Scholars' Lab Blog //#GenerousThinking: A month of daily thinking toward a more generous academia
Blog //#GenerousThinking: A month of daily thinking toward a more generous academia

The #GenerousThinking hashtag project was founded by Hannah Alpert-Abrams (@hralperta; website), Mimi Winick (@mimwinick), and Amanda Henrichs (@envynoveritas, blog), and is based on Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s book of the same title.

Hannah asks (see whole thread here):

“How can we practice #GenerousThinking for a more liberatory future?… each day, we’ll be using quote tweets to share how we’re implementing #GenerousThinking in our teaching, research, or scholarly service. Our goal: to find tactics and strategies for generosity for those of us who are students, ec, contingent, & alt-ac… You can share your own daily practice, or modify someone else’s. We’ll synthesize your ideas into a practical framework for implementation.”

(You may also enjoy Quinn Dombrowski’s recent retrospective on the #GenerousThinking project! And if so, you might also enjoy joining us for our 2/28/2020 Feminist DH Symposium, where Quinn will be one of our invited speakers.)

My contributions

The following are my (@literature_geek) #GenerousThinking hashtag project tweets, tweeted daily throughout January 2020. (I’m just pasting in the text, but you can read the tweets in order on Twitter if you wish to RT or bookmark.)

Thinking through discomfort tweeting my acts with/as #GenerousThinking
I’m used to tweeting about my work. People can’t learn about your work if you don’t share, and I very much want to learn these things about others! (Can always unfollow…) So, I found it interesting I did have similar “tooting my own horn” discomfort re:this good hashtag project

<3 the book title & hashtag. But I realized I was reading the hashtag, solely on my own draft tweets, like “I declare that this thing I do is generous!” rather than the intended “I’m trying to contribute to a more generous scholarship this way”

(Weird, because I very much don’t read the hashtag on anyone else’s tweets as the former rather than the latter.)

Re my thread on realizing my uncertainty sharing my work w/#GenerousThinking hashtag project=similar to how I’ve heard folks feel about tweeting any of their work, realized what helps me w/freely sharing my in-progress work & thoughts on here:

When I tweet any of my work/thoughts, I’m not positioning it to myself as something that’s best practice, or that I’m certain I’d like to see more work similar to, or as something that doesn’t have major rethinking+change in its future. A water cooler, not a press release…

I frame my regular schol tweet updates to myself just as something I want to let others know I’m working on (for feedback, hearing about resources & more folks to read/cite, for self-motivation to continue work), avoiding self-judgement on current quality as barrier to sharing

Guessing that’s 1 #GenerousThinking hashtag team @hralperta @mimwinick @envynoveritas intent: we share what we’re trying daily towards a better world, not Perfect Big Solutions but w/attention to stuff that is less communicated bc it’s smallscale inprogress contextspecific etc.

Anyway, wanted to share those thoughts in case they help anyone feel more comfortable sharing what they’re thinking, working on, etc. on here. I’d love to learn more from folks who haven’t shared as much of their work, when/if that feels right to you.

(Twitter caveat always worth noting: I have both confidence+safety sharing scholarship online; some from privileges e.g. being white & w/job security, less of a target for disrespect+abuse+plagiarism. There are reasons to choose not to share work, or to not have that choice.)

If you get similar qualms, helped me to frame this as: what’s something I did today toward a more caring community, that I want to do more? That I’d like to discuss with others & improve? Which of my beliefs about acting w/care as an administrator would I like others to consider?

I’m also going to try doing 2 tweets/day-ish: 1 about my own approach, and 1 about something I see someone else doing and want to celebrate+amplify.

E.g. #GenerousThinking: I’ve seen each @ScholarsLab staffer recognize colleagues elsewhere in the library doing good or making our work possible. Potlucks, doughnuts; emailing praise to share w/supervisors of staff outside the lab + submit to library’s reward+recognition system.

