Collaboration: A Primer

Prepared for the ACS Strategic Planning Committee

by Amanda Hagood, Director of Blended Learning, Associated Colleges of the South, and Grace Pang, Program Officer, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education

Introduction

This primer was developed from a study of sixteen case studies in digitally-mediated collaboration and the liberal arts published by the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) in the summer of 2014. Though the case studies covered topics as diverse as designing and implementing a hybrid course in Asian Studies or launching a program in digital humanities, each provided a fascinating example of how small institutions can marshal their oftentimes limited resources and personnel to achieve extraordinary things. The key to each project’s success lies in the strategy of collaboration—though, as we will demonstrate, collaboration exists along a continuum consisting of many different modalities for working together. This primer, drawn from a thoroughgoing analysis of these projects, will present four exemplary projects and will ask you to consider how their goals, strategies, and tactics reflect upon the goals, strategies, and tactics that should appear in the ACS’s 2020 Vision.

The aims of this primer are threefold:

  • To report why and how faculty and staff within and across ACS institutions are collaborating
  •  To explore how the goals, strategies, and tactics used by these practitioners align with the ACS’s mission to support the liberal arts by creating collaborative opportunities that improve the quality, while reducing the cost, of liberal arts education.
  • To stimulate the Strategic Planning Committee’s thinking about why and how our member institutions could collaborate.

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From Data to Wisdom: Humanities Research and Online Content

by Michael Lesk, Rutgers University

Originally Posted December 16th, 2007

1. Introduction
President Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union Address called for “an America where every child can stretch a hand across a keyboard and reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed.”[1] If that dream is realized, we would have the resources for all humanistic research online. What difference would that make for the humanities?

The widespread availability of online data has already changed scholarship in many fields, and in scientific research the entire paradigm is changing, with experiments now being conducted before rather than after hypotheses are proposed, simply because of the massive amounts of available data. But what is likely to happen in the humanities? So far, much of the work on “cyberinfrastructure” in the humanities has been about accumulating data. This is an essential part of the process, to be sure, but one would like to see more research on the resulting files. At the moment, we have a library that accumulates more books than are read. T. S. Eliot wrote “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”[2] Modern computer scientists have tended to turn this into a four-stage process, from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. We are mostly still at the stage of having only data.

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Cyberinfrastructure as Cognitive Scaffolding: The Role of Genre Creation in Knowledge Making

by Janet Murray, Georgia Tech

Originally Posted December 16th, 2007 

Professor Janet H. Murray is an internationally recognized interactive designer, the director of Georgia Tech’s Masters Degree Program in Information Design and Technology and Ph.D. in Digital Media, and a member of Georgia Tech’s interdisciplinary GVU Center. She is the author of Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Free Press, 1997; MIT Press 1998), which has been translated into 5 languages, and is widely used as a roadmap to the coming broadband art, information, and entertainment environments. She is currently working on a textbook for MIT Press, Inventing the Medium: A Principled Approach to Interactive Design and on a digital edition of the Warner Brothers classic, Casablanca, funded by NEH and in collaboration with the American Film Institute. In addition, she directs an eTV Prototyping Group, which has worked on interactive television applications for PBS, ABC, and other networks. She is also a member Georgia Tech’s Experimental Game Lab. Murray has played an active role in the development of two new degree programs at Georgia Tech, both 0f which were launched in Fall 2004: the Ph.D. in Digital Media, and the B.S. in Computational Media. In spring 2000 Janet Murray was named a Trustee of the American Film Institute, where she has alsoserved as a mentor in the Enhanced TV Workshop a program of the AFI Digital Content Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, and before coming to Georgia Tech in 1999 taught humanities and led advanced interactive design projects at MIT. Murray’s primary fields of interest are digital media curricula, interactive narrative, story/games, interactive television, and large-scale multimedia information spaces. Her projects have been funded by IBM, Apple Computer, the Annenberg-CPB Project, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Information infrastructure is a network of cultural artifacts and practices.[1] A database is not merely a technical construct; it represents a set of values and it also shapes what we see and how we see it. Every time we name something and itemize its attributes, we make some things visible and others invisible. We sometimes think of infrastructure, like computer networks, as outside of culture. But pathways, whether made of stone, optical fiber or radio waves, are built because of cultural connections. How they are built reflects the traditions and values as well as the technical skills of their creators. Infrastructure in turn shapes culture. Making some information hard to obtain creates a need for an expert class. Counting or not counting something changes the way it can be used. Increasingly it is the digital infrastructure that shapes our access to information and we are just beginning to understand how the pathways and containers and practices we build in cyberspace shape knowledge itself.

