Never Doubt the Power of a Cute Pair of Shoes: Series Editor Introduction
When I first met Carol Stabile, one of the co-editors of The Ada Journal Reader and co-founder of Reanimate, it was pure happenstance. We were at the University of Maryland, over a decade ago, and she asked to take a picture of my shoes — they were whale shoes — for her son. She promptly introduced me to Radhika Gajjala, another editor of the reader, and I later met the third editor, Karen Estlund, on a visit to Penn State. Never doubt the power of a cute pair of shoes.
My chance encounter with Carol opened up a relationship with Ada and the Fembot Collective that has been formative for my career — just as working with the journal and the collective has been for so many other scholars.
My first peer-reviewed article, "Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities," was published in Ada (Issue 4: Publication and Its Discontents, edited by Bryce Peake and Karen Estlund in 2014). Because Ada gave me the opportunity to lay out the challenges of peer reviewing scholarly outputs that don't resemble the "traditional" monographs, journal articles, or book chapters, I've remained preoccupied with this problem — and have spent much time trying to do what I can to fix it. Along with colleagues at Salem State University, where I worked at the time, and colleagues from the Massachusetts State College Association (our union), we successfully managed to get our collective bargaining agreement changed to value a broader range of scholarly outputs and operationalized these changes with robust professional development programs that remain ongoing. Later, I was part of an ad hoc committee for the Modern Language Association (MLA) that developed Guidelines for Evaluating Publicly Engaged Humanities Scholarship, where the products of research are likewise innovative. And, with Jennifer Guiliano, I co-founded Reviews in Digital Humanities, a journal that peer reviews digital scholarly outputs in a range of genres.
Carol and Radhika — along with the whole Ada and Fembot crew — also jumped in to support me at an incredibly challenging moment early in my career. I'd been struggling with an impossible collaboration that was swiftly going wrong — and, even worse, publicly — and they reached out to me to ask if they could help. This resulted in a special issue of Ada (Issue 8: Gender, Globalization, and the Digital), which was the first journal issue I'd ever edited. The Ada team mentored me through the process, teaching me how to approach editing as feminist praxis. These are practices that have shaped not only my other editing endeavors but also my teaching and my research. And, when I needed a cover for my first book, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, David McCallum, who created covers for Ada, graciously allowed me to re-use the beautiful globe he had created for the special issue on my book cover.
We were virtual strangers to each other, but that's the very ethos of the Ada and Fembot communities. It didn't matter that we barely knew each other or that Carol and Radhika were well-established scholars while I was barely out of graduate school — it was simply a kind hand offered at a moment when I wasn't exactly sure whether academia had a place for me. But both Ada and the Fembot Collective have proven that it doesn't matter whether academia has a place for us — because we can create those space for ourselves.
And that's the lesson I learned from having been part of both Ada and Fembot — we can't wait for academia to change, but we need to hotwire its systems and practices to turn it into what we and our communities need. My very career has been guided by this lesson, for better or worse, and it's given me a strong set of ethics, a clear purpose, and a foundation that helps me calibrate my choices.
Reanimate itself comes from these very influences of Ada and Fembot. When Carol relayed that presses weren't interested in publishing writing by little-known women in media history, I said, "Let's just do it ourselves!" Reanimate was born.
Thus, when Carol approached me on behalf of the volume editors about whether The Ada Journal Reader would be an appropriate project for Reanimate, I immediately agreed. The scholarship in Ada is work that has diversified media history and theory. Ada was creating new media scholarship as new media was actively evolving, inventing how we think and write about these media forms in medias res. A volume would bring together essays from the journal in new configurations, in new conversations with each other, and bring the groundbreaking scholarship of Ada to new audiences. It would be a resource for teaching media theory and media history, without rehearsing a very white, male canon. These are the very qualities that make an open access digital edition a "Reanimate" project.
My hope is that this volume will allow new readers to experience what those of us who have been part of Ada and Fembot have experienced: the opportunity to imagine new ways of being in academia; a place to see their methods, ideas, and theories valued; and a spirit of kindness and care that is not incompatible with incisive intellectual discourse.