On Monday, March 25th, I spoke on a “Student Panel” at the CNI-ARL Digital Scholarship Planning Workshop (hosted by Northeastern University). While I’m not currently a student (unless this has all been a dream and I still am! Oh no!), I worked at the Northeastern University Library Digital Scholarship Group as a graduate student, in addition to my work on Our Marathon and with Digital Humanities Quarterly. I ended up talking a bit more about how digital scholarship centers support students, faculty, and other collaborators on and off campus, and I decided to share a revised version of some of those remarks here.
I know “outreach” and “programming” become abstract contexts (often made real by limitations of our resources like staffing, space, money), and documentation doesn’t solve all of our problems, but I wonder how we think about “generous interfaces” in digital and non-digital contexts: not just for our digital assets, but “generous methodologies.” Generous avenues of access that extend beyond a well-designed web site, an “open office” policy that is less open than its rhetoric suggests if “office hours” alone are a new, unfamiliar, intimidating and unwelcoming site of pedagogy. Forms of generosity that demystify our communities, our forms of scholarly and non-scholarly output, our ideas of value.
As someone who institutionally resides outside a digital scholarship group but serves as a mediator or collaborator with one at Brown, I think a lot about the legibility and the points of access available to a range of students and how things could be better. Here I’m thinking particularly about students (and faculty) who may not fit neatly with the dominant form of support, service, or collaboration at a particular institution. When we think particularly about students and their interests and needs, how do we move beyond a single abstraction (or beyond a binary like “undergraduates” and “graduate students”)? When we think of particular technologies and methodologies, how might we consider the ways that our investments in particular physical places, our forms of programming, instruction, and documentation, all should be designed to serve a range of publics and attendant contexts and use-cases?