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THE DIGITAL DATABASE: A MODEL OF STUDENT, STAFF, AND FACULTY COLLABORATION

AUTHORS


boylstonSusanna Boylston
Boylston is the collection development librarian at Davidson College and oversees digital and print collections, e-resource access, and license negotiations. She’s also worked as a reference librarian and taught numerous information literacy sessions. Her current areas of interest include the development and use of digital collections to support student learning, patron-driven and curriculum-driven collections, digital humanities, and the history of book and periodical publishing.

ChurchillSuzanne W. Churchill
Churchill is professor of English at Davidson College. She is the author of The Little Magazine Others & the Renovation of Modern American Poetry and co-editor, with Adam McKible, of Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches. She has published on modernist and Harlem Renaissance magazines, poetry, and pedagogy in various journals and collections. She is also founder and editor of the website Index of Modernist Magazines (http://sites.davidson.edu/littlemagazines/).

EshlemanKristen Eshleman
Eshleman is both practitioner and director of instructional technology at Davidson College. The anthropologist in her is drawn to the intersections between technology and culture. Her current interests in digital scholarship include digital storytelling, data visualization, and text encoding. Her constant interests involve keeping up with her info-lit librarian husband, recreational running, all things Carolina, and guiding her daughter to be a responsible digital native.

ABSTRACT


With their emphasis on small classes, student-faculty relationships, interdisciplinary study, and undergraduate research, liberal arts colleges seem like ideal environments for the digital humanities. Yet these institutions often lack the resources, infrastructure, and research emphasis needed to generate and sustain digital humanities projects. Recognizing these limitations, Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis recommend that small, liberal arts colleges forge a “separate path” in digital humanities: “one based on emphasizing a distributed, socially engaged process over a focus on publicly shared products.” At Davidson College, however, we have forged a path that actually combines a collaborative learning process with a publicly shared digital product. Collaboration is the key to our success.

Since 1999, several generations of Davidson College students have built an online, open-access bibliographic database, an Index of Modernist Magazines, as part of a collaborative research seminar. The Index serves as model for how faculty, librarians, and instructional technologists can collaborate to create, support, and sustain undergraduate digital research projects that promote undergraduate learning while furthering scholarship in new areas of study. It also attests to the value and importance of bibliographic research in an era of proliferating digital information and archives. This case study discusses the pedagogical practices that make the Index of Modernist Magazines a model of sustainability (the project is ongoing and ever-expanding), scope (it is manageable for students while also requiring significant research), and impact (it allows students to contribute to a vibrant, expanding field of scholarly inquiry).

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Can Humanities Undergrads Learn to Code?

A recent NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar, “Teaching DH 101: Introduction to the Digital Humanities” prompts a response from two undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh.

We were surprised to hear during the December 16, 2011 NITLE web seminar on undergraduate digital humanities (DH) instruction a recurring motif along the lines that coding (markup and programming) is so difficult that undergraduates trained in the humanities cannot learn it quickly or successfully, and so potentially alienating and anxiety-provoking that it should be regarded as too advanced to be considered a core component of the undergraduate DH curriculum. As two undergraduate humanities majors (English Literature and Linguistics) with no prior technical background, we would like to share our own experiences with learning and using computational tools. We hope that our very positive experience will encourage faculty elsewhere to give their undergraduate students the opportunity to become deeply and seriously involved with this exciting and rewarding aspect of DH scholarship.

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Launching the Digital Humanities Movement at Washington and Lee University: A Case Study

Barry, Knudson, Youngman, SprenkleBy Jeff Barry, Associate Professor and Associate University Librarian, Julie Knudson, Director of Academic Technologies, Sara Sprenkle, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Paul Youngman, Associate Professor of German

 

 

Abstract: This paper offers a case history of the development of digital humanities (DH) at Washington and Lee University. We will focus on how we informally and then formally implemented DH, especially the meshing of the various partner constituencies, the design of our program as it has evolved over time, and the technological environment within which we are supporting DH. We will conclude with an analysis and evaluation of our work in progress and detail our short term and long term future.

Keywords: digital humanities, collaboration, information technologies, library

Introduction

We faced a challenge at Washington and Lee University (W&L) in the summer of 2012: how does one start a movement – in this case, amovement in the digital humanities (DH). The state of DH on campus at that time is best expressed by Suzanne Keen (then interim dean of the college, now dean):

Everybody was working independently, and didn’t really even know about one another’s projects. I felt that if you said “Digital Humanities,” that relatively few W&L faculty would have any idea what that even meant (Suzanne Keen, e-mail message to author, March 11, 2014).

Her vision for the end state of a DH program on campus is compelling. She foresees DH permeating the curriculum widely and gaining broad acceptance among faculty, staff, and students. Moreover, she foresees liberal arts graduates who are information fluent, able to work with digital artifacts, and for whom working with large data sets is a matter of course. The difficulty we face is building a bridge from the current state of DH as Dean Keen describes it to her exciting vision.

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