Re: @hralperta’s tweet:
Today in #GenerousThinking, I talked with colleagues about the tension between our anger at the academy, and our hope for the future of the humanities. How can we change our daily work to turn that anger towards a common good? How are you implementing #GenerousThinking?

I am heartened by folks tying anger+hope together toward action like this. Lately, framing my negative feelings about the academy as anger rather than sadness has moved my thinking from “too bad I can’t change that” to “here’s at least 1 small thing I can do”

When I’ve had less institutional power & the academy was rough on me, I appreciated when folks were angry for me rather than sad. “Angry” might not be the perfect term (it’s just how I’ve been mentally filing this resolution), but: using the emotion as fuel rather than a weight.

When I’m able to act these days it’s often because I have some institutional power that makes action possible, easier, and/or more productive. And folks with less power in the academy couldn’t safely be angry nor act in the same situation.

I dig this #GenerousThinking project’s focus on what folks w/o as much institutional power can do. I think I’ll sometimes share actions that aren’t available to all, and hope I can stay aware that those choices are easier, safer, more successful etc. because of power+privilege.

Something that clicked for me was @mchris4duke ‘s sketch (https://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/talking-at-harvard-about-libraries-and-social-justice/) emphasizing personal & local action. #GenerousThinking for me means combining broader advocacy w/challenging myself to do better by my immediate communities—e.g. inside our library & lab.

Screenshot of Chris Bourg's graphic showing concentric rings of agency, starting at the personal and moving to local and then larger areas of action

E.g. After the white supremacist rally here (which included harm to library staffers), I was frustrated by some official messaging, and the absence of a plan for dealing w/rally-related physical or online harassment of staff

I talked about this w/folks like my AUL, because I’m in a position to safely address some how some (very well-intentioned!) post-rally messaging felt off. I think in the past, I would have stopped there & spent more time just being frustrated w/decisions above me.

Instead, I tried to see what I could do closer to home—myself, and w/colleagues—and I think that was a better approach for me. E.g. made sure folks on my team know I will back them up vs. harassment; discussed w/colleagues what that support could look like.

E.g. walking someone to their car, scanning someone’s mentions for abuse, recognizing the ways the library value “we serve everyone” can be at odds w/nurturing a space that rejects hate, celebrates diversity, supports community care.

Want to see the tweets in response to @hralperta @mimwinick @envynoveritas’s #GenerousThinking project (bulit off @kfitz’s amazing https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/generous-thinking)? You can see everything quote-tweeting a specific tweet by using its ID like this: https://twitter.com/search?q=quoted_tweet_id%3A1213519202176438273&f=live

Share what you’re proud of or happy about
.@achdotorg Exec council call reminded me how I’ve enjoyed @mkgold’s addition of inviting folks to each share something good going on in their lives before we end each call (no pressure to be about personal life, can just be something small you’re happy about)

A lovely moment to pause+learn about one another beyond our research. I’m now starting some work meetings this way just w/folks interested in that. We do better work because of it, I think (it would be good even if it=good for our selves but bad for our work)

Generosity of brainstorming
For #GenerousThinking today, I’m thinking about the generosity w/which we take part in conversations where someone is exploring a new idea.

I enjoy strategizing w/@martofmiller bc she combines imaginative capacity & intellectual generosity in talking w/me through big what-if-we’s about the futures of lab & library—which I often find lead to significantly smallerscale, but real and good changes.

Keeping focus on students & staff
My #GenerousThinking act sharing today: advocated to keep “staff” & “students” as explicit words in a policy draft, rather than assuming they’re included by more general language—and then ending up not attending to those groups.

E.g. if we just refer to “scholars”, stuff often ends up being focused on TT faculty and monograph publication.

Thanks @dennistclark for teaching me to notice how when an explicit group mention drops out of policy drafting, often we end up w/a policy only supporting the groups that folks in power most agree should get resources (i.e. not students or staff).

Also appreciated colleagues @elneumann and @IATH_Virginia’s Worthy Martin #GenerousThinking backing up staff recognition & inclusion as part of policy drafting.

