doing generous thinking I learned from her writing is understanding and balancing the interests of diverse and sometimes even competing stakeholders within and outside of your fields/organizations and facilitating good conversations. Coping with uncertainty and unfamiliarity in conversations and collaborations is undoubtedly not easy. In the session on public access, she mentions the advantages of OA journals (which I read further explanation in Suber’s piece “What Is Open Access?”). She uses OA journals in science as good examples that help sciences progress. And systematically speaking, publishing costs are also said to be included in grants in the sciences, which aims to promote knowledge transmission and public engagement. However, I also see difficulties in balancing interests in the OA publishing in science. There is an article titled “Why I think ending article-processing charges will save open access,” published last week in Nature written by Juan Pablo Alperin.

Alperin explains how difficult it is for Latin American scholars to publish in well-funded top journals in Europe and North America due to increasing APC (Article processing charges) payments. I learned from scientists I follow on SNS that they currently need to pay around $4,000-5,000 for the APC per article. Scientists could pay the APC from their grants, and as Fitzpatrick writes, “those tenured, and tenure-track faculty and other fully employed members of our professions who can and should contribute to the world the products of the labor that they have already been supported in undertaking.” (157) But there is also the issue of geographical inequalities, even among tenured faculty and schools. Thereby, I am excited to find out that Fitzpatrick also addresses “the dominance of standard English” (164) in this chapter. Echoing her, I also think translation works are not valued enough as scholarly contributions. And ultimately, I ask for a critical reflection on how the world beyond the US’s boundaries is taught and learned and how we could combine the DH and regional studies to help the students/the public understand the rapidly changing world. Geographical inequalities, as well as inequalities in race, gender, and age, requires us to consider general questions like the role of public intellectuals but also look into some invisible questions regarding capabilities in utilizing technologies during the development of technologies, as addressed by Risam and Gil in “The Questions of Minimal Computing.”

And lastly, let us revisit the idea of public intellectual and public scholarship. Speaking and writing to the public is not enough to become a public intellectual. I notice some scholars do public scholarship by formulating their beliefs and arguments on fighting against what they oppose. However, some fail to discover what they inherently support and give good guidance in questions outside their disciplines but relate to global social and cultural issues. I would argue for consciousness and self-awareness in the process of producing public goods

Reflections on Unfinished Live (A Non-Workshop Workshop)

Last month, I attended day two of Unfinished Live at The Shed in Hudson Yards, an event that, in its own words, “brings together leading thinkers and changemakers from a wide variety of disciplines to engage in today’s most pressing questions about the impact of technology on our civic lives.” Though it wasn’t necessarily a Digital Humanities workshop focused on the development of a particular skill, Unfinished Live offered a series of lectures, discussions, interviews, and forums dedicated to illuminating the past, present, and future of ongoing tech-centric conversations pertaining to everything from tech careers after incarceration to the potential for subversive feminist art and activism via emergent Web3 technologies. With the speakers including a variety of digital artists, tech theorists, crypto-evangelists, and venture capitalists, Unfinished Live offered a mixture of diverse insights into the state of Big Tech (for lack of a better term) and the attitudes that exist both within it and on its fringes. Though day passes were exorbitantly expensive, likely prohibiting many of the discussions from reaching the people they were seemingly intended for, I was able to attend thanks to a student discount available in a forwarded message from Unfinished Live representative Rebecca Turner via email-wizard Jason Nielsen. Through this reflection, I intend to briefly highlight the events that I attended and their relevance to the Digital Humanities, followed by a critical analysis of one panel in particular in an attempt to evaluate the motivations, ideologies, and financial incentives at work beneath its seemingly benign and egalitarian exchanges.

My experience at Unfinished Live began with a panel discussion titled “The End of Tech Feudalism: Rethinking the Internet’s Balance of Power” hosted by founder and editor-in-chief of blockchain news organization Forkast, Angie Lau. Starting with a spurious anecdote by Tomicah Tillemann, Chief Policy Officer at recently founded crypto-investment firm Haun Ventures, detailing his 17th-great-grandfather’s life during the feudal age and the ways in which it mirrors our present era of Tech Feudalism, the discussion soon blossomed into an exposition of the ways in which Web3’s decentralized structure can work to emancipate digital serfs from their tech overlords. Niki Christoff, a former Republican operative and current CEO at Washington-based boutique consultancy Christoff & Co., and Dante Disparte, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Global Policy at peer-to-peer payments technology company Circle, joined the stage as well, each offering their vision of freedom from the confines of Web2 through political and economic programs that were coincidentally beneficial to their company’s advancement. Though this panel was initially intriguing and appeared to align with that which I had hoped to find at such a conference, the discussion quickly evolved into something else entirely, thus prompting my desire to dissect the underlying dynamic of this event as I make an attempt at doing below.

