I attended UNCG’s Scholarly Communication Symposium in Greensboro on Monday April 15, and I have to say, for a Monday Symposium, it could not have kicked off the week better if it had tried. This years symposium focused on infrastructure in digital scholarship projects, from the organizational to technological. Dr. David Eltis, professor Emeritus at Emory University and creator of SlaveVoyages.org provided the opening remarks, highlighting two of the challenges inherent in all digital humanities and digital scholarship projects: infrastructure and sustainability. These themes were repeated throughout the day in different iterations: funding, personel, publications, technology.
Some of the bigger takeaways from Monday occurred right after lunch: the importance of access and the roles that “Maintainers” play in preserving projects. I plan on testing one of the tools introduced, massmine.org, and seeing how we might be able to use it here in DISC for future faculty projects. Massmine is a command line tool that makes collecting and analyzing data easier, specifically from social media sites. With Twitter and Facebook trending algorithms making it harder and harder to harvest social media posts, Massmine attempts to make it easier to collect data for analysis and sharing. The “Maintainers” started as a tongue-in-cheek joke about innovation and how frequently the word is thrown around when in fact very little innovation is actually occurring in the instance. Their next meeting is in October in Washington, D.C.
All in all, SCS was a mixed bag of emotions from all the panelists. Most were hopeful, some were realistic, but the featured speaker set a bleak tone for sustainability as he has experienced it with one of the most successful DH projects. Even with the widespread and frequent use of the slavevoyages.org website, Eltis pointed to the large cost of operating and maintaining it as a large part of why the project will ultimately be unsuccessful to him. After all, he said, sustainability isn’t everything, even though it is, and that paints a perfect picture of the largest challenge facing Digital Scholarship in the future. Funding is a massive part of infrastructure (hello road repairs) and can be hard to come by in certain fields of study.
SCS2019 was a lot of fun and very informative, and I’m looking forward to putting into practice some of the principles and tools I learned about throughout the day. Now on to summer projects and DH@Wake!