SCI 2015

Networked Knowledge White Paper and Case Studies


   

Preamble

Digital scholarship is often a deeply collaborative and networked enterprise, one which involves multiple practitioners from a variety of academic, #altac, and non-academic contexts. This working group believes neither formalised evaluative structures nor socio-cultural understandings of value & credit have kept pace with the realities of social knowledge creation or with the numerous technological efficiencies provided by digital tools and platforms. Credit, promotion, funding, and credentialing are more complex topics than ever, yet many individuals and institutions rely on simple, outdated strictures to make judgements.

Overview

In large part, the challenges to new systems of evaluation and credit are not technological or infrastructural per se. Instead, they are social, habituated by longstanding disciplinary norms and expectations. They are deeply embedded in administrative norms and processes, from informal expectations to the literal paperwork used within universities.. They find expression in tenure & promotion guidelines that ignore collaborative work or frame digital scholarship as service; in evaluation frameworks like the Research Excellence Framework in the United Kingdom or the Excellence in Research for Australia which overvalue monographs in rigid point based systems that determine funding; in requirements for depositing dissertations that preclude, by definition, digital work; and so on.

Our discussions this week, and the documents they have led to, have prompted us to fundamentally re-consider what we mean by valuing & validating digital scholarship. For our group, digital humanities work is not so much a product but a set of practices that take place at the intersection of diverse communities. Digital humanities research is difficult to separate from the digital project, whether that be a scholarly edition, a database resource, a GIS project, a multimedia archive, or a more traditional publication. And digital projects are the product of many hands. Digitally born scholarly resources evince different issues related to credit, to valuing varied contributions, and the articulation of participation because they are not print. Authorship and credit models in print have been heavily influenced by the Romantic ideal of the solitary genius and the writer in his garret; DH projects are not that type of work. Knowledge emerges from practice, and the process of making things, and digital things are difficult to create on your own.

Instead, we are arguing for a digital scholarship of intentional, ethical collaboration. This is an argument for radical inclusiveness that recognises the very real labour of contributors that may manifest in a variety of ways. This is a digital scholarship that is interested in the big picture of academia intersecting with the public and of pedagogy existing as research. Knowledge is a networked thing, and conceiving of scholarship as an inherently collaborative venture enriches the people and the products of any given field.

This document was produced during the week of 11 - 15 October 2015 at the Scholarly Communications Institute in North Carolina. Having begun in-depth discussion of theoretical issues, we realised that our key insights to discussions of how to evaluate digital work emerged from extensive practical knowledge. To expand on those insights, we developed a number of project-based case studies that highlighted the collaboration behind them. These case studies might serve as models for further study to gain information on more widespread practices in digital scholarship.

This approach also allowed us to synthesise and draw out insights in common across projects and positionalities. We have collated these on the main page of this site.

 

Case Studies

12th Street Project

Project Overview

The 12th Street Project is a major collaborative effort of the students and faculty at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Hosted by the Penn State Digital Humanities Lab, 12th Street collects the history, culture, and contemporary voices of those living in Erie, PA. The project takes its name from a major street in Erie that has been lined with factories and businesses throughout the region’s history. We take 12th Street as a microcosm of the social, cultural, and economic forces that have shaped the region since the mid-19th century. Together we are charting the history of the region in an effort to imagine its potential futures. Developed on Omeka and the Neatline add-on, 12th Street is a local geographical history of the region that appeals to a global audience.

Rational

12th Street is a new project and one that is experimenting with the needs of our growing community. 12th Street emerges from three needs arising from the students and faculty at Penn State Behrend. The campus has recently developed an undergraduate major program in Digital Media, Arts, and Technology, otherwise known as DIGIT. The program positions Undergraduate Research Opportunities at the core of the curriculum and necessitates open and dynamic collaboration opportunities. The major is organized around four media specific concentrations that include text analysis, sound design and film production, data visualization, and modeling and simulation. 12th Street is capable of accommodating a wide range of multimedia contributions and maintain coherence through its dedication to explaining the relationship between space and place as well as culture and economy. The project is intended to grow organically with the interests of participating faculty and students. An emphasis on creative works may emerge with the contributions of participating creative writing faculty, or an emphasis on visual history may develop over time with the contributions of our fine arts faculty and students.

Team Overviews/Roles

12th Street Project, which is hosted by the Penn State Digital Humanities Lab helps facilitate the development and maintenance of the content and the technology needed to produce contributions. Aaron Mauro, the Lab Director, has helped to frame the theoretical and historical intervention of this kind of multimedia cultural history work. A shared inspiration for the project is Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The way Jacob’s defines the social and cultural consequences of public space are a primary intervention of 12th Street. The way, for example, sidewalks delineate and make possible city life by contributing to public safety, commerce, and cultural expression:

A city sidewalk by itself is nothing. It is an abstraction.

