Impertinent Questions WITH KATHLEEN FITZPATRICK

By Hindley, Meredith | Humanities, September/October 2009 | Go to article overview

Impertinent Questions WITH KATHLEEN FITZPATRICK


Hindley, Meredith, Humanities


For this edition of IQ, we log on with Kathleen Fitzpatrick. associate professor of media studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. Fitzpatrick is one of the brains behind the NEHfunded MediaCommons mediocommons.futureofthebook.org), a digital scholarly network devoted to intellectual exchange between scholars, students, and the public. She is also the author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television and Planned Obsolescence (plannedobsolescence.net), a popular digital humanities blog.

How did an English professor become a fan of digital?

Freelancing at Voyager in the mid 1 990s, I got to watch the production of some of the most exciting multimedia projects ever published. (I also got to eat. which was an enormous help in grad school!)

How has digital technology changed the way you work as a scholar?

In every way imaginable. The objects I'm studying, the sources for my research, the technologies I use to write, the modes in which I publish.

You've had a blog for eight years. What made you start blogging?

I'd just finished the next-to-last draft of my first book and knew that the book wouldn't see the light of day for at least a couple of years (which turned out be ridiculously optimistic on my part). So Planned Obsolescence was born as an exercise in immediate gratification.

Why do you continue to blog?

Because of the conversations I've had over the years as part of a community of scholars writing with and for one another on a daily basis. Not to mention that far more people read my blog regularly than may ever read my more formal publications. Some people might be appalled by that, but if the blog is stealing attention from traditional scholarship, maybe we ought to think about why,

You've suggested that there are parallels between personal blogs and the early novel. Can you elaborate?

Part of it's structural - a return to serial, openended narrative that's reminiscent of the picaresque or the epistolary novel. But there's also the cultural panic they produce: The early novel inspired a lot of anxiety about the ways that it corrupted its predominantly female readers. A lot of the criticism of "mommy blogs" and MySpace begins to look pretty familiar in that light.

You use Twitter (@kfitz), but your colleagues are leery. In 1 40 characters, why do you tweet?

To keep up with what my fast moving funny digital humanities colleagues are reading thinking and writing. Though sometimes 140 characters isn

What opportunities are scholars who refuse to venture into social media missing out on?

Conversation, more than anything. The discussions that I've had over the last eight years have given me feedback on my ideas and criticism of my writing at earlier stages and from a wider array of viewpoints than I'd ever have gotten otherwise. These social scholarly networks are like the best conversations you have at conferences, except without the inflated hotel costs and bad cash bars. …

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