Monday 8 October 2012

Welcome to Fumblr!

Sometimes ideas don’t work. Failure is an inevitable fact of life, and we have all experienced it—that teaching moment where the students look completely confused, that one paper with a logical hole in it the size of the (former) Soviet Union, that presentation that just did not fly. In the humanities, however, we do not often discuss our failures. So how can we understand the utility of being wrong?

In the sciences, when an experiment fails, the results are often published so that the scientific community can benefit from the errors, can learn from the errors, be they algebraic or conceptual. In the humanities, we are less often demonstrably "wrong," since much of what we offer is interpretive rather than factual. You might disagree with Asa’s reading of the Donestre in the Beowulf Manuscript's Wonders of the East, but you would be hard-pressed to conclusively invalidate it. Still, we falter and fail all the time. However, many of us in the humanities are still in our 19th-century paradigm of the lonely scholar, toiling in the solitude of a garret, perhaps with a glass of absinthe at the elbow. And so our failures are solitary, which renders them of less use than they might otherwise be. When I head down a wrong-headed path, I (hopefully) learn something. But you don't, unless I share my failure with you.

It is for this reason that we started “Fumblr,” a place for any of us to post our scholarly missteps for all and sundry to read and learn (and laugh) from. The name (thanks, Ben Tilghman!) grew out of discussions, in person, with the Material Collective, on Facebook (Join our group at The Material Collective.  No, not the knitting group.  The other one.), and on In The Middle, where several other great ideas were posted. We already wonder if we have chosen the right one, or began the project, perhaps appropriately, with a blunder.

Posts might be related to research, teaching, job searching or any other aspect of the academic world. Fumblr is about sharing those moments of tripping on the cracks with a community, and opening up the conversation about process rather than simply focusing on product. If we are serious about experimental approaches and risk taking, we have to be prepared to fail. At least on occasion.

We invite you to submit your own moments of “fail” to So what say you—care to stumble with us?

-Asa and Shyama


  1. Here's my review! "This website just might be one of the worst and most risible ideas ever conceived. Destined to fail, surely."

  2. EXCELLENT. And yes, that title bar is full of WIN.

  3. I love everything about this! And I second Jonathan. Title bar = WIN.

  4. I am more impressed by that title bar than I am by Karl's book!

  5. be sure to check out and