Jane Jacobs. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961

Similarly, 12th Street itself is an abstraction. It is a virtual space, a critical perspective, and asphalt. The way that the city branches out through modes of transportation and the movement of people has become a defining characteristic of these prototype projects. The project is being developed through the direct participation of students, which allows for the research processes and media specifics methods to emerge organically from the skills and interests of the student community.

For example, the role of Eric Dye’s (a Research Fellow of the Penn State Digital Humanities Lab) contribution is to review and analyze the history of the locomotive industry in Erie, PA through a juxtaposition of images from the past and present. Local public library archives as well as community and company materials have become resources to help frame, for example, the cultural impacts of the 1853 Erie Gauge War or more recent attempts to move industry to tax and labor friendly jurisdictions. This contribution includes interviews, newspapers, maps, and economic census data. By contrast, “The Masonic Temple as a Microcosm of Erie History” is another multimedia project that Bridget Jenkins (another Research Fellow of the Penn State Digital Humanities Lab) developed. It encompasses a visual and textual report that detailed how the Erie Masonic Temple’s survival and development could be used as a template for the evolution of the neighborhood and the region. Her work included drafting an initial grant proposal. Following the approval of her application, she began collecting archival materials from her campus and public libraries. Bridget encountered difficulties in finding a relevant document, so she began networking outside of the library system. Eventually she connected with an individual within one of the Temple’s Masonic bodies that had collected documents throughout the years in an aim to have the Temple listed as a historic site. This documentation, combined with the other minimal information she had scrounged from the libraries and online, provided her with the foundation for her project. She then contributed photographs and a personal narrative of what touring the building looks like today. Joining the historical documents with the present conditions enabled her to craft a broader illustration of the building’s importance. Because Eric came to his contributions with a pre-existing expertise in photography, his methodological focus embraced photography. Bridget came to her research with a robust background in journalism and public scholarship. She was able to locate unique resources by directly engaging with knowledge stakeholders and current users of the space.

Outcomes

In this way, the 12th Street Project works to create stronger community outreach between Behrend, The Penn State Digital Humanities Lab, and the city of Erie. The images are available to the local and global communities to inform and educate residents and policy decision makers about community and economic development. To complete this project Eric and Bridget worked with the Erie Public Library, Erie Historical Society, Lake Shore Railroad Historical Society, the Masonic Organizations in Erie, and GE Transportation to compile anecdotal stories, maps, and statistics. As researchers and students, they also traveled around Erie photographing significant historical sites, including railways, bridges, buildings and stations. The results of this kind of early research has produced a great deal of interest from local commerce and community groups.

Future Developments

While functioning as a ongoing and evolving research space to engage with local issues, the project will provide record the evolution of methods for future undergraduate research projects. The 12th Street Project is a culmination of the individual projects of researchers that, when combined, result in a broader understanding of Erie’s history and development.

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dh+lib

Overview

dh+lib aims to provide a communal space where librarians, archivists, LIS graduate students, and information specialists of all stripes can contribute to a conversation about digital humanities and libraries. The project is primarily centered online, around a Wordpress-based website that hosts (1) original content; (2) resources and registries related to dh and libraries; and (3) a weekly Review of brief, contextual write-ups of noteworthy events, opportunities, and publications. Dissemination and outreach also take place via Twitter, email, and in person: at meet-ups and happy hours hosted by dh+lib at conferences.

Rationale

dh+lib was launched in Winter 2012, with hosting provided through the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), with the goal of creating a public venue for discussion of issues related to digital humanities and cultural heritages institutions (galleries, libraries museums, and archives, though the majority of content focuses around libraries). The project was created to meet needs voiced by participants in the ACRL’s Digital Humanities Discussion Group, but serves a much larger community of practice and interest, unaffiliated with ACRL.

Team/Role

3 site editors, who have worked on the project since its launch. Responsibilities include:

Project management:

Working together to oversee the design, development, management, and continued maintenance of the project. Developing new content, working with authors of original posts, and coordinating publication from soup to nuts.