Documentation for community use
My scholarship+life happiness were improved immeasurably by wonderful mentors. As #GenerousThinking, I try to pass that gift on to others, e.g. videocalls w/any students who contact me considering or doing digital dissertations. Hearing about their innovative work is a gift.

1 reason I document my work publicly is to add another layer toward paving a path for others. If something would have been useful for me to read e.g. three years ago, I try to blog it.

I blogged regularly as a student: the dissertation’s DH+literature research questions+meta-DH Qs of choosing your methods/format, evaluation, how to show others how DH scholarship is scholarship. ~35 posts, prospectus through defense: http://literaturegeek.com/tag/dissertation/

Now I blog other stuff of potential use to others, e.g. my job talks, doing a campus DH survey, proposing a large equipment purchase, planning a new DH lab, on my personal blog http://LiteratureGeek.com & on http://ScholarsLab.org/blog.

Charters motivating action
Charters (and other documents that help you think+discuss what you care about & how you’ll try to enact those values) can be tools for #GenerousThinking policy=>practice.

I’m tracking DH/library/tech charters+text on how/why to create/act on them; related docs e.g. MOUs https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1DsPTGQAMuhe3jm-b9dU9kgbiGSM_F-QrqR2LXrEAb0s/edit?usp=sharing Any links to add? Current sheet includes work by @AlliedMediaConf @CCP_org @UMD_MITH @INKEproject @UCLA_DH @PrincetonDH @design__justice

In ‘20 I hope to blog rest of my DH manager/director charter work https://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/blog/management-charter-part1/ & new personal values charter (outdated 1 from during my diss http://literaturegeek.com/2013/12/02/valuespost inspired by @scott_bot’s pledges http://scottbot.net/pledges/), make action on these habit

Today for #GenerousThinking, prepping a team charter renewal discussion to make guidance by+checkins w/charter even more a lab routine, include new team members, rethink+renew commitments, prep for upcoming renovation change (here: http://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/charter/)

This isn’t overwork (which has no virtue+real harm); I banked a couple snow day hours this week & that was a healthy choice for me (e.g. playing w/dog in snow!). I usually bank hours the other way, to avoid extra work when I’m on a roll stealing from overall hours of rest in week

I want folks to defend time outside work if they can; it’s helped my health to know I can’t convince others of that if I don’t honor my own life outside (being able to take time outside work=a privilege requiring resources + hard for those expected to do/be twice as much/good)

Creating necessary communities
For #GenerousThinking today, I’m grateful for folks making spaces for people & conversations academia wasn’t supporting, e.g. @StephenGKrueger’s Gender Variant LIS network, @librarieswehere, @DHWoGeM, @chscsummit, @UMD_AADHum, @Data4BlackLives, @scholarslab’s Speaking in Code.

I’m also grateful when folks (when it’s safe/healthy for them to do so) share what’s worked for their good communities, as a model for other groups, e.g. @anitaconchita teaching about SCRAM’s awesome “hang-based pedagogy” at #ACH2019.

Fighting stigmas
Thinking about the positive impact on academia when folks can choose to share about hidable unjustly stigmatized aspects of themselves. Reducing stigma & harm, seeing yourself represented.

(But: folks should 100% never feel like they need to out themselves unless that’s what they want. And many experiences+identities that academia stigmatizes don’t have the option of being hidden…)

I know of good writing & podcasts by DHy/library/other academically adjacent folks on their experiences of neurodiversity+mental illness, physical health, gender experience+transition. Happy to share these w/folks who DM or email my non-work address (amandavisconti@gmail.com).

(I’m not sharing these here because I don’t know how comfortable authors are w/something being reshared/spotlighted by others; but I would so happily amplify in this thread, if you’ve created something like this + are okay w/my RTing it.)

See, for example, the Women and Gender Minorities in DH project: “We’ve got anonymized write-ups (checked and edited by participants) from all of the DH-WoGeM calls on the website. Happiness / workplace dynamics, mental disability, and a couple on parenthood: http://dhwogem.org”.

