Editing Modernism in Canada


June 9, 2010

Scaling the Digital Humanities: Presentation Report

Yesterday afternoon, Zailig and I presented EMiC to the folks in Ray’s Scaling course. Since Dean is taking care of his newest child (EMiC being his first, of course), it fell to me and Zailig to describe the project. I began by giving a brief overview of EMiC, guided by the “about” page on our project website. I then went on to discuss how EMiC imagines and realizes the relationship between three central nodes: graduate student training, digital tool development, and the summer institutes. I wanted to commence my discussion of scaling with an introduction to the Editing and Publishing course that Dean and I co-taught at Dalhousie. I talked specifically about how we used our experiential learning class as a model for the EMiC summer institutes (TEMiC, in particular). I emphasized how the experiential learning class flattens the hierarchy between student and teacher, and I pointed to the collective learning process as a strength of this particular class. It strikes me that this is indeed one of the strengths of the digital humanities in general. In a field where the symbiotic relationship between technical and theoretical expertise is paramount, it is often the case that junior scholars teach the older generation the necessary technical skills.

In the second part of my portion of the presentation, I wanted to touch on one of the main challenges that we faced in the EMiC digital initiative: the creation of an online community. As some of you know, our first attempt at EMiC online inspired less community activity than we had hoped. I blame it in part on my decision to use a drupal platform. For such a small group of users, the complexity of the blog, forum, status updates, and user profiles was more a hindrance than a catalyst to online discussion. The community site was also separate from the EMiC website, which meant users had to make an extra effort to login, post, and keep up with the EMiC social network. Eventually, Dean and I agreed that we would reconceptualize the EMiC online community when we started thinking about the new EMiC site. I explained to the Scaling group that the simplicity of wordpress seems to invite blogging, whereas the multiple writing spaces of the drupal platform scared people away. And I was happy to report that the newest iteration of the “community” site is already much more active than our old drupal site!

After I discussed both the experiential learning classroom that informed our EMiC training model and the challenges that we faced in creating a bustling online community, Zailig took over and gave a summary of Dean’s talk, “A New Build: EMiC Tools in the Digital Workshop.” Zailig touched on the four important aspects of the EMiC’s digital tool initiatives: image-based editing and markup, digitization, text analysis, and visualization (see Zailig’s report).

The presentation was well received, and I think that in the absence of our fearless leader, Zailig and I did a good job of explaining to the group some of the important aspects of the Editing Modernism in Canada project. I’m looking forward to today’s discussion, and excited to see what the future holds!

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