Organized by: Luis Meneses (Vancouver Island U)


Open digital collaborative scholarship in the Arts and Humanities is significant for facilitating public access to and engagement with research, and as a mechanism of growing the digital scholarly infrastructure. But the path to adopting open, collaborative, digital scholarship has been challenging, not least of all due to questions of economic stability, infrastructure, access, understanding, implementation, and engagement.


The advent of online technologies has provided Arts and Humanities researchers with greater opportunities to collaborate and create different projects. These projects are computationally robust and require a significant amount of collaboration, which brings together different types of expertise to collaborate on equal terms rather than a model where some sets of expertise are in service to others.


The convenience and familiarity of computational methods can make us forget (or overlook) that there is a certain fragility associated with our online tools. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has argued that many online projects in the digital humanities have an implied planned obsolesce—which means that they will degrade over time once they cease to receive updates in their content and software libraries (Planned Obsolescence, NYU Press, 2011). In turn, this planned obsolescence threatens the completeness and the sustainability of our research outputs in the Arts and Humanities over time, presenting a complex problem made more complex when environments are not static objects but rather dynamic collaborative spaces. This conference addresses the challenges associated with collaboration and project preservation in the humanities.


To view presentations and related materials from this event, please see below.


Please note: the present site does not contain a full archive of DHSI events; some presentations and related materials are not represented here. To learn more about Open Digital Collaborative Project Management in the Humanities, please visit dhsi.org.


For a complete listing of past Open Digital Collaborative Project Management in the Humanities participants, visit our Course Archive!


Open Digital Collaborative Project Preservation in the Humanities


John Maxwell, Rebecca Dowson “An Embarrassment of Riches: The Challenge to Balance Focus and Sustainability in a Open, Collaborative Project”

View presentation: https://echo360.ca/media/e0d16460-b922-40da-9fa9-886db2d04a82/public


View transcript/additional materials: https://dhsi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7317/2023/03/AldusCollab-script-John-Maxwell.pdf


Abstract: Originally launched in 2015, the Aldus@SFU project — featuring the digitization and online curation of Simon Fraser University Library’s spectacular collection of the renaissance Venetian press of Aldus Manutius — has struggled to find focus and momentum. Across our collaboration between the Publishing Studies program and three different units within SFU Library, a profusion of agendas, audiences, priorities, and technical layers has led to considerable interest in the project from several stakeholders, but has been less effective in establishing clear priorities and outcomes for the project. Aldus@SFU seeks not only to highlight a valuable and underused collection in an ‘open, social’ scholarly context, but also to prototype both back-end perservation infrastructure and UI/UX layers in an evolving technology stack. As such, broad collaboration — between Publishing researchers, Library Special Collections, Library Systems, and SFU’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab — is essential. With aspects of innovation and evolution happening on multiple levels simultaneously, technical, infrastructural, and institutional, it has proven hard to maintain project momentum and clarity of shared goals. Such challenges are, we think, natural enough in a truly collaborative effort, especially where collaborators are not simply ‘service providers’ for one another, but rather peers with goals and priorities of their own. In this session we will examine our experiences over the past five years with achieving project focus and priorities, and the challenges of managing these in a broadly collaborative and multi-layered project.


Jasmine Mulliken “Is it Quality? Let Me Crawl It: Web Archiving as a Test of and Approach to Preservability for Online Projects”

View presentation: https://echo360.ca/media/bf85f75d-d0cc-4417-b5e5-a30648cf925a/public


View transcript/additional materials: https://dhsi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7317/2023/03/PresentationTranscript-Jasmine-Mulliken.pdf


Abstract: The online presentation of digital humanities research constitutes a kind of publication, which in itself implies a certain level of fixity or completion. Even if the online content is meant to evolve through updates, annotation, or discussion, the act of putting a base level package on the web for dissemination entails bringing that content to a preliminary state of fixity. To arrive at even this preliminary fixity involves certain decisions about delivery, decisions that can affect a project’s ultimate longevity on the web. For instance, what platform will be used? Scalar, WordPress, Drupal, and other content management systems necessitate constant maintenance through updates of the platform, plugins, and themes. While CMSs and even custom PHP-based applications provide ease of updating or adding new content, they are unnecessarily heavy for sites that are only meant to be updated for editorial purposes and those that are meant to display finished work. In such cases static HTML, CSS, and JS are always best. Even still, JavaScript libraries change as browsers evolve, and even the most minimal sites can need basic maintenance over the years. So how can scholars ensure the web-based work they are producing will survive the constant changes to the medium delivering their message? One solution that is becoming more user friendly is web archiving. Services like Archive-It, often managed institutionally, can be used to crawl and archive web content so that it can be displayed, navigated, and interacted with in the same way as it could on the day it was captured. Webrecorder, another tool that does not require institutional support, does the same thing and also allows individual users to store and replay their own web archives. A web archive provides a high-fidelity user experience that is almost indistinguishable from the original web-based experience. While web archiving offers an end solution for archiving web content, it can also be used during production to test a project’s web archivability. This presentation will highlight the advantages of web archiving as method of preserving both fixed and evolving web-based work, but more importantly as a means of preservability testing during a work’s development.