Following this provoking introduction to the conference, I attended a panel titled “The ‘Trustless” Trap: Why a Responsible Web3 Needs a Bit of Messy Humanities” that worked to counter Web3 enthusiasts’ rallying cries of “just trust the math” and advance the still-existent value of trust in programs of human-centric transparency, inclusion, and governance against the desires of accelerationists and automaton advocates. Though informative to some degree, the loosely moderated discussion quickly turned its focus onto that of NFTs, which, admittedly, I have little interest, before once against turning to the necessity for the proactive trust and safety measures necessary in the emergent technologies of Web3. Perhaps the most interesting element of this discussion was that of the decentralized community’s right in the creation of norms and who has the right to create such norms if not the community. The government? Corporations? Some other entity? The conversation that followed grew into a discussion of the role of regulatory government intervention in the growth of emergent technologies (one panel member advocating the creation of an equal floor, rather than a ceiling) which was countered by arguments regarding the government’s inability to keep regulatory pace with such developing technologies. Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, Julie Owono, concludes the discussion by asking the ever-salient question, how do we design rules that touch everyone equally and create a sense that those touched by them had a hand in their development?

Shortly after, I attended “Building the Web We Want: How to Protect Human Rights on the Internet” featuring Research Manager at The Markup, Angie Waller, and Ben Moskowitz, who acts as Vice President at Innovation Lab. Out of the three “main events” that I attended, I probably retained the least from this panel, as questions such as “How do we protect speech and privacy?”, “How can we create a more equal global society where the disadvantaged are not further marginalized?”, and “How can we ensure that those with power don’t silence the more vulnerable among us?” are much easier to ask than they are to answer. Though associated problems were rightfully and skillfully addressed, I found that some of the “answers” provided were doing little more than semi-tackling behaviorally targeted information, advertisements, and propaganda found on Facebook, something that has long been subject to discussion and is anything but innovative in such a technologically-forward-thinking space. However, I did find Moskowitz’s notion of a “consumer data union” and the collectivization of data-subjects to reposition power into the hands of those who are producing the data to be wildly interesting, and was disappointed that these two speakers exited the stage shortly thereafter with little elaboration. This was followed with a great deal of moseying, a beer drank at the downstairs bar, and a few books purchased at a kiosk displaying works written by figures featured throughout the conference, each of which still sits cozily on my shelf with unbent spines.

So, returning to “The End of Tech Feudalism: Rethinking the Internet’s Balance of Power,” I’d like to first discuss the elements of the panel discussion that left a sour taste in my mouth and why I felt compelled to dig into the lives and professional breadcrumbs of this merry band of technocrats. Since the cast of characters has already been somewhat established above, I’ll briefly give an extended overview of each as to contextualize these figures within the economic and political landscape. Venture capitalist Tomicah Tillemann stood out initially, due in part to his recounting of the night before and his namedropping everyone from Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova to Hilary Clinton. Tillemann’s background is impressive, previously working as the Global Head of Policy for the crypto team at Andreessen Horowitz, once serving as senior advisor to two Secretaries of State, and working in the State Department in 2009 as Hilary Clinton’s speechwriter. On the panel, Tillemann is the first to draw an equivalence between the farming implements of feudalism and the “modern digital equivalence,” gesturing to his phone and suggesting that, similar to his 17th-great-grandfather, we “go to work creating valuable digital data,” sending it up to “manor houses” in Silicon Valley to “cultivate a landscape that we do not own and we will never control.” Tillemann follows this metaphorical framework, suggesting that feudalism ended through a series of systemic, exogenous shocks, such as plague and conflict, and, given the state of the world today, we are offered an unfortunate but potentially hopeful opportunity to develop new ideas that produce novel infrastructure and new mechanisms that uproot the dynamic presently in place and allow for a “new renaissance” that mirrors that which followed the original end of feudalism. Nodding in agreement, moderator Angie Lau turns to the crowd to ask, “How many of you feel that we are digital commodities?” to a small swell of murmurs.

