March 24, 2016 by Amanda Visconti

Making it public (a Knight Foundation News Challenge proposal)

Humanities research and publication should be more than just writing and printing polished monographs. I envision a humanities where born-digital publication lets us document and celebrate the entire research spectrum, with

  • all critical work (teaching, learning, discovery…) by
  • all on campus interested in the humanities (students, staff, faculty at all levels…) using
  • all methods for critical thinking (writing, coding, curating, annotating, visualizing…) and
  • all forms of “making public” (ebooks, blogs, interactive websites, code libraries, datasets…)

…realized and made public through a university’s libraries.

To realize this vision, I recently submitted a proposal to the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge in collaboration with the Purdue University Press Director & Head of Scholarly Publishing Peter Froelich. The New Challenge will fund answers to the question “How might libraries serve 21st century information needs?” (You can comment on our proposal here—proposals are currently undergoing public review, commentary, and updating.)

Making it public: a more public humanities by co-evolving the digital humanities center & university press from LiteratureGeek on Vimeo.

Project description

We pursue this goal through a collaboration of two Purdue Libraries units: the Digital Humanities Center and University Press. This proposal would fund a “co-evolving” of these partners towards a sustainable workflow for libraries to make all kinds of humanities work truly publicly accessible, welcoming, and participatory.

Funds would support the Digital Humanities Center and Press using the coming year to focus on creating and testing best practices documents and workflows for humanities publication issues such as technical longterm sustainability, ethical crediting of project effort, and contracts that

outline and support generative collaborations among the Libraries and diverse campus humanities researchers. This work would include the development of a physical space dedicated to experimental, collaborative, public digital humanities building.

Several test case research projects