In November 2016, I started as the Digital Scholarship Librarian at Georgia State University Library. During my interview for the position, I presented a job talk related to the topic of opportunities and challenges involved in digital scholarship. In preparation for my talk, I consulted the job talks posted by Celeste Sharpe and Amanda Visconti. More recently, Visconti posted another job talk she gave at UVA’s Scholars’ Lab, and her colleague Brandon Walsh also posted his job talk. In the spirit of openness and with much thanks to my colleagues in this field, I’m sharing the slides and a brief script of my job talk. As Visconti writes, “When scholars share their job talks after being hired, DH and libraries interviewing processes become a little less mysterious.”
Because I usually present from bullet points, the following text doesn’t match exactly what I said in my talk, but is a close approximation. You can also download the text-searchable slides here (sans accompanying script).
Overview and Thesis
Because I was asked to present on a specific topic, I first addressed the most important definition for the rest of the presentation: what is digital scholarship?
I drew these phrases from a little project I experimented with a few years ago. Because there is much debate about what digital humanities is and is not, I was curious to know what people were saying digital humanities could be or do. So I used the most basic of search methods: I Googled it. I looked for any instance of someone writing “digital humanities can” and I collected the results. These are some of the top results, and I found them fascinating. In this talk, I used them to demonstrate that there is no single definition for digital humanities or digital scholarship, but that the field/practice is open for interpretation. I synthesized these varied results into the following working definition for my talk:
I first heard the phrase “digitally-inflected” during the 2016 Doing Digital History Institute. I think it provides a much more nuanced approach to thinking about how digital methods and tools can be integrated into existing scholarship.
This is the main thesis of my talk: digitally-inflected scholarship comes with digitally-inflected challenges. The core of these challenges are rarely new to scholars, but the additional opportunities offered by digital tools and methods open up new challenges that require digital solutions.
Areas of Digitally-Inflected Scholarship
In this section, I discussed the opportunities and challenges that can arise in different areas of scholarship. Each area represents the different groups that one might work with on digital scholarship projects: Individuals and Public Institutions, Research Center Teams, and Academic Colleagues. Each area has four slides, and they are largely self-explanatory. The first two slides in each area show examples of the type of project that emerges in that area. The third and fourth slides describe the opportunities and challenges most important in each area.
Individuals and Public Institutions
- Unique archive of War Department documents, reassembled from around the country after the primary archive was lost in a fire
- Uses Scripto plugin for Omeka to allow individuals to transcribe papers in a crowd-sourced transcription process
- Provides interaction with artifacts
- Teacher resources
- Allows contribution of new content from students
- Providing different views of the war through people, places, and stories
- Connecting the narratives of war to physical space
- Augmenting existing content
- Provides instruction in digital tools and methods for mid-career academics
- Builds community of DH scholars
Research Center Teams
- Content management system for collections
- Open source, extendable
- Essentially an 1812 resource guide
- Used digital methods to create a bibliography a wide range of resources (journal articles, books, websites)
- Used digital methods to analyze the collection, including a term-usage comparison across websites
- Defunct after funding ran out
- Uncovering the hidden histories of the Mall
- Augmenting physical space with digital content
- Mobile-first development process
- Custom apps for inclusion in app store
- Citation management system
- Browser based
- Free, open-source
Digital Method Workshops
- Provided digital methods training for faculty and students
- Developed tutorials for the tools included
- Generated a collaboration between academic review committee and digital support
- The first cohort of digital fellows had few resources for support
- In the third year, we developed an internal project to provide support for incoming fellows and history students generally, especially for digital classes
- Introduction to humanities computing or digital humanities
- Major project was an augmented reality application for history
- Project planning and development
- Interactive exhibit
- Graduate student contributions
- Based in the department with support from RRCHNM
In the past few years, Georgia State University Library has recognized that digital scholarship is emerging at various points throughout the scholarly community in Atlanta. Different disciplines, such as English, History, Biology, Anthropology, Archaeology, Geosciences, and others, have begun exploring digital methods and tools to expand research and representations. The Library has revised its mission to include support for those kind of initiatives, and has invested in the infrastructures needed to provide research support. (See Associate Dean Bryan Sinclair’s article “The University Library as Incubator for Digital Scholarship” and his co-authored article with Glenn Gunhouse, “The Promise of Virtual Reality in Higher Education“.)
The role of Digital Scholarship Librarian seems designed to address a need for staff, process, and partnerships by providing support for digital projects, exploring possibilities for new projects, and helping to connect the existing GSU community of digital scholars and expand it further.