April 26th, 2010 | matt thomas
Here’s what I wrote in my application:
I’d like to talk about the hegemony of Microsoft Word® and what we in the digital humanities might do about it – nay, why we might want to do something about it. I can’t remember ever meeting a professor who doesn’t mainly use Microsoft Word® to write academic prose (though I know they exsit), or a student who doesn’t exclusively use Microsoft Word® to write their research papers (though I’m sure they probably exist as well). When I tell people I generally don’t use Microsoft Word®, I often get confused looks, as if they’re thinking, “Well, how does he write then?” Indeed, Microsoft Word® is the de facto word processing program in most of contemporary academe and Microsoft Word® documents are often the de jure file format when it comes to things like journal submissions. What this means, of course, is that even people such as myself who don’t and don’t want to use Microsoft Word®, find themselves forced to deal with .doc/.docx documents all the time, hence the hegemony of Microsoft Word®. Why is this the case? (e.g., Microsoft Word® is subsidized by universities.) Why might it not be the most ideal state of affairs? (e.g., The tools we use to write inform the way we write.) What might be some of the alternatives? (e.g., Plain text, Markdown, HTML, LaTeX, Google Docs, programs like Srivener, Zotero instead of EndNote, etc.) How might we resist Microsoft Word® in our teaching practices? (e.g., What if we required students to submit research papers in plain text? Or what would happen if we required students to use a non-WYSIWYG word processing program?) These are some of the issues I hope to explore with a group of digital humanists interested in thinking critically about the technologies we use every day in our research and teaching.
I’m sure others have thoughts on some of these things as well – some of them likely more developed than mine – and I would be very interested in hearing them. In fact, this being my first THATCamp, I’m more interested in hearing what other people think and in participating in multiple conversations than I am in holding worth on Microsoft Word®, though I’m happy to do that too.
That said, I finally booked my plane ticket to THATCamp and am now looking for a someone to share a room with on Friday and Saturday nights. Anyone?