Reflections on a New Academic Year

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Reflections on a New Academic Year

At the start of this semester, the GC Digital Fellows took stock and reflected on our aspirations surrounding digital scholarship and pedagogy. Here’s what the group members shared.

Andrew McKinney: After one year as a Digital Fellow my skills with certain tools (specifically WordPress and the CUNY Academic Commons) have greatly increased, but this year I’m looking to expand those skills and start exploring new things like Omeka, Commons in a Box, and various visualization tools. My specific role consulting with faculty in the New Media Lab persists and has really taken off in the first month of semester. My major goal for this year is to leverage this activity towards building a vibrant community of practice amongst Grad Center faculty that pushes the Grad Center towards the forefront of digital scholarship.

Erin Glass: Fellowship activities this year have already been action packed, some of them unexpected outgrowths of projects and ideas from last year. Late August and early September were mostly a blur as Social Media Fellow Jennifer Stoops and I tried our hand at grant writing for the National Endowment of Humanities Digital Start Up Grant. Neither of us had any much experience with this sort of writing, so we pretty much lived in the Digital Lab for about two weeks trying to figure out how to turn our many drafts into a no-nonsense proposal for a software project idea that came out of the ITP Core Course we took together last fall. We looked often to the jackalope for guidance and inspiration. Matt Gold was also a tremendous help in walking us through all the nitty gritties, such as creating a budget and connecting us to people who could write letters of support, not to mention reeling in some of our utopian promises. By the end of the writing marathon, Jennifer and I had not only completed our first grant (and on time!), but had soaked in enough grant speak to talk about celebratory drinks in terms of innovative statements, work plans, tech specs and environmental scans.

Now that the grant is in — and more on that soon — my attention turns to the Islamic History Commons site which came out of discussions last year for a peer review project with then Provost, now Interim President Chase F. Robinson. Plans to publish selected chapters from Dr. Robinson’s forthcoming book on CommentPress — a WordPress theme that allows paragraph by paragraph commenting in the margins and has been used for pre-publication peer review by scholars such as Kathleen Fitzpatrick — turned into a much larger, collaborative project. The Islamic History Commons, a social networking site that utilizes CommentPress, will host working papers of any interested scholar working in the field of Islamic History so that scholars can see and comment on one another’s work while still in progress. The site runs off of CBOX, the open source, social platform developed by CUNY to enable any organization or institution to set up a social platform like the CUNY Academic Commons for free. Aside from the many other activities I’ll be involved in as a digital fellow this year, I’m excited to play a part in the community building, software development and scholarly innovation inherent in these social software endeavors.

Laura Kane: This past year I’ve become more knowledgable of project management, website design, coding, and skill sharing through my work on various digital fellows projects. My goals for this year involve putting those skills to use in a much more collaborative way. I would like to work together with the other digital fellows to develop and implement a new digital tool that could be used to enhance the way we research, the way we teach, or the way we think about technology at the Graduate Center. Being given the chance to make something useful for future scholars is an important part of how we can leave our digital footprint at the Graduate Center. Further, being able to share what we have learned with the Graduate Center community helps to promote a culture that welcomes digital technology as an integral part of teaching and learning.

Micki Kaufman: After a semester among the Digital Fellows, my goals for the fellowship have crystallized – most of all, I hope to enhance my understanding of digital humanities by continuing to lead workshops in research approaches and methods for text analysis and visualization. In addition to project management of the exciting DH Debates online collaboration and commenting platform, I hope to participate in a number of other exciting student and faculty projects as a team member and project manager. In addition, I hope to build a sizable pool of resources for future digital humanities projects at the GC.

Keith Miyake: As a new addition to the Digital Fellows team for this year, everything is still new and shiny and reason for excitement. So I’m generally looking forward to contributing to the GC’s digital initiatives and further developing my techie skill set and DH repertoire. First among these is working with the Committee on Globalization and Social Change to set up a customized CBOX network for an international collaboration and knowledge sharing program. In addition to the academic organizing ends of this project, this is an opportunity to develop a site whose functionality will push my existing web administration, deployment, and hacking capabilities. Directly related to this, I’m also looking to sharpen my WordPress plugin development skills by contributing to the existing CBOX platform and helping with a proposed social platform for grad students to share works in progress, dubbed the Social Paper. Finally, I’m both excited and slightly skeptical about figuring out some fun/educational/creative projects to put a recently acquired 3D printer to use. As a luddite who grew up in wood and machine shops, it’ll be a challenge for me to figure out how the printer can become a meaningful addition for my own work related to the digital humanities.

A.L. McMichael: At first it felt as though writings about digital humanities were chock-full of jargon describing an endless stream of new tools. Last year I began thinking about digital literacy, particularly in terms of understanding how the internet works and how that knowledge can be useful for scholarship. In the coming months I hope to promote digital literacy, a deeper knowledge of how tools work, by translating technical concepts into plain language through contributing to the Commons wiki, attending and leading workshops, and writing here on the blog. This year I also hope to be a little more fearless in trying out new tools and software, by taking the Makerbot 3D printer for a spin and conquering my fear of GitHub once and for all.

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