Let me echo the previous posts: it was so great to see everyone in person on Wednesday; it is quite exciting to embark on this new academic (and personal) adventure together!
In our next class, I will be pitching my project; mainly for two reasons: firstly, because it has a fantastic potential and it truly is a collective project, jointly made and powered by DH students throughout the course of the year; secondly, and slightly more selfishly, because it is an opportunity for me to present in front of a friendly audience to gather your feedback on those public speaking aspects that need development – I’m not a natural, but I’m making an effort to improve.
The project is quite exciting, and it is clear in what the final achievement should be: a harmonious collection of our blog posts, in the form of either a digital archive or an online (or potentially even hybrid) publication. I have included more info below, but I want you to know that I am very happy to donate this project to someone who is keen to be the team leader and steer its development through the various phases.
“It is a wonderful palace – vast, strange, new and impossible to describe. Its grandeur does not consist in one thing, but in the unique assemblage of all things” (Charlotte Brontë on the Great Exhibition, Crystal Palace, London 1851)
Students of the Introduction to Digital Humanities (DHUM 7000) hail from all sorts of backgrounds and geographies, they draw from the most diverse range of experiences when discussing academic matters, but can operate cohesively to address social justice issues, institutionalised superstructures, and, broadly speaking, can work harmoniously to distil the role of the Digital Humanities in the contemporary landscape. Hence, their online content production is incredibly heterogeneous and grounded in a great variety of worlds and cultures.
As of January 2023, the course online shared space hosts, between posts and related replies, more than 200 blog entries on an array of topics that includes weekly readings, DH praxis assignments, seminars and workshops attendance, and personal views on class discussions and DH news. In other words, this online repository represents the collective digital footprint of the class. As such, structure, context, and interactivity are the fundamental requirements that could drive its uses and applications in uncharted ways.
The end goal of the proposed project is the preservation of said footprint through the creation of an online collection of CUNY students’ blog posts, which are digital objects that require adequate organisation to ensure future availability and utility, while concurrently acknowledging the role of students not just as learners but as knowledge producers, thus formally recognising their contributions.
This project will look at what steps need to be undertaken in order to organise this knowledge, integrate its sources and inspirations, display it in a user-friendly way, and make it available over time to a number of different audiences.
While annotations and blog posts are appreciated from an input perspective, their role as academic output is not necessarily thought of as knowledge itself, resulting in a missed opportunity to present it for future iterations, subjecting it to an archiving system, researching and revising it, and, if needed, improving, or extending it.
As emphasised by Trevor Owens in his 800 posts later reflections on teaching digital history with a public course blog, the class blog assumes a cognitive role which entails a gradual swing from the more conventional passive phase of information processing and knowledge acquisition to a more active knowledge creation stage. The blog becomes a vivid testimony of students’ production and collaboration, which no longer translates into the simple achievement of a learning goal, but morphs into new knowledge, which can serve other individuals who could leverage it in future iterations.
The Audiences & the Future
This knowledge sharing practice, if presented in a coherent framework and through an accessible and easy navigable digital platform, could have multiple applications; for example, it could:
- help students who have concluded the semester to officially reference their blog post work or source from a specific dialogue with fellow students;
- be utilised by current students of other majors to draw interdisciplinary connections;
- become an instructional design tool for professors and lecturers when creating syllabi and selecting reading materials;
- be useful for future students who either freshly approach the subject or are interested in investigating how the field has changed and developed across different generations;
- serve as a publication for student authors, and, finally;
- this blog sharing practice might grow into a great resource for linguists and scholars who wish to analyse students’ discourse and ways of interacting on academic online media.
The Challenge and the Plan
Without reorganisation, students’ blog posts might appear as a discordant, often disparate, assemblage of digital objects which could discourage future readings (and readers). Students’ online comments and blog posts are often asynchronous; they have dissimilar composing styles and layouts; they might discuss very different topics within the same suggested subject; and, sometimes, they simply do not stem from the class required readings.
More to come during the pitch, but here the high-level, simplified, phases:
- Blog scraping (including multimedia contents).
- Outreach to authors with the purpose of i) obtaining a formal approval to edit and publish their posts, and ii) collecting their preference around anonymity, pseudonymity, or full authorship disclosure.
- Manual review of scraped blog posts aimed at unfolding authors’ drivers, references, and interconnectivity dynamics.
- Content display design (some inspirations here “Final Becoming Ethnographers” on Manifold @CUNY (manifoldapp.org), hypotheses – Academic blogs, COVID (Re)Collections, CLIR, covidmemory
- Feasibility analysis: CUNY software and platforms vs building a brand-new website or leveraging other open-source content management systems.
- Digital creation of the archive or publication (I appreciate this is quite generic, but this phase really is propaedeutic to the group’s decisions on archive vs publication and its layout/design).
- QA and Testing.
- Outreach and dissemination.
The Ideal Team
- The project manager (or, as I call it, the chasing techniques expert)
- The tech savvy, not scared of getting dirty in meandering the worlds of Manifold and CUNY in a BOX, but also able to pursue more typical routes such as website creation from scratch;
- The creative mind, capable of bringing to life and concretely draw initially confused thoughts and bizarre ideas;
- The editor and DH content management expert, in charge of reviewing the posts, aligning them to their references and inspirations, and responsible for drawing the relevant connections in order to transform posts into a continuous dialogue of intertwined parts;
- Anyone who is happy to help and support the project!!