Project Pitch: You’re the Author, DHer!

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)

The Premise

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 Aspiration

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.

What’s new?

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 (, 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!!

8 thoughts on “Project Pitch: You’re the Author, DHer!

  1. Zico Abhi Dey (he/him)

    This sounds great!! Would be amazing if it includes articles from CUNY commons DH courses sites. I totally agree with the potential of the project. Some of the praxis assignment of the fellow DHer’s are excellent and hidden treasure. However, in my opinion the biggest challenge is outreaching to the authors and getting their consent. Some of them might not respond at all!!! Making a collection in Commons might solve the issue but inevitably it defeats the main purpose of the project i.e. making knowledge public.

    My improvement proposal
    Make a expert panel to identify the articles to be featured, summarize them, cite the author. Add a read original text if the author provide consent.

    Regarding the scrapping article part, I am not sure whether you can scrape sites that are private. A challenge remains to be seen may be.

    1. Gemma S. Post author

      Hi Zico, thanks for the encouragement! And yes, improvements and finetuning are certainly required! Thanks for sharing your ideas!
      Two points in response to your questions; 1) blog scraping is definitely possible, we might need to use one of WordPress plugins (i.e., Anthologize), but I have seen it in action before, so we should be safe on that front; 2) In regard to reaching out to the authors, based on my calculations, it could be easier than planned as half of them are in our class and the other half of students who were part of the previous module are still studying at the GC…it might be a stretch/time-consuming, but not impossible.
      On your suggestion around a panel that chooses what to publish, I think it is a good idea in principle, however, it might transform the plan into a sort of writing/DH competition which could end up defeating the purpose of the project – let’s discuss further in class though!

  2. Maria F. Buitrago (she/hers)

    This project sounds so fun and different! congrats. I love the possibilities of network thinking: between fellow DH student’s work but also between the different references and theoretical approaches we all bring. I feel like there’s so much to explore and sort of map out in this constant knowledge production. And I really like how it positions the student as a content producer. It also sounds to me as a sort of curatorial project and thus the ways in which it could be lay out for a “final project” could also be very interesting. My mind in a way goes to this project: –of course, the scope is waaay broader but in sense this is what I picture when reading your proposal. Here’s my POV:

    1.I sort of agree with Zico about the “panel of experts” reviewing the work but in my own words I would call it a curatorial panel, because it seems like you can just use it all, you must need to make decisions along the way and choose some narrative lines, unless I’m thinking this in other terms than what you really want to propose. Because my question is, with so much information that we all share in our blog post and so many different resources, quotes, authors, references, cultural differences that we all bring, how can it all come together in a presentable, coherent, meaningful way? some curatorial decisions can help create narratives of the DH knowledge being produced that can, in turn, render the content accesible to other audiences… even audiences not just in DH or interested in digital academic work
    2.Your proposal really makes me think again and again about one of the questions that was raised in the readings for this week: “Has the work taken advantage of the multimedia possibilities”? And I think your project has a lot of potential for presenting the threads of individual and communal knowledge in way that takes full advantage of multimedia links, references, interconnections, photos, videos, etc.

    1. Gemma S. Post author

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Maria! It’s definitely been onboarded! Both you and Zico made the point around the need for some sort of qualifying criteria/curatorial panel, so I have been mulling over it and realised that this could be incorporated into the initial phase..perhaps we could start with the blog posts of those students who are attending this class? Maybe just as a prototype that could later be expanded should it prove to be successful?
      Separately, thanks a bunch for sharing the Linked Jazz website, this is brilliant, it is actually quite close to what I have in mind around the final design; I can visualise the main blog post in the centre of the page, and some discrete floating bubbles on the sides which are connected to words and sentences that, when clicked on, can unveil a related reading or a students’ conversation that was ignited by the blog entry in question. Assuming that we go through this process for a number of blog posts, the latter could then be collected in the form on an online book, where every page sees the original post right in the middle.

  3. Miaoling Xue (She/Her/Hers)

    A brilliant idea! Gemma. I love how you frame the structure of the project! The knowledge we produced are indeed a treasure for all DH people! Regarding Zico’s questions, I don’t know if the works we produced on commons are CC licensed. If that is the case, we don’t need to ask for permissions to reuse them but we need to give credits, of course. I have concerns in terms of how wide our topics are and if it is possible that we get lost in designing the structure in the first place. The process feels like editing a book, but a book that all authors have already sent their first drafts. I hope to hear more from you tomorrow. I am particularly interested in how you are going to organize the topics and different stages in students’ project trials and what kind of digital tools are helpful in finding underlying trends/questions in DH learning.

    1. Gemma S. Post author

      Miaoling, I adore your comparison to a book editing exercise, it does feel a little bit like it! On your concern, yes, you are right; the structure is the real core of it; if the final layout is not highly interactive, easy to navigate, and clearly understandable, there’s almost no point in pursuing this project! In this sense, simplifying is key, possibly treating each blog post and its ramifications as an onion with several, and sometimes simultaneous, layers.

      On the organisation of the topics, perhaps these could be arranged chronologically, hand-in-hand with the syllabus? In this way we could benefit from the selection that was already made by Matt and Krysia for Intro to DH students. Let’s chat more later though! You guys are giving me plenty of incredibly good ideas!

  4. Kristy Leonardatos (She/Her)

    Gemma, I would have loved to reference this proposed project platform last semester. I had no idea what to expect entering the DH program and have been out of school for decades. I experienced much anxiety and stress until close to the end of the semester when I became more confident and grounded. I think it would have been helpful to have a platform to explore previous blogs and works to ascertain a baseline of knowledge. I look forward to your presentation tonight!

    1. Gemma S. Post author

      Hey Kristy, first of all, I am so sorry you experienced anxiety and stress, this must have been very tough for you, but I’m glad you soon felt stronger and gained more confidence! I can empathise with you as I was new to the field too, and had similar emotions! Hopefully, the fact that this class is smaller will play in our favour; also, we all know each other now, and this is certainly a big help!
      I strongly agree with you around having the opportunity to see how the Intro to DH class develops through the semester and what is expected from its participants; new students should definitely have the chance to take a quick peek into previous years’ work! And imagine if that was done in the form of a recognised publication, even better!

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