[Note: this is a lightly edited and linked transcript of the Welcome that I gave for the PressForward Institute last week. — JFT]
It is so nice to be here and to meet you all in person. And I am so glad that you all are here to meet each other. This PressForward Institute is an opportunity to meet people with similar projects, shared goals, and of course, shared challenges. What is lovely about this gathering is that it is a meeting to share knowledge about knowledge sharing.
On a small scale we will be reproducing your knowledge-sharing publications, because we will be discussing reports of our explorations, lessons learned, and results confirmed. The PressForward team is also hoping that now that you have arrived, the travel is behind you and the “out of office” message is on, that you will be able to have the distance and perspective to think about both the forest and the trees — the biggest picture of your goals and challenges – and also about the small, incremental steps along the way.
We all are interested in sharing information. I’ve been at the Smithsonian for a year, which is long enough to automatically invoke the phrase “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” I think we all share this mindset, which makes for an excellent place to begin.
We also are interested in the practical and pragmatic questions about how to do this. We have a willingness to experiment and a commitment to learning by doing. Which is good, especially since we are in an ever-changing landscape of web publishing and an ecosystem of scholarly communication, which may or may not be adjusting as quickly as we would like. This environment, in turn, sparks our interest in experimenting and doing something to try to shape it for the better.
PressForward began, like other software-building projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, as a way to solve a technical challenge that was posing a professional challenge for academics. In this case study, it was the process of monitoring the open, web-based communications of the scholarly community in the digital humanities. Three by-products of that monitoring process also were important: sharing the results of that effort with others; creating a replicable process for doing that monitoring; and elevating the valuable work that otherwise might go unrecognized because it was in unfamiliar medium, or genre, or in an unfamiliar location.