Responding to Tillemann, Niki Christoff states that she “doesn’t believe Silicon Valley” intended to be malicious in their development of the present economic situation in which our “information, data, attention, privacy” is exploitatively and elusively extracted, proceeding to lament to her feeling of being held hostage by her phone and suggesting that through blockchain technology, there exists the possibility of a “new internet” that “moves power from consolidated multinational companies” back into the hands of the masses. Somewhat similar to Tillemann, Christoff has had a prosperous career in Silicon Valley prior to her appearance at Unfinished Live, including a spokesperson role at Google and Head of Federal Affairs at Uber, during the latter of which she is quoted in countless articles for her praising of Trump appointed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao due to her alignment with labor regulations that benefit the gig economy. Marking the beginning of a pattern that will exist throughout the duration of the panel, Christoff, notably named by Fortune in 2019 as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Politics, is the first to introduce leftist language into the dialogue, stating, “To have a revolution, you can’t a small group of elites talking about a concept… You need to have masses that are demanding an end to the system.” Ironically, this statement is voiced by a small group of elites, offering an answer to the masses that bears both the potential to concomitantly “end digital feudalism” and line their pockets and those of their company’s shareholders. Rather convenient, no?

Dante Disparte responds in kind, suggesting “…to end feudalism, [people need to be empowered.] I believe there is no greater representation of empowerment than financial empowerment. The biggest revolt that the emergence of cryptocurrencies has caused is a revolt against some deeply entrenched interests… Cryptocurrency is a response to failures within the traditional economy.” More than anyone, Disparte’s involvement in the conversation illuminates what might be said to be its truest intention; to encourage the public to view financial investment in their crypto-programs as emancipatory, revolutionary, and politically empowering. In a similar vein, Tillemann positions this technology as an escape from the entrapment of tech as binarily existing in either an authoritarian or commercial framework while Christoff suggests that through such tools, people can “govern themselves” and subsequently “save democracy.”

As I sat in the dimly lit room, gazing on a beautifully arranged stage featuring some of the “top minds” supposedly at forefront of the next era of technological advancement, such calls for the end of tech feudalism that I would otherwise recognize as urgent and fundamentally agree with started to appear more and more as an advertisement for the ideologies and technological programs inherent in the organizations that these three individuals represent. During Tillemann’s Time at Andreessen Horowitz, the aim was always “how to win the future,” not how to benefit the masses that are being swept along with the technological blitz being orchestrated in order to achieve this “victory.” At Andreessen Horowitz, a company that is as well known for its early investments in companies such as Facebook and Twitter as they are for being uncooperative and opaque with the media and the public, Tillemann’s career started when he was brought on by crypto-investor Katie Haun, who was at the time tasked with spearheading Andreessen Horowitz’s lobbying effort in Washington. Now, Haun and Tillemann are reunited at Haun Ventures, an investment firm focused on crypto start-ups, with Tillemann simultaneously taking speaking gigs touting their power as political solutions to the malaise and exploitation of hyper-industrial society. Similarly, Disparte’s role at Circle is explicitly dedicated to eliminating friction in the flow of value globally. In other words, Disparte is advocating greasing the wheels of unregulated, unfettered capitalism, under the guise of guaranteeing “instant, permissionless” financial freedom should one invest in the future that blockchain technologies promise. And lastly, Christoff, describing herself at the tail end of the panel as “a radical and an institutionalist,” suggests that this is all aimed toward building “access to the global economy” and works to ultimately ensure that no one is left outside of such financial infrastructures. Who would not want to be touched by the loving hand of global technocapitalism?

Each of these figures, in some way, has built and benefited from the exact systems that they now describe as tech feudalism. Each of these figures, in their own way, now offers a “solution” to the exploitation that is inherent in the structures they worked to produce. Each of these figures has untold capital invested in these “solutions” and is scrambling to be at the forefront of Big Tech’s next set of elite organizations as Web3 technologies emerge and develop. Though I’ve gone on for far too long at this point, the takeaway from this analysis should be evident. And perhaps it already was and this post is wholly unnecessary. However, as Digital Humanists, the tech optimism of Silicon Valley or its defectors should always be approached with a healthy degree of skepticism and analysis. I suppose this, in some way, operated as a workshop for this critical approach, and a reminder of the ways in which the technological landscape differs from that of the Digital Humanities and what our role as Digital Humanities is within this landscape to counter and critique that evolving faces of new technologies of power.