Don’t let the measure replace the goal
In the lab, we often discuss the feedback loop between the stats we record <=> how our work grows. E.g. we keep consultation stats (e.g. consultee’s department, role) to help our Library + us identify+advocate for resource+community needs, but…

We don’t want the metrics most legible to/useful by administrators (of which I am one! and those #s can do good!) shape us more than the metrics of a more humane pedagogy+academia (HT @walshbr’s #GenerousThinking). To do that, we need to be conscious of what the latter are for us

Want to prevent common stats (eg # student placements) from obscuring what we should most judge lab by (eg # of students who tell us we’ve helped; who feel more equipped to be happy, human vs. academia’s harms). Shift not just our own thinking, but maybe propagate => the academy.

<3 @humetricshss project’s rethinking of human+soc sci metrics, excellence: “create and support a values-based framework for understanding+evaluating all aspects of the scholarly life well-lived & promote nurturing these values in scholarly practice”

Good blogging along #GenerousThinking lines: http://humetricshss.org/category/blog/ Project team: @terrainsvagues @rrkennison @cplong @jasonrhody @simosacchi, Bonnie Thornton Dill, Penny Weber, @skonkiel. Website: http://humetricshss.org

Following up as scholarly care
If the lab isn’t the right fit for what someone needs or we don’t have bandwidth to collaborate w/them, @rondauva still makes sure they’re connected to people/resources that move them a step closer to their goals (rather than just saying “sorry, can’t help”).

.@walshbr practices this care w/applicants to student opportunities (fellowships, etc.) w/@scholarslab. We always have more stellar applicants than we can support, & we want to make sure folks know how impressed we are w/their work + how much we hope to find ways to work w/them

.@walshbr puts time+care into following up w/those folks, & is always searching for other ways we can support+work w/them (e.g. fund their attending dinner w/visiting speaker in their research area)

Envisioning alternate futures
.@cassius_a’s Alternate University model (https://aualternateuniversity.com) is a #GenerousThinking approach I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from: https://twitter.com/Literature_Geek/status/1194877795140284416

Today, thinking about applying this framing to the 2nd Speaking in Code in the works: help add to an already large list of hopes + synthesize => action (SiC #1 = http://codespeak.scholarslab.org, #codespeak, 2013 @ScholarsLab symposium focused on digital humanities developer community)

The privilege of failing openly, and how to read enough social media to amplify widely
Wrote a post to share a rejected article abstract today (waiting to post until tomorrow, as another post was published on our blog this morning.) Trying to share more non-successful stuff (like an IMLS grant proposal last year: https://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/blog/moderation-running-dh-online-communities/) as a #GenerousThinking act.

Since I feel secure enough re:real potential risks of sharing failure and non-success in academia, hoping to contribute toward making it safer for others. Want to start sharing less polished stuff too vs. the “failure CV” problem of only sharing privileged/quasi successful stuff.

A day after those tweets…
Yesterday I tweeted work @jeremykboggs and I have just started, & already 8 people shared 50+ tweets making our work better—encouragement, research leads, potential conference panel +

Thanks @benwbrum @CoralineAda @quinnanya @stuartayeates @pmhswe @patrick_mj @nirak @roopikarisam! I will be citing yall for how these ideas inspire+shape our in-progress research +

So for #GenerousThinking today, I’m thinking about who gets to safely share in-progress research, and how we can build an academia where more can do so w/o work being uncited or stolen or harassed, where folks newer to a field see their work amplified+encouraged too.

