Today is new book day at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. We are very excited to release Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. This short collection of reflections traces Shawn’s career in academia, his experiences with failure, and the lessons that he learned over the past two decades at the forefront of digital archaeology and digital humanities.
Failure in academia and in the 21st century gets a bad rap. Among some, failing or even admitting a mistake continues to represent weakness. Among others, failure has become a right of passage into the heroic, and largely white, male world of the tech industry. As Katherine Cook has noted (in one of my favorite articles on digital archaeology), whatever the potential benefits of failure to a career or personal growth, the right to fail and the personal and social safety necessary to fail safely is not universal. For some, the opportunity to take risk and to fail gloriously or otherwise, involves too great a risk.
Shawn’s book is both about admitting failure and making it safe for others to fail.
On a personal note, I’ve long admired Shawn’s work from the days where he and I were both bloggers in the wilderness. Back in the day, I wondered, who is this Electric Archaeologist and only when I reached out to him in person did I realize that he was bouncing between jobs and working – rather unhappily – at a for-profit online university. Since then, we’ve managed to meet each other a few times, we collaborate on projects like Failing Gloriously and Epoiesen, and I’ve been able to enjoy his successes (and even his failures).
I hope this book is a success because that means people have read and thought about Shawn’s experiences.
Here’s the media release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Grand Forks, North Dakota
“Please, you gotta help me. I’ve nuked the university!”
The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to release Shawn Graham’s peer-reviewed book: Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. The essays in this collection document Shawn Graham’s odyssey through the digital humanities and digital archaeology set against the changing landscape of the 21st-century North American university. Stylish, insightful, and heartfelt, Graham reflects on the role of failure over the course of his career.
This isn’t another Silicon Valley-type success story. Instead, Graham, who is an Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Carleton University in Ottawa, reframes failure outside of a triumphant narrative and uses his own struggles as a way to remind us, “Don’t be an asshole. Practice radical kindness. Help other people avoid the rocks.”
“This book is for anyone who has found themselves at a loss for what to do next,” Graham continues. “I was woefully naïve going through grad school about what would be on the other side. I think folks just starting out in academia might find value in it. I also think that each of us have hushed up our failures, our rocky paths that got us to where we currently happen to be: and that’s not healthy for many reasons. How might we build things differently, if we actually understood where we each were coming from?”
Eric Kansa, who is among the most prominent digital archaeologists working today and the director of Open Context data-publishing, provides a foreword and Neha Gupta, whose work combines indigenous archaeology with digital practices, locates Graham’s ideas within larger discussions of race and gender in the discipline.
Graham decided to publish his book with The Digital Press who subjected the manuscript to peer review because he wanted to release the book open access. The use of an open access framework also seemed ideal owing to Graham’s background as the author of the long running and influential blog Electric Archaeology, editor of the open access journal Epoiesen, and leader of the award-winning Open Digital Archaeology Textbook Environment (ODATE).
Graham notes, “I want people to be able to publish wherever and however they want, rather than being trapped within the oligarchies of academic publishing. And I like working directly with the people who have a stake in the success of the work.”
The book is available as a free download from The Digital Press at the University of North
Dakota or it can be purchased from Amazon.
For more on Shawn Graham:
Electric Archaeology: https://electricarchaeology.ca/
For the Open Digital Archaeology Textbook Environment: https://o-date.github.io/
For Epoiesen: https://epoiesen.library.carleton.ca/