Open Educational Resouces: Pressbooks

Access to knowledge and technology was a common theme in the readings. It sparked a curiosity about Open Access and Open Educational Resources. Currently, at LaGuardia Community College, my colleagues are working on an OER project (Open Educational Resource). In a short interaction while at work, I briefly mentioned that I was learning about Open Access in my weekly readings. My colleague invited me to see a current OER project they are working on. Without really getting into details about my readings, the first thing they said was that they needed to figure out what platform they were going to use. Some factors to consider were cost, accessibility, and user experience. I immediately thought about the four heuristic questions in Introduction: The Questions of Minimal Computing. I especially thought about this question. “What do we have?”

“what do we have.” – CUNY Pressbooks.

Based on my conversation with my colleague, they used Pressbooks as the OER platform to create this project. Based on my understanding, I learned that CUNY has a subscription to this platform. I also learned that a team is behind this project, from professors to students. A grant is funding this work. Therefore, they can compensate students for their time creating content for this OER project.

I decided to create an account on Pressbooks and play around with the platform. I decided to “create” my first book titled hiking. It’s similar to word press. It has some book themes to choose from. I needed more time to learn about the features and tools on this platform, but it seemed straightforward and user-friendly. For practice, I decided to create a book called “Hiking.” I love hiking and spending my weekends year-round (weather and time permitting) in the mountains of the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas. I created a chapter called Hiking Breakneck Ridge, one of NYS’s most challenging hikes.

Who can afford $100+ Textbooks?

While playing around with the platform, I was thinking about textbooks in the sciences that are constantly being updated. Therefore, the content in the textbook in one year can be different the following year due to new scientific discoveries.

I think it’s ridiculous that students have to pay $100+ for a textbook, especially if they are going only to use it one time. However, I think we now have a solution for that. These platforms and OER projects allow for sharing knowledge with students and the public interested in a subject/topic.

How can OER textbooks and learning material support student success?

I think that OER textbooks and learning materials can support student success by alleviating this cost burden to students. Students shouldn’t be stressed by deciding to buy a textbook or paying for rent or their living expenses. They can instead use the money for their living expenses. It’s already expensive to live in the states. If OER can alleviate that stress, I think we need to move towards an educational system that will support all students to succeed by providing the materials necessary to achieve their goals and success.

Minimal Computing and Cyclical Guilt in DH

This week’s reading, more so than other weeks, has been well aligned with many of the interests that brought me to study the digital humanities. I have been a long-time proponent of open access journals — as well as open access media in general. I thought Peter Suber did a wonderful job in outlining all the benefits to open access research articles and tackled all the tough questions that often go along with it. One of the many critiques I’ve stumbled across when it comes to OA is how it removes labor from the process of publishing academic articles. That is, by eliminating the process of sales, you eliminate the job of selling the literature. By eliminating the publisher as middleman, you eliminate the copyeditor, the proofreader, the production team, etc. from being involved in the process of creating a published work. That is, OA can be deemed “anti-labor” inherently by its removal of roles from the publishing process. I learned many retorts to this line of thinking from Suber — mainly that OA works can still live in published journals. They can still be refined and sold as parts of collections. It’s just that the written piece, in isolation, can be accessed by anyone. Much like public domain works of literature (those that predate 1923) are available to be published in anthologies or critical editions of books — which produce many jobs and are certainly pro labor — OA works can be included in their own anthologies and classroom “readers” to create new labor opportunities. I found this uplifting as a lot of what we read in DH is riddled with guilt — guilt about who DH doesn’t serve, whose voices are omitted from the field, and who cannot access the digital tools that are prerequisite to making a DH project. That brings me to my thoughts on the Risam and Gil piece on minimal computing.

I titled this post “Minimal Computing and Cyclical Guilt in DH” because after reading the Risam and Gil piece, I felt like I was taken on a whirligig tour of all the ways that digital tools can exclude different populations. SaaS GUIs require an internet connection and thus are only available to users who live in well connected areas of the world. User-friendly tools often are hosted on databases, which presents security problems as these databases are often owned by capitalistic corporate entities. I felt from reading the piece that the authors were advocating for minimal computing as a solution to these problems — but even in their writing, you could sense there was more guilt underpinning the concept of minimal computing.

