Hello! My name is Paul McKean, and I am a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I am going to use this post to introduce myself to the HASTAC community.
But first, a confession: this time last year, the idea of participating in a group like HASTAC would have been the furthest thing from my mind.
Back then, I thought my research interests had nothing to do with technology, computing, new media or any other things that most HASTAC scholars engage with. I most strongly identify as a student of rhetoric and public discourse who tends to study speeches and other public policy texts produced by presidents, members of Congress, and government agencies. Such interests seemed, frankly, pretty low-tech.
However, last year I joined a two-year research group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign called Learning to See Systems. Led by faculty members and graduate students from Communication, Art History, Media, Library and Information Science, and African American Studies, our project has been focused on trying to understand what our various disciplines and interests can bring to bear on questions related to complex technological, cultural, and social systems.
As a part of Learning to See Systems, I've been a part of exciting, fruitful (and occasionally, just a little uncomfortable) spaces of interdisciplinary collaboration. Such spaces have tested our capacities as translators -- of different knowledges, vocabularies, theories, normative committments, and languages. The culmination of our time together was a workshop we organized at last year's HASTAC conference in Lima, Peru. We called it "On Arriving At the Digital: Describing Critical Paths into the Digital Humanities" (you can see our old CFP here) to communicate our position as newcomers to the conversations surrounding the digital humanities. Such experiences have expanded my ability to appreciate the role that technologies play in our culture, our governments, our politics, and our pedagogy.
To me, HASTAC itself seems like our exciting, fruitful (and occasionally, just a little uncomfortable) spaces of interdisciplinary collaboration writ large. I am very excited to engage in these spaces, and meet and learn from my fellow HASTAC Scholars.
I am particularly excited to connect with others who are interested in issues of public policy, political communication, rhetoric, e-government technologies, and civic engagement. I will also hope to blog about these issues here at HASTAC.