‘Failing Gloriously,’ the latest Digital Press release, focuses on the role of failure

Shawn Graham's book, 'Failing Gloriously and Other Essays,' reflects on the role of failure. Photo by Fangliang Xu , Carleton University.
Shawn Graham’s book, ‘Failing Gloriously and Other Essays,’ reflects on the role of failure. Photo by Fangliang Xu , Carleton University.

“Please, you gotta help me. I’ve nuked the university!”

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is pleased to release Shawn Graham’s peer-reviewed book, Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. The essays in this collection document 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’s book 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, Ontario, reframes failure outside of a triumphant narrative and uses his own struggles as a way to remind us, “Don’t be a jerk. Make space for others. Use your own position to build others up.

“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, a prominent digital archaeologist and the director of Open Context, a data-publishing venue for archaeology, provides a foreword to the book. Neha Gupta, a University of British Columbia assistant professor 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, which 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.”

Now, about the quote that opens this press release, a quote that – as the book recounts – Graham actually said in a panic to a colleague:

In one of his more glorious fails, Graham clicked “Install” on a software upgrade and wound up crashing the entire university-owned computer system that he was managing. Here’s how he describes the result:

“Imagine you’re walking to your university. It’s a pleasant enough day, the sun is warm, you’re looking forward to class. You come around the corner, and there’s nothing but a smoking crater where the university once stood.

“This was the digital equivalent.”

To find out what happens next, read Failing Gloriously and Other Essays.

The book is available as a free download from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota or can be purchased from Amazon.