Thoughts on a Digital Scholarship Symposium

Marquette University hosted its 3rd annual Digital Scholarship Symposium last Thursday. The theme for this year was “Digital Scholarship and Community Engagement”, and that was certainly highlighted throughout the day. I would go so far as to say it felt more like a symposium on community engagement using digital tools. While I found the experience engaging, I don’t believe I was really in the intended audience. The workshop portion of envisioning and working through all the different planning aspects of creating a work of community engaged digital scholarship seemed like it would be eminently helpful for those who are involved with community engaged projects. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people…although it could come in very handy in the future. I will have to say I did find the introductory section of this portion to be somewhat lackluster. An incredibly long series of websites was discussed, that while nominally applicable to the speakers’ points, were never given enough time or attention given to them to provide sufficient context. Instead of dozens of websites, presented almost as if reading them off a list, I would have liked to see a handful of websites explored in their functionality and explained with greater detail how and why they were important.

To be honest, the “digital poster” session/project showcase was the portion of the day that really excited me the most. I got a chance to take a closer look at some local projects that are using digital technology or formats to engage their audiences, whether that’s through GIS, Virtual Reality, or just a really well done piece of online journalism/ethnography.

The after lunch “networking session” offered a chance to break up into smaller moderated discussion groups organized by topic. Unfortunately (as many there opined), there was only opportunity to join one of 8 very interesting topics. As I am obviously interested in archives, I attended the Community Archives group, and immediately felt slightly out of place. When introducing ourselves I explained that I was a grad student at UW-Milwaukee and was studying to be an archivist, and therefore was interested in learning more about how to implement community archives practices from the perspective of an archivist. Others in the group included a professor collecting oral interviews of Muslim women in Milwaukee regarding marriage practices across cultural boundaries whose research dominated the majority of the conversation. I think the discussion was actually very helpful to her as a starting place in thinking about best archival practices in storing and presenting the research she’s doing. Another professor studied linguistics, and had an interesting conundrum. He was thinking of what kind of a Milwaukee based project he could do, or what kind of resource he might be able to utilize. The problem being that any interesting projects might not be feasible with existing resources. Although I suspect there may be more out there than he believes. I may add that to the discussion group Google Doc once I’ve done a little bit more exploration. I think his idea of comparing the linguistic differences between former Milwaukee City Council member Vel Phillips and current Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke would be incredibly interesting.

What’s it all About?

While I’ve had a (semi)professional online persona for some time, this will be my first foray into a professional blog. Mostly I plan on using this blog as a means of sharing whatever I’m working on for classes, whether that’s short essays, digital projects, or drafts for sections of longer papers. I think it will be a nice way to force me to polish my academic work a little bit more while offering a public forum for feedback that might help make it better before it’s graded. In between there may be some posts on personal/professional thoughts on current events or other scholarship, I’m not really sure.

Because I’m not required to write (nor do I plan on writing) a thesis for my degree, I’m not on an academic track, and I have a wide variety of academic interests there could be any number of things that show up here. And to be honest I’m not sure the blog will outlive the semester, but I’m going to give a shot. My professional goals are to become an archivist, so my professional academic interests revolve around archives. Some topics I’m interested in within archives include MPLP (More Product, Less Processing), digital archives, personal archives, personal *digital* archives, preservation/conservation, and genealogical reference/research. On the history side, as I said, I’m not required to write a thesis, so my “research” doesn’t have to be as limited as some. I’m interested in 19th and early 20th-century immigration patterns in the United States. I’m also interested in medieval history, especially cultural exchange during the Crusades. I also enjoy working with digital technologies to present information in new and engaging ways, especially working with GIS/Mapping projects.