Editing Modernism in Canada


July 22, 2014

Developing Productive Strategies For Collaborative Projects

On day 2 of the 2014 TEMiC Institute, Julia Polyck-O’neill presented on Susan Brown’s article “Don’t Mind the Gap: Evolving Digital Modes of Scholarly Production Across the Digital-Humanities Divide.”  Following the presentation, our group discussed what Brown identifies as the dialectical relationship between the computer sciences and the humanities aspects of the digital-humanities.  Having explored the dialectics of collaborative work in the “A Collaborative Approach to XSLT” course as part of DEMiC at DHSI, and previously blogged on the pedagogical nature of this type of work, I believe it to be useful to synthesize some of the ideas that surfaced during our talk.

Below are the core questions from this morning’s conversation:

1) How can a collaborative digital editorial project’s team, which consists of literary scholars and computer scientists, gain the most from this type of relationship?

2) In a project that includes members with different expertise and expectations, can/should hierarchical relationships be avoided?

3) Since every member contributes differently, how do we try to ensure the satisfaction of each team member?

Following our discussion, here is what I have learned, if not been reminded of:  Dialectical work should be exactly what its name suggests, dialectical.  That is to say, a project should not be dominated by any individual, but rather should encourage a team effort where alternative ideas and approaches are welcomed.  I am not suggesting that designating a leader is an unproductive strategy, but that the leader, as a member of the group, should not be above the team.   Instead, its members should recognize that everyone depends on each other for the success of the project, and should understand the potential value of varying perspectives and differing expertise.  In addition, a team is a living organism, it should be willing to adapt, and should always remain dynamic.   However, what must remain constant is that the many relationships within the team should always be mutually beneficial for each member; and, perhaps most importantly, credit ought to be given when it is deserved.

Although these core ideas might appear to be obvious, it is often easy (especially in the heat and chaos of editorial projects) to lose track of what makes the team aspect of these collaborative projects so useful.  For this reason, I am thankful to be here at TEMiC where I am reminded of the importance of collaborative work, and how to efficiently maintain productive relationships.

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