To truly leverage the benefits for minimal computing, they make clear that a strong grasp of coding language is required. Making a Jekyll site is often achieved through the command line. This is a large learning curve for many. I’ve been working adjacent to computer science for over a decade and anytime I want to learn a new skillset, I have to take advantage of one of several pillars of privilege. I can take a class at an institution, which costs money and often requires being accepted into a program and having an expensive undergraduate degree. Alternatively, I can attend a bootcamp, which costs even more money per hour. If I want to save money, I can watch tutorials on YouTube, yet they require all the same connectivity as using a SaaS GUI does, which defeats the supposed altruistic purpose of learning the code if I can just use a GUI. I can purchase a textbook, which is probably the cheapest route, but it’s still expensive and I will have to rely solely on my ability to self-learn. There are dozens of other ways to gain these skills, but all of them require some form of privilege — not excluding the privilege of being smarter than I am and being able to learn complex syntax very easily — as many lucky software engineers are able to do with their computationally savvy minds.

I feel like it’s impossible to learn about any aspect of DH without going down the rabbit hole of guilting ourselves about how any approach to scholarship inherently leaves out a large chunk of the population. Studying advanced mathematics leaves out people who aren’t inherently skilled at math. But I don’t think that’s much of a topic in the introduction to linear regression. To me, minimal computing is dope. It’s cool to make lo-fi digital projects using simple forms of technology. I don’t think the reason to promote this approach to scholarship requires us to go over how WordPress is a product of neocolonialism. I feel like there’s no need to justify minimal computing — it’s justified in the fact that practitioners are able to create interesting humanities projects without relying on the hand-holding GUIs available to the greater public. That in that of itself is interesting.

WORKSHOP: CFP _ how to write a conference abstract

A very short preface: My work schedule this semester makes attending the workshops focused on digital skills impossible, so I am especially grateful to all of you for sharing your thorough workshop descriptions! Thank you. Consequently, the workshops I actually CAN attend seem a little further afield. When choosing a session to attend, I am trying to find the sweet spot in the Venn diagram of my availability,  my interests, and DH usefulness.

With that in mind: I took a workshop offered by the Gradcenter’s Writing Center (I work at a writing center at another institution) on responding to CFPs (Calls For Proposals or Papers)/ writing a conference abstract. 

Overall, the workshop took the mystery out of the CFP process and made me think that any one of us with an idea that aligns with a conference’s theme should dare to go for submitting a proposal (in the form of an abstract). 

There are several kinds of conferences: (and you’ve probably seen some asking for proposals in the emails Jason shares with us, most recently HASTAC)

  • sponsored by grad schools
  • regional
  • national (and international)

The two instructors agreed that going to a grad school-sponsored conference might be a great initiating experience.

The bulk of the session was then devoted to looking at dos and don’ts of abstract writing as well as looking at a couple of example abstracts. Below, the essentials.

Your abstract is written in response to a specific conference’s theme. Showing how your idea connects to the theme is vital. The theme is certainly recognizable in the conference’s title, but you might also look for and define the “key terms” the CFP identifies (see second slide) and refer to those terms as you describe your planned contribution. Defining your contribution’s place in the often suggested sub-themes and locating the available formats should also be part of your considerations. Formats might be round tables, panels, seminars, workshops, etc. — they all suggest slightly different approaches to your idea.

Here a concise summary of what an abstract should do (the two images are screenshots of slides from the workshop):

…and all of this in an allotted word limit of 200, 300, 500 words (there is a spectrum, but short is the defining feature).

And here the dos and don’ts, which I think are a useful checklist for your abstract-in-progress:

The presenters also made a point of mentioning that even if you write a great abstract, your proposal might still not be chosen, as there are additional  “uncontrollable forces” involved in the selection process.  The selection committee has to consider the overall-make-up of a panel or round table, so sometimes, in order to achieve a balance of perspectives and subspecialties, some great proposals might not make it. 

From my work as a writing consultant, I’ll add the following: 

  • Sounds simple, but still: Close read and return to the CFP a few times as you are consolidating and developing your thoughts.
  • And: take advantage of the Writing Center and bring them your draft in progress to get an outside reader’s input.
  • Also: feel free to contact me with any abstract-related questions anytime.
  • …. and please share info about upcoming conferences.