A tiny and specific-to-me action, but I’ve been thinking about how I might manage to read tweets by more folks in my fields, to learn about & amplify more folks’ work. I manage to read most of the tweets of folks on 2 private Twitter lists, just a subset of those I follow +

Nuzzle (used to?) curate high-response (likes? replies? RT #?) tweets from followed accounts; @matthewdlincoln (thanks!) showed me how to do similar w/Tweetdeck settings +

But these show me very popular tweets, and I’d love to instead see 1 tweet/week from every account on a list—e.g. just the most popular tweet relative to each account’s tweets would be okay (vs. an account for which 5 RTs is huge getting drowned out by tweets gettings 100s). +

(Trying to pre-empt some helpfully intended tweets that don’t assume I’m a developer: I know how to script a thing to do that for me, and am doing that!) +

Wondering about what we might do to let DH/library users choose which tweet in a given period such a script grabs, e.g. users opt in by hashtag, or prioritize tweets w/certain properties (e.g. #icymi tag). “If you only have bandwidth to read 1 tweet of mine this week, this one.”

Usual community design caveat: depends on the effort of e.g. adding a hashtag having some value to tweeters, for traction. Could be most useful to DH/library folks seeking a wider audience for tweets than they have, or folks who tweet a lot + want 1 tweet/period to stand out?

As w/anything that copies a tweet, must consider users wanting tweets to be deletable/ephemeral, or only appear alongside contextualizing conversation (things @documentnow considers)=>why I’m doing this as a script for private reading, not publishing somewhere the tweets it pulls

Folks changing their mind which tweet=most important in a week=another design consideration, if we were trying to start a community practice of folks indicating “please read this 1 tweet if you don’t have bandwidth to read others”.

Tweeting this in part because I bet there’s a simpler answer than my approach, or I’m missing problems/harms.

Celebrating connecting folks to scholarship as a scholarly act
.@clancynewyork tweets much I wouldn’t learn otherwise, regularly tags folks she remembers have some particular niche research interest. #GenerousThinking: cite=>ping author, & also scholarly effort+care of alerting folks to work of potential interest to them.

This paraphrases something I think @clancynewyork tweeted months back, & I wouldn’t be explicitly aware of how much this kind of work teaches me w/o her discussing it. So thanks, too, for helping me pay attention to more kinds of scholarship—like yours—that build my scholarship!

E.g. @balloonleap just shared w/me @helmstreet’s scholarly videogame that helps you analyze choices about the medium of your scholarship: https://src-online.ca/index.php/src/article/view/333

Re:Hook & Eye Blog celebrating ten years of feminist blogging
.@HookandEyeBlog taught me I could bring my whole self to my scholarship—and how to contribute to an academia where others could, too. 1 of the 1st places I encountered explicitly #GenerousThinking. Thanks, @digiwonk @erinwunker @meldalgleish @boydajosa @janasmithelford et al!

Work-life imbalance
When colleagues are ill, @ScholarsLab staff has a culture of thanking coworkers for taking time off to care for themselves + asking what they can do to help them feel comfortable taking the time they need. It’s useful to actively counter pressure to overwork.

Seeing this gave me a rule as a manager, to explicitly ask staff to take as much time as they need to be w/that person when a loved one is ill. So little in our work=truly an emergency that can’t wait.

Taking that time may be obvious, but: it’s often non-obvious if your boss agrees, so it matters for managers to communicate this explicitly, have+show willingness to take on extra work to help a colleague be comfortable taking that time.

1 of 10,000
Re:@kfitz on celebrating the “instigating moment @ the heart of intellectual work” https://generousthinking.hcommons.org/2-on-generosity/, a #GenerousThinking part of @ScholarsLab culture (it’s in our staff charter! https://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/charter/) is to “welcome the 10,000”…

Screenshot of XKCD comic where someone responds to a person not knowing a cool thing (in this case, what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos) with excitement at getting to share the cool thing, rather than derision or disbelief that the person hadn't known about this yet

…as in the XKCD comic https://xkcd.com/1053/ where learning someone doesn’t know something=>not incredulous ridicule, but rather delight in getting to intro a useful thing to someone. Shorthand for responding generously+generatively to not knowing/understanding something.

