| September 27, 2016

Aaron Mauro, Assistant Professor Digital Humanities and English

Aaron Mauro, Assistant Professor Digital Humanities and English

BY: Catherine Nygren

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Aaron MauroGraduate school is a time for experimentation and exploration. For his dissertation in English Literature at Queen’s University, Aaron Mauro worked on terror, metaphor, and the contemporary American novel. In a post 9/11 world, culture quickly veered into questions of tragedy, reconciliation, and compassion. As his work developed, the early 21st century literature also began showing signs of shifting toward new uses of technology in an multimedia environment. Once he turned to a non-traditional novel (Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), traditional techniques no longer sufficed for an adequate interpretation. The work moved between media and was experiential in nature, so Aaron had to make his methods experiential as well. Programming became an exploratory method that extended traditional ways of critical thinking and allowed him to find new insights. A traditional dissertationthe standard in his departmentjust wouldn’t work for his research.

When he graduated in 2012, employment prospects were still limited in the wake of the 2008 banking collapse; Aaron had been on the job market since his third year of the PhD, with no results. Instead, he completed a SSHRC funded postdoc with Ray Siemens, distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria.  The ETCL has long been a leading organization in digital humanities concerned with researching the past, present, and future of textual communication. The  work was deeply collaborative and there was a general atmosphere of sharing and openness, which informed his perception of public research. These are characteristics common in digital humanities and were well suited to a shift in methodology that included programming hand in hand with cultural critique.

After his postdoc, he was hired to be an Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities and English Literature at Penn State Behrend, in part to lead the Digital Arts, Media, and Technologies program. The ethos of making things, developed during his PhD, passed into the realm of curriculum design and allowed for a space for digital humanities methods to become the core of an undergraduate education. Teaching is a natural extension of the experiential and exploratory process Aaron found during his dissertation and postdoc, and it is perfectly paired with programming in many ways.

Because many of the methods that are common in digital humanities did not pair well with traditional promotion and tenure guidelines, he needed to ensure his work would be regarded within these new norms of interdisciplinarity. When he was hired, Aaron made sure that the MLA guidelines for digital scholarship were the standards that he was held to for tenurebuilding a digital archive or interpretive tool should be on par with writing a book, and it’s important to validate digital scholarship and move away from strictly traditional monograph-based methods of assessment and academic excellence. In fact, if he could do it all over again, he would publish his dissertation online, for public consumption and feedback, as it was being written. It wasn’t until after his PhD that he learned the importance of directing research outward into a community, but Aaron now tries to think of his work as part of a new trajectory toward a public-facing humanities practice that is interdisciplinary, highly entrepreneurial, collaborative, and open.

 

image credit: Tomy Chatbot by Michele M. F.  CC Attribution-ShareAlike.


Poll: Interdisciplinary work

Aaron MauroGraduate school is a time for experimentation and exploration. For his dissertation in English Literature at Queen’s University, Aaron Mauro worked on terror, metaphor, and the contemporary American novel. In a post 9/11 world, culture quickly veered into questions of tragedy, reconciliation, and compassion. As his work developed, the early 21st century literature also began showing signs of shifting toward new uses of technology in an multimedia environment. Once he turned to a non-traditional novel (Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), traditional techniques no longer sufficed for an adequate interpretation. The work moved between media and was experiential in nature, so Aaron had to make his methods experiential as well. Programming became an exploratory method that extended traditional ways of critical thinking and allowed him to find new insights. A traditional dissertationthe standard in his departmentjust wouldn’t work for his research.

When he graduated in 2012, employment prospects were still limited in the wake of the 2008 banking collapse; Aaron had been on the job market since his third year of the PhD, with no results. Instead, he completed a SSHRC funded postdoc with Ray Siemens, distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria.  The ETCL has long been a leading organization in digital humanities concerned with researching the past, present, and future of textual communication. The  work was deeply collaborative and there was a general atmosphere of sharing and openness, which informed his perception of public research. These are characteristics common in digital humanities and were well suited to a shift in methodology that included programming hand in hand with cultural critique.

After his postdoc, he was hired to be an Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities and English Literature at Penn State Behrend, in part to lead the Digital Arts, Media, and Technologies program. The ethos of making things, developed during his PhD, passed into the realm of curriculum design and allowed for a space for digital humanities methods to become the core of an undergraduate education. Teaching is a natural extension of the experiential and exploratory process Aaron found during his dissertation and postdoc, and it is perfectly paired with programming in many ways.

Because many of the methods that are common in digital humanities did not pair well with traditional promotion and tenure guidelines, he needed to ensure his work would be regarded within these new norms of interdisciplinarity. When he was hired, Aaron made sure that the MLA guidelines for digital scholarship were the standards that he was held to for tenurebuilding a digital archive or interpretive tool should be on par with writing a book, and it’s important to validate digital scholarship and move away from strictly traditional monograph-based methods of assessment and academic excellence. In fact, if he could do it all over again, he would publish his dissertation online, for public consumption and feedback, as it was being written. It wasn’t until after his PhD that he learned the importance of directing research outward into a community, but Aaron now tries to think of his work as part of a new trajectory toward a public-facing humanities practice that is interdisciplinary, highly entrepreneurial, collaborative, and open.

 

image credit: Tomy Chatbot by Michele M. F.  CC Attribution-ShareAlike.


Poll: Interdisciplinary work

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