Responsibilities include:

Responsibilities also include all listed below under “Review editors,” as well 3 Review editors, who rotate through week-long shifts. Responsibilities include:

These issues involve:

Outcomes (issues related to collaboration)

The Review is a well-oiled machine, which manages to involve hundreds of volunteers in the production of weekly write-ups. Early on, we standardized methods of acknowledging and attributing Review editors-at-large. In the past six months, we have successfully onboarded two excellent new team members: a Review editor and editor-at-large. And we’ve continually assessed and iteratively incorporated new tools and workflows to support our collaborative venture. The Review provides a nice complement to our original content stream, which is more unpredictable and freeform. The project doesn’t go dormant when original posts fall through or are postponed; weekly Review posts continue to appear, Twitter remains active (currently 4400 followers), and conference meet-ups proceed.

In its fourth year, the project is shifting, expanding, and maturing, and we face new questions around some of the tacit structures of our collaboration. What is our succession plan for editors? In dh+lib’s guise as a communication channel and place of intersection, how can we structure collaborations with our partners in ways that maintain coherence without putting too many barriers in place? The project has operated on a shoestring thus far, with loosely-structured affiliations with key professional associations: what future shifts will require funding or greater formalization of affiliation?

In many ways, the structure of our collaboration has modeled our professional values and honored our (unofficial) motto of “we’re all volunteers here.” We’ve fostered a diffuse community and provided a sort of touchstone of interest in this area, through editor-at-large volunteer roles, readership, and collaborations with other partners. We’ve served as a cornerstone of the creation of a new DH and Libraries Special Interest Group in ADHO.

Future Developments
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Digital Scudéry

Overview

Digital Scudéry is an interdisciplinary, interdivisional collaboration at the College of Wooster that will result in digitally transcribed textual surrogates for five of Madelaine de Scudéry’s late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century books. The end result of the project is not conceived as a digital edition per se, but as a version of de Scudéry’s Conversations that students can (1) read more easily compared to C17 typography and (2) encode with research-based XML tags. The first phase of the project involved students’ transcriptions of the first book -- two volumes, approximately 400 pages apiece -- and students light markup of the text files to locate “generic” and “specific” locations in the text. A second phase involved simultaneous experimentations with TEI transformations, TEI boilerplate, and with machine-learning solutions to the problem of transcription. Phase three has involved an extenuation of the machine learning solutions -- OCR -- and dissemination of the project at conferences.

Rationale

French Professor Laura Burch noted that, in teaching Conversation, her students encountered challenges reading both the seventeenth-century typography and seventeenth-century French. Of course the former offers as much of a pedagogical opportunity (regarding book history) as the latter, but that work can be done briefly and the work of the course centered around the content of the ideas and not the shapes of the material book.

We used a “pre-TEI” framework and workflow designed by Stephen Flynn in the Wooster libraries so that students would have a gentle introduction to angle brackets without getting in the way of the transcription itself. This kind of encoding can then be transformed into valid TEI via scripts and then ported into an interface like TEI Boilerplate. And so designing this system has helped us to think about the role of TEI in our transcription projects on the Liberal Arts campus.

Finally, machine learning workflows were instituted because transcription is often inefficient at worst. At best, we’re able to further the DH knowledge base surrounding OCR methods and tools by building upon the open source workflows and tools built for the Early Modern OCR Project. A student summer research project was designed to set up a workflow and to develop pre- and post-processing scripts that could be used to OCR the remaining volumes -- nearly 3000 pages -- in Scudéry’s oeuvre.

Team/Roles
French Faculty
French Student Encoder 1
French Student Encoder 2
CS Faculty Mentor
CS Student
Emerging Technologies Librarian
Digital Scholar
Outcomes

The pedagogical utility of the text was central to the French lit side of this project, and the opportunity for a mentored student research project to the CS side. So we divided out the research questions into two projects that have not, to this point, relied upon one another for their own success. Basically they share a dataset at this point; we can bring them all together at the end. This is a version of interdisciplinary collaboration that is managed at the level of an academic superstructure -- here, the OH5, the library, the Ed Tech division -- rather than at the level of the individual faculty researcher.

This ties into the TEI workflows that we’re working through as well. All team members recognize the value of the TEI standards to the project: from the standpoint of preservation-quality text, of enriched research data, of structured textual data, and of simple scholarly duty. We do not offer TEI training, nor have we anyone who might be considered a TEI expert; TEI pedagogy is not the goal, although TEI (XSLT) training becomes part of the project for both students, librarians, and digital scholar.

Future Developments
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The Renaissance Knowledge Network

Overview

The Renaissance Knowledge Network (ReKN) is a major scholarly initiative designed to augment digital scholarship in early modern studies by developing an integrated research, analysis, and production environment. It is based at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (University of Victoria) and has been developed in partnership with Iter (University of Toronto Scarborough); ReKN also works closely with the Implementing New Knowledge Environments Project (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Major Collaborative Research Initiative) and the Advanced Research Consortium (Texas A&M University). ReKN is led jointly by Dr Raymond G. Siemens (Canada Research Chair in Humanities Computing and Distinguished Professor of English and Computer Science at the University of Victoria) and Dr William R. Bowen (Director of Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance and Chair of the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough).