Blogging, but not as a chore
Rather than assigning posts to people—I’ve experienced blogging becoming an avoided chore—last year a few of us committed to blogging monthly, had a regular time when you could chill w/us+write, encouraged folks to write about stuff they mentioned, read drafts

And our blog flourished! (64 essay posts!): https://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/blogging/ Some of my #GenerousThinking tweets have been more about broader care, administrative policy, management than intellectual generosity. But those are all pieces of scholarship+necessary conditions for it.

As w/our blog experiment, if you create a space + resources for people (e.g. scholars) to flourish—they can, in ways beyond what you could have imagined (or, ugh, assigned). It’s also okay for people to just be! We don’t need to be constantly bettering.

(The @TheNapMinistry is a great resource for thinking about how systemic injustice ties into pressures to constantly do, be more. If someone has enough going on outside their job and they just want to satisfy their job role+not more, that should be completely supported.)

I think my most critical responsibility as a research center director is not vision setting or the other stuff at the top of director job ads (though I do those too!). Rather, I need to prioritize care for the conditions in which our folks can flourish.

.@ScholarsLab has amazing staff+community members. The more we can remove barriers to their wellness, value them as they are, free time from bureaucracy so they can focus, release unequally distributed power, the more good happens (including: good scholarship).

And! That work isn’t something 1 person can do (but 1 person can help or hinder). Everything=a community effort. ‘19 Year of Blogging made possible by all involved+all who relaunched our website. @walshbr @mossiso @LadyMedieval Drew MacQueen & many more wrote+contributed momentum

#GenerousThinking as generous thinking
Today, I’m thinking again how much @hralperta @mimwinick @envynoveritas’ #GenerousThinking hashtag project + prompts has been a gift of generous thinking in its own right. Personally, I’ve gotten back into tweeting new thoughts in a way I’d missed doing, and I’m learning so much.

Non-thread tweets from various days
E.g. #GenerousThinking: I’ve seen each @ScholarsLab staffer recognize colleagues elsewhere in the library doing good or making our work possible. Potlucks, doughnuts; emailing praise to share w/supervisors of staff outside the lab + submit to library’s reward+recognition system.

Today for #GenerousThinking, I’m working on written review of a DH project via some guidelines I blogged last month: http://literaturegeek.com/2019/12/02/writing-DH-conference-journal-reviews @roopikarisam & @jenguiliano’s generous+generative Reviews in DH guidelines are #GenerousThinking advice applicable to other spaces, too!

Today in #GenerousThinking, drafting tweets re:recent conversation where I encouraged someone to accept a suggested coauthorship; but waiting to tweet until I put some work toward remembering folks’ writing+tweets etc that helped me come to think this way, so I can cite them.

Small things for #GenerousThinking: connected jobseeker to relevant colleagues; encouraged staff to take time off (and asking how I can help that happen); let colleagues w/o office on grounds borrow my office; checked in on how our budget allocations match our mission/values.

#GenerousThinking is starting off a project by attending to the community where your future work will grow:
Screenshot of paragraph from Brandon Walsh's blog post about blogging toward a book-ish product; the paragraph lists the names of a variety of scholars he is imagining his work in dialogue with

The community’s contributions

To see tweets that quoted a particular tweet, you’ll need to grab the tweet ID (string of numbers) from the URL and plug it into https://twitter.com/search?q=quoted_tweet_id% your tweet ID &f=live (that last part is only needed if you want to start off on the reverse chronological order/latest view, rather than the “top” or most engaged-with tweets view). For example, you can see tweets that quoted Hannah’s first daily #GenerousThinking tweet by visiting https://twitter.com/search?q=quoted_tweet_id%3A1213519202176438273&f=live

You can see all the tweets using the hashtag in reverse chronological order.

Folks and project accounts engaging with the project included (in no particular order):

Cite this post: Amanda Visconti. “#GenerousThinking: A month of daily thinking toward a more generous academia”. Published February 13, 2020. https://scholarslab.lib.virginia.edu/blog/generous-thinking-hashtag-tweets/. Accessed on .