New Digital Scholarship and Returning to the “Unpress”

In May, Mark Sample (@samplereality) led a thought-provoking conversation on Twitter about the idea of a “digital based indie academic press”. This conversation quickly mushroomed into a proposal by Roger Whitson (@rogerwhitson) at the CHNMThatcamp the same month.

Sample elaborated on these ideas on his blog: “I was riffing on these ideas yesterday on Twitter, asking, for example, what’s to stop a handful of of scholars from starting their own academic press? It would publish epub books and, when backwards compatibility is required, print-on-demand books. Or what about, I wondered, using Amazon Kindle Singles as a model for academic publishing. Imagine stand-alone journal articles, without the clunky apparatus of the journal surrounding it. If you’re insistent that any new publishing venture be backed by an imprimatur more substantial than my “handful of scholars,” then how about a digital humanities center creating its own publishing unit?”

I’d like to return back to Mark’s questions in a session (particularly because I was unable to attend the CHNM Thatcamp).

Questions spinning off from this conversation could include: what kinds of peer review would scholars use, in this new vision of an academic press (which has now been termed an “Un-press” by Roger Whitson)? How can the web be used as a system of peer review? (Examples of open peer review include Sarah Werner (@wynkenhimself) with Shakespeare Quarterly and Katherine Fitzpatrick (@kfitz) with her book, “Planned Obsolescence”.) How would this system work alongside existing academic presses, and their own move towards digital editions?

This also leads to some questions about genre: what does this mean for academic scholarship and accessibility? If the Amazon Kindle Singles become a goal in terms of brevity and clarity, is the obscure academic monograph as we know it dead? Is this a call to follow the lead of Britain’s “new history boys and girls“, historians who write exciting, popular history for general readers?


Session idea: “Unhidden” Collections: Now What?

As a recipient of one of Council on Libraries and Information Resources‘ (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grants, the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries‘ (PACSCL) “Hidden Collections” project has minimally processed and created finding aids (available online) for 125+ previously inaccessible collections.  While these collections are “unhidden”, there is much that we can do to make them (and all those other amazing collections out there) even more visible and usable to researchers all over the world.
Session participants could work with the goal of brainstorming a list of  potential digitization projects, web resources (either new or extensions to existing ones), mapping projects, 3d reconstructions, timelines, mobile apps, class assignments, etc. for unhidden archival collections.
PACSCL’s “Hidden Collections” has relied heavily on blog posts, Twitter and Flickr, but I would love to be involved in a discussion regarding creative and exciting ways to bring these amazing collections into the limelight!

Session Ideas: Mobile, GIS, Digital Publishing, DAM, Events, Ecommerce

Mobile – We are launching our mobile website this week and I would like to get feedback and constructive criticism, perhaps in a session similar to the mobile crit room they had at museums and the web. I am also interested in seeing what other types of mobile apps and mobile websites other attendees have created.


Top 5 Tech Problems:

At PHMC we have a little bit a lot of everything. It is impossible to list only my top tech problem, so I have narrowed it down to my top 5. I would love to talk to anyone that has experience with any of the following topics. Even just a short conversation at lunch and exchange of contact information would be helpful.

While I have already done some research and talked to a few vendors about their products, it would be helpful to hear from anyone that has completed major projects in any of these categories. Technology is an important part, but I’m equally interested in any tips about processes and workflows.

GIS – Our Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS) and PA Historical Marker database are very outdated and in need of migration to new technology.

Digital Publishing – We are interested in publishing digital versions of PA Heritage magazine and any books that we publish in the future.

Digital Asset Management – Our online state archives pages are created in FrontPage and all of the 300,000+ files (jpgs, pdfs, etc) are dumped into folders. Need I say more?

Events – We have over 20 historic sites and museums throughout PA, plus historic preservation, archives, PA Civil War 150 road show, etc. I’m looking for a solution for our staff to easily add events and syndicate them across multiple sites, whether a hosted service (does anything like ArtistData exist for museums?) or do it yourself (example: collaborative calendar).

Ecommerce – We currently use the clunky, outdated Yahoo Stores and would like to migrate to a new hosted ecommerce platform by the end of the year.