Rationale

ReKN, as both scholarly platform and intellectual community, is devoted to understanding, critiquing, and building digital projects for the study of the Renaissance. These aims ensure that the scope and significance of individual and institutional contributions are maximised across the scholarly community of interest. ReKN directly addresses the growing challenge of diverse, isolated, and siloed digital resources by building a scholarly environment explicitly tailored to the needs of humanities scholars studying the Renaissance. ReKN seeks to bring existing scholarly resources and methods into conversation by integrating research, discovery, exploration, analysis, and visualisation.

ReKN will take shape at the intersection of the initiatives, projects, and trends outlined above, providing a single point of entry into an entire galaxy of scholarly activity, specialised for and oriented to scholars of the Renaissance. It is a resource for searching & discovering, for analysing & exploring, and for publishing & writing. And in all of these diverse activities we are cognisant of the many ways the community is formed, collaboration occurs, and research is shared and debated. ReKN is being developed from its inception to encompass the ways that not only researchers interact with each other, but the many ways in which digital resources and tools benefit from interoperability and cross communication. ReKN is at once a unique technological resource, a focal point for diverse digital resources, and a community—of individuals, of practice, and of scholarly work. It is a social, scholarly working environment and a community of users, researchers, developers, the public, datasets, projects, publications, and networks.

Team Roles

ReKN is currently (summer 2015) transitioning from a one-year, Andrew W. Mellon-funded planning cycle to a full implementation team. Team structure and composition are being rethought and redesigned based on the insights of the past year. For the 2014-2015 planning grant, the team consisted of the following:

Project Directors

Project Directors provided overall intellectual direction throughout the duration of the grant, as well as providing oversight of long-term planning and development. One PI was based at the University of Victoria, while the other was located at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Project Manager

The project manager was based at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria. Their responsibilities included:

Research Assistants

Research Assistants were based at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria. Their responsibilities included:

Postdoctoral Fellow

A Postdoctoral Fellow was based at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria, working in concert with Iter at the University of Toronto Scarborough and those in other ARC and partner organisations. Their responsibilities included:

It is important to note that both Research Assistants and Postdoctoral Fellows were integral members of the ReKN team, working closely with the principal investigators, project partners, and members of the Renaissance studies community. ReKN thus facilitated the entry of early career scholars into the vibrant field of digital humanities, especially as it relates to the study of the Renaissance.

Project Directors

Project Directors will provide overall intellectual direction throughout the duration of the grant, as well as providing oversight of long-term planning and development.

Project Manager

A Project Manager will oversee daily operations of ReKN. Based at the ETCL, the Project Manager will manage team members; be actively engaged in short and medium-term goal structuring; ensure timely completion of project goals; contribute to the overall direction of the project. The Project Manager will balance content area knowledge, experience on large digital projects, and a deep awareness of digital humanities methods and tools. The Project Manager’s primary role is oversight, integrating short, medium, and long term planning, and ensuring smooth team operation.

Developer

A dedicated developer will be instrumental in building the interconnected modules of ReKN. Although all team members will be technically fluent and able to effectively discuss ReKN, the developer will have primary responsibility for technical implementation. This role will be responsible for designing and building a PReE,; iterating Collex and the metadata back end; and working closely with Compute Canada to implement the ReKN Crawler and process incoming information.

Essential technical skills include: Development experience with server-side Web applications and SPARQL; knowledge of Ruby on Rails, Java, RDF, Lucene, and Unix.

Postdoctoral Fellow(s)

A Postdoctoral Fellow will work closely with the project manager, developer, and graduate research assistants. This fellow will combine content area expertise with an awareness of Digital Humanities methods and tools and, working closely with the core team, help to create ReKN on a daily basis. A chief task of this role will be to develop the metadata architecture of ReKN, necessitating expertise with various formats. This fellow will also serve as overall editor for the evolving environmental scan; support Graduate Research Assistants with outreach, data processing of ReKN Crawler results, assigning metadata, and coordinating user testing. This position is modelled on the sciences and will be dedicated to ReKN:

Graduate Research Assistant(s)

A graduate assistant familiar with the digital humanities field will assist the ReKN team on a part-time basis. Working closely with the developer, postdoctoral fellow, this GRA will be integral in supporting ReKN’s development, especially in outreach, data processing of ReKN Crawler results, assigning metadata, and coordinating user testing. This GRA will also work closely with a second GRA, outlined below.

