The design of an international social media event: A day in the life of the digital humanities

Organisciak, Peter; Meredith-Lobay, Megan; Rockwell, Geoffrey; Ruecker, Stan; Nyhan, Julianne; Ranaweera, Kamal
A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities (Day of DH) is a community documentation project that brings together digital humanists from around the world to document what they do on one day, typically March 18. The goal of the project, which has been run three times since 2009, is to bring together participants to reflect on the question, "Just what do computing humanists really do?" To do this, participants document their day through photographs and commentary using one of the Day of DH blogs
more » ... et up for them. The collection of these journals (with links, tags, and comments) is, after editing, made available online. This paper discusses the design of this social project, from the ethical issues raised to the final web of journals and shares some of the lessons we have learned. One of the major challenges of social media is getting participation. We made participating easy by personally inviting a seed group, choosing an accessible technology, maintaining a light but constant level of communication prior to the event, and asking only for a single day of commitment. In addition, we tried to make participation at least rewarding in formal academic terms by structuring the Day of DH as a collaborative publication. In terms of improvements, we have over the iterations changed the handling ethics clearances for images and connected to other social media like Twitter. 3 4 5 6 7 8 of entries, and tagging approaches. Finally, we conclude by reflecting on the challenges and opportunities for such communal or social research projects. We begin by examining what we believed we, as the organizers, were doing, which is leveraging the potential of social media to enable our community to build and maintain social capital, both within the DH community and beyond. Bourdieu's (1983) work on social capital emphasizes both the actual and potential resources available to the individual through participation in a network. Coleman (1994) focuses on the potential benefits to the individual. Putnam (2000) highlights the value of social capital to the community by equating community participation with civic virtue. Individuals involved in the Day of DH 2009 have had an opportunity to increase, extend, or consolidate existing social capital through selfrevelation within the framework of the day. The DH community in the larger sense has had a moment of opportunity for critical selfreflection. It should be noted, however, as it was by more than one participant, that the Day of DH is not a unique opportunity for building and maintaining social capital through social media. Many of the participants in the Day of DH 2009 also make frequent use of ongoing resources such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and their own blogs and wikis. About the Project Conception The idea for A Day in the Life of Digital Humanities 2009 came from a lecture by Edward L. Ayers titled "What Does a Professor Do All Day, Anyway?" Ayers -formerly of the University of Virginia and currently president of the University of Richmond -was an early computing historian whose "The Valley of the Shadow" project was a founding Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) project. In that lecture he reflected on how many people, including his own son, know little of what a professor does. As he puts it, In the eyes of most folks, a professor either portentously and pompously lectures people from his narrow shaft of specialized knowledge, or is a bookworm -nose stuck in a dusty volume, oblivious to the world [Ayers 1993]. The situation is even worse in the digital humanities where people not only do not know what we do as academics, but also seldom know what "humanities computing" or the "digital humanities" are. Contributing to this problem is the usual divergence of views within the field as to how to define it and how to name it. A Day in the Life of Digital Humanities addresses the question of definition by posing the question "what do we do" much as Ayers did. Rather than summarizing what he does, Ayers broke down and shared each step of his own work week. The Day of DH 2009 follows his example and expands upon it, organizing a participatory community to reflect as a community. The "Day in a Life of" organizing principle is not a new one. It has been a recurring motif in literature, seen in such work as Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Joyce's Ulysses, and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. It has also been used in the popular The Day in the Life series of photography books that document a country or continent in photographs taken over a 24hour period by a team of around one hundred photographers. The motif suggests the documentation of a subject's "real" life, emphasizing the ordinary aspects of their environment over the extraordinary. A day becomes any day. While it is inevitable that these projects lead to unusual reflection, where the act of observation affects the way that the participant acts, such reflection is, we believe a virtue in the humanities, especially when reflection is in aide of self definition. In other words, reflection is important to the humanities, and we have the experience in the humanities to do it well. While a participant's actions may be staged or deliberate, this does not necessarily mean that the events are unrepresentative. In the era of social computing, "A Day in a Life of" can also be reinterpreted online. There are Facebook groups like "A Day in the Life of ..." that use the theme for journalistic purposes. Blogs such as A Day in the Life of an Ambulance Driver follow the principle of "any given day" without specifying a particular one. Flickr features a dayinthelife group in the vein of the book series, with nearly 5500 members uploading digital photos on a predetermined day. One of these took place on just two days after the Day of DH 2009. Social Web 2.0 tools like wikis and blogging platforms make it relatively easy to enable a group of people to collaborate online and we are not the first to experiment with the possibilities of social Web 2.0 projects in humanities computing. The Suda On Line project, started in 1998, has demonstrated how such an approach can leverage a broader community
doi:10.7939/r3js9hn2v fatcat:ycvtxmqbxvfgdeadd2mreytzuy