Session idea: Small-Scale Digital Editions and Collections

I would be interested in discussing issues related to the creation, dissemination, preservation, and use of small-scale digital editions and collections. Last Spring, I attended ThatCamp South Jersey, which inspired me to begin creating a digital collection of Catharine Sedgwick’s previously uncollected tales and sketches, a project I developed further at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, in June. I am still working on this project, and welcome the opportunity to discuss my progress, including the problems I’ve solved (a few) and the challenges I am currently facing (a lot), and to gain new ideas and insights from others who have worked on or are planning similar projects. I’d be glad to talk about both practical ideas and theoretical issues. I am both excited and intimidated by Peter Shillingsburg’s vision of the
“scholarly electronic edition of the future”:

— the one that will actually be used and therefore influence literary study and criticism — will be convenient: it will be as cheap as a paperback book, with a user-friendly interface (adaptable by the user to suit his or her condition, whether the user is a scholar, a student, or a tourist), and will be treated as the user’s own, with bookmarks, highlighting, space for marginal notes, and the ability to annotate or even change the materials that appear on the screen in what must truly feel like the user’s very own private copy. It will be convenient both for the editors that build them and the scholars who augment them. It will be maintainable, with component parts that are replaceable and amenable to being supplemented as new data and new uses for textual data develop. It will be convenient, moreover for technicians — both now and in the future — adhering to standards except where the standards impose intolerable limitations. (DHQ, Summer 2009, V3, N3

This leads to some questions:

  • What is the best platform/environment (right now) for a small-scale project?
  • What kinds of collaborations would enhance the project in terms of production, publication, dissemination, access?
  • How do we plan for the preservation of a small-scale project?
  • How do we plan for a user experience that is substantive and meaningful?

Digital Repositories: Best Practices for Small Scale Implementation

I am interested in discussing the process of implementing a small scale digital repository on a tight budget.  What are the initial steps?  What are the open source options?  Is it worth the time and effort for a small institution to consider a locally managed solution when a collaborative, virtually hosted solution may be more forward-thinking?

Session Idea: Online access and education

This idea is similar to the one in Siobhan’s previous post, although I’d like to focus on increasing access and use through education (elementary school through graduate research). Before instructors can build new assignments and rubrics around DH resources, they need to know that these resources exist. How can archivists and digital humanities people do a better job of interacting with various aspects of the education community? Should we skip the instructors and go straight to the students (Facebook ads? Subliminal messages on Jersey Shore?)? Or are there specific programs that archives and digital humanities projects are using to reach out to educators (Weekly educators’ newsletters? Special events for educators?)? And what kind of IT infrastructure has to be in place for these outreach projects to work?


Session Idea: DH in the Classroom: Evaluating Student Work

How do you set up DH assignments in the classroom and evaluate them fairly and effectively? I’m interested in hearing from other professors about their answers to these questions. Do you give students examples and guidelines for writing blog posts? How do you develop and find these? How do you grade posts and comments? How do you decide on grading for DH group work? While grading can seem like a pedestrian concern,  evaluation criteria reflect the goals of DH assignments, communicate to students our reasons for requiring them, and provide us with one important way of assessing their use. I would be grateful for a conversation on the issue.

The dialog between research and digital project structure

As I begin thinking about my “animals in city life” project, I’ve been pondering some of my needs other than the strictly technical ones. One of the subjects that I would really like to talk about is the impact of digital history on the research process for projects. I know how to plan for an article or book — it is always a dialogic process where the research process changes the topic as I go along. Also, often I do not know exactly what I think about something until I am engaged in the process of writing.

How do we develop the order and structure for interpretive digital history projects? Is writing still the intermediary step, or is another visualizing process in play?

Session Idea: Best practices for multi-dimensional annotation

Recently, I’ve been thinking about expanding a digital project I’m working on (a syntactically annotated corpus of Ancient Greek texts) to include other dimensions of information (in this case, I want to add semantic information). I’m not sure what the best way is to go about adding another layer of information that may conflict with the current hierarchical organization of the text (resulting in overlapping and thus illicit XML tags).

This session could be a help-a-thon if others have experiences to share from working on projects with similar challenges, or it could be more of an abstract discussion of information organization and design.