Janelle Jenstad Panel: “Live by the Plan: The Static Release Model for Scholarship” *

View presentation: https://echo360.ca/media/e2428faf-7f82-4fb4-bd5f-a64210b26530/public


Abstract: One of the challenges in collaborative digital projects is the need to coordinate the release of work. We have found that the Endings-compliant static release model developed by Arneil and HCMC supports the collective achievement of digital milestones. In addition, it produces a solution to an ethical dilemma in open social scholarship, namely the overwriting of earlier work by new contributors as the field evolves, data collection proceeds, editorial principles change, or primary research yields new insights. At Linked Early Modern Drama Online, the first platform to be built from scratch with Endings Principles in mind, we support six digital projects with over 200 contributors. A key concern for us was the need to hold back material not ready for publication without holding up other projects or contributors. With over 750 plays to edit, it is possible that the work of LEMDO will extend well beyond the retirements of the current team members. The platform must therefore be robust enough to serve two generations of scholars, flexible enough to accommodate different completion rates, and simple enough to generate preservable outputs that meet the standards Goddard describes. This paper will describe a “double-handshake” licensing model that allows for work to be included in a static, preservable release only completion, while allowing others to keep working. The static release model, working in tandem with project management principles, provides motivation in the form of real milestones that rolling releases do not. The release model is particularly effective when a release is built around a key deliverable: a major text (or components thereof), an anthology, a major new feature/functionality, a new dataset, or a new layer of annotation. In other words, we can turn the necessarily “overbuilt” infrastructure that Arneil describes in a project management tool that helps us work together over time.


Lisa Goddard Panel: “Decay, or What’s Left When It’s Over: The Librarians’ Perspective” *

View presentation: https://echo360.ca/media/15e4dc3c-18f0-4c7e-8fe2-ec25e2a3d6f2/public


View transcript/additional materials: https://dhsi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7317/2023/03/closed_caption-Lisa-Goddard.pdf


Abstract: When we talk about the preservation of digital objects and platforms, we must first acknowledge that persistence is a function of organizations, not a function of technology. There is no technical design choice that will absolutely future-proof information containers, and this is true in the digital world as it is in the analogue world. GLAM organizations (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) are unique in their mission to collect, organize, and store information in ways that can preserve access to knowledge over hundreds or thousands of years. The deluge of digital information raises many new questions about what should be preserved, and about how libraries can organize their limited resources to take on this work. To date, the preservation of dynamic online spaces has been a complete failure. Current digital preservation practices, centered around format migration and emulation, are not up to the task when it comes to ensuring long-term access to “large, complex social-technical systems that centrally involve some mixture of personalization, opaque rules, and machine learning components.”* We will discuss two approaches to tackling this complex issue. On the one hand — and more pragmatically — librarians and archivists can inform the initial production of online spaces that make them more amenable to comprehensive documentation through the outputting of fixed, web- based artifacts that successfully represent significant properties as defined by a research community. On the other hand — and perhaps more theoretically — we will hint at evolving practices that look beyond documentation to the concept of ‘robotic witness’, where robots (agents) capture the results of streams of interaction. This approach is more “deeply rooted in historical methods of anthropology, sociology, political science, ethnography and related humanistic and social science disciplines that seek to document behaviors that are essentially not captured in artifacts.”* *Lynch, C. (2017). Stewardship in the” Age of Algorithms”. First Monday, 22(12).


Samya Brata Roy “Launching The Indian E-Lit Collective”

View presentation: https://echo360.ca/media/d0d2e2ce-1b33-41a3-a9f8-a2e2ac0c3931/public


View transcript/additional materials: https://dhsi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7317/2023/03/Accessibility-Points-Samya-Brata-Roy.pdf


Abstract: The Electronic Literature scene in India can be called nascent at best. Very few researchers, writers/artists and readers are scattered here and there often without the knowledge of each other. While academicians may read papers by one another in the course of research, the other demographics is definitely missing out on the sense of a collective. Having a community would not only foster better research and storytelling but it would also mean supporting one another and starting a discourse. In this context, I have decided to kick start the E-Lit research and writing group in India. The aim would be to make people aware of the field and encourage more creative/academic output. Needless to say, this would also put forth a sense of collaboration and multilingual unity across the digital divide which are two aspects which define the Indian ethos. I would thus like to share my experience in Elit and what led towards the creation of this group and aims do I realistically have for it.