DH, Design, and Libraries

Somehow, in the past three weeks, I managed to attend four different conferences. Thankfully, three of them were located here in Atlanta, which reduced travel time and kept costs low. Each conference or symposium had a unique flavor and set of themes, so this post will describe each and I’ll share the most important insights I gained.

Code4Lib Southeast Regional Conference (Emory University)

The Code4Lib event at Emory was only the second meeting of Code4Lib participants in the southeast region, but it was very well-attended and reflected diverse library practices. On the conference website, you can find the schedule and even links to the presentations given. Topics included everything from an amazing tool for machine learning and computer vision to digital scholarship research support through Open Science initiatives. Together with Jessica M. Moss, an archaeology graduate student here at Georgia State University, I presented about our planned digital skills training and badging pilot project. Overall, Code4Lib SE offered a great opportunity to learn more about library practices around the region and to meet nearby colleagues who might be interested in future partnerships.

Jack Reed presenting at Code4Lib Southeast

Jack Reed presenting about Histonets and computer vision for analyzing highways in the US


Atlanta Studies Symposium (Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library)

I’ve been hearing about Atlanta Studies since I arrived at Georgia State. Faculty in the library and other departments with whom I collaborate have been involved in the project since its inception, and it seems that everyone I meet in the community is also involved in some manner. The project description reads, “Atlanta Studies is an open access, digital publication that features work from scholars, writers, artists, and activists who are writing the next chapters in our city’s story.  Examining Atlanta from a wide range of perspectives, we offer thoughtful analyses of the metro region’s past and present for a public audience. We aim to be critical when addressing Atlanta’s problems and even be a tad boosterish when assessing its possibilities.”

The Atlanta Studies Symposium, accordingly, is an annual showcase of research and projects related to the topic of Atlanta. This year, the theme was “Rethinking Equity in Atlanta”. There were presentations about incarceration, urban planning, Atlanta’s history, and a stunning keynote address by Zandria Robinson. If you ever have a chance to hear Dr. Robinson speak, do it. Don’t think, just do.

For me, the Atlanta Studies Symposium was an excellent introduction to the community that contributes to the publication and stimulates continued conversation about Atlanta. Although I don’t currently study Atlanta, it’s just a matter of time before my curiosity about the city’s history turns into a research project. After the dissertation, of course.

An abandoned grocery store in Atlanta

Iffy Grocery on the corner of Moreland and Ormewood

Digital Initiatives Symposium (University of San Diego)

This conference wins the prize for Best Conference Venue. Located just north of San Diego’s Old Town district, USD is a private Roman Catholic university with the infrastructure to prove its backing. Sitting at the edge of a steep hill, the conference space in Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice offers sweeping views of the bay and surrounding hills. It was difficult to return to the conference after a mid-day reception on the garden terrace next to the reflecting pool.

The majority of presentations focused on digital initiatives in libraries, although some involved outreach and collaboration with other departments and communities. I gleaned some useful tips from the group of University of Arizona librarians who talked about their digital scholarship space and activities they undertake to encourage student participation. Joan K. Lippincott from the Coalition for Networked Information and Trevor Owens from the Institute of Museum and Library Services both provided excellent keynote addresses, focusing on the role of libraries in digital scholarship.

Like many conferences, this symposium offered workshops on the day before the main event. I attended the Agile Project Management workshop, hoping to learn how to better support digital projects and contribute leadership and guidance for programs such as the Student Innovation Fellowship. Led by Sheila Rabun from the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) Consortium, the workshop provided an introduction to the concepts of agile project management and the practices used in scrums, a technique used in many projects. The workshop was excellent, and I plan to employ the methods I learned as soon as possible.

University of San Diego view of San Diego

This view or conference session. Choose one.

DH + Design Symposium (Georgia Tech)

Last, but not least, I attended a symposium about the intersection between digital humanities and design. In the most basic summation, digital humanities centers and projects need to consider design principles as points of analysis and practice from the beginning of an idea through the lifespan of the outcomes. As a digital humanist who has worked on numerous projects in a wide range of topics, I appreciated the organizer’s emphasis on intersections and collaboration. I’ve worked on (and built my own) projects that didn’t make design a priority from inception, which often saps the usability and impact of a project. Or worse, design decisions are left to the last minute and the final forms are ill-fitting.

The symposium offered many opportunities to discuss projects with digital humanists and designers at the same table, contributing their own perspectives and values. It was interesting to see how participants explored the ways in which each field might inform the other, while still preserving the core principles of each.  Although there were no specific outcomes or follow-up plans for the symposium, I think most people came away with a better understanding of the need for design in DH, and the opportunities of DH in design.

Answers on a whiteboard about digital humanities and design

My answer made it on the board! Guess which one it is. Hint: is that MIG or TIG?