Graduate Research Assistant(s)

A graduate assistant familiar with the Renaissance studies will assist the ReKN team on a part-time basis. Working closely with the developer, postdoctoral fellow, this GRA will be integral in supporting ReKN’s development, especially in outreach, data processing of ReKN Crawler results, assigning metadata, and coordinating user testing. This GRA will work closely with the GRA drawn from the digital humanities.

Issues Related to Collaboration

Over the past year, the ReKN team was distributed amongst several time zones and institutions, with many members of the team frequently on the road for conference travel. While this afforded some benefits, it also produced difficulties in communication and decision making. Skype conferences, for example, were difficult to schedule between Europe, Toronto, and Victoria, and as a result were usually several hours in length when finally scheduled. We also found that different work styles and personalities made project coordination difficult at times, especially as concerned software and platform deliverables. We also found that the local and individual needs of the graduate students hired as research assistants often meant that they did not want to intellectual ‘own’ the project.

Future Developments

ReKN is going forward in 2015 - 2016 as a year of building community. We are achieving that through multiple conference presentations, workshops, and strategic meetings with key stakeholders. At the same time, we are finalising a full implementation grant to begin building ReKN as an actual resource.

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“Life Renewed”

Overview

“Life Renewed” is a transmedia educational environment tells the story of the plant and animal life that has returned to Mount St. Helens since the eruption in 1980. Built for the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center by 23 seniors of the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University Vancouver, the exhibit includes a mobile app and an interactive installation that provide 1) a 3D simulated flyover of the volcano, 2) two augmented reality banners that reveal 2D hand-made illustrations and 3D animation models, and 3) a touch screen interface for identifying plants and animals found on the mountain.

   

“Life Renewed” won 1st place in two university research competitions in 2015. It was showcased at “Move, Touch, Feel” exhibit hosted at Angst-Nouspace Gallery from 18 December 18 2014-15 January 2015; the Columbia River Economic Development Council’s 1st Quarter Luncheon and the City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s State of the City address on Thursday, March 26, 2015; and “The Legends of the Blast,” event at Kiggins Theatre on May 14, 2015. It was on exhibit at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center from 15 May 2015-9 September 2015. During its installation at the Center, it was filmed by KOMO-TV to promote the university across WA State. The exhibit was also showcased at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) “Portland Mini Maker Faire” on 12-13 September 2015.

Students who collaborated on the project have gone on to jobs in the field involving 3D animation for visualization and art practice, web development, SEO management, project management, and multimedia design.

Rationale

To raise awareness of the plant and animal life that has returned to Mount St. Helens following the eruption that took place on May 18, 1980, CMDC students were invited create an exhibit that would be installed at the Center on the day of the event’s 35th anniversary. The goals of the project also included to:

Team

The Team was overseen by two Project Managers. The first, serving as Senior PM, oversaw the work of all teams, ensured deadlines were reached by each, and communicated information between Team Leaders and Client. She also kept the Faculty Supervisor informed of all activities and issues. The second PM was in charge of identifying needed resources, purchasing equipment, and facilitating daily operations of all teams. The Teams included the: 1) Animation/Video/GIS Team; 2) Augmented Reality/Interface Design Team; 3) Digital Marketing and Promotions Team; and 4) Web and Mobile Development Team. Each team was comprised of at least five students, one of whom served as Team Leader.

Outcomes: Notable Considerations Relating to Collaboration

Students were given free rein to develop the exhibit––the scientists did not provide a blueprint for what they wanted the exhibit to look like or offer visitors save a few features (e.g. portability, theme). To come up with the design for the exhibit, all teams engaged in eight weeks of research on scientific exhibits that focused on natural environmental phenomena. The students’ research was produced in the form of a comparative analysis with final recommendations leading to the preliminary ideas for their own exhibit. As information was gathered for the analysis document, it was posted to a private Facebook group site. Students vetted each other’s findings in a series of large group meetings facilitated by the Faculty Supervisor. A final design was determined through this process and pitched to the clients in a formal proposal. Once the design details were ironed out with the client, the teams worked to delivery their piece of the project, collaborating among themselves to build structure and content. At the end of six weeks, the project was completed and presented to the scientists.

Future Developments

The exhibit is now installed in the MOVE Lab in preparation for creating a second version that will serve as a traveling exhibit.

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Questions:

How did you design your project with relation to collaborative practice? In developing the collaborative structures underpinning the project, who / what project did you look to as a model?

When you documented your project, how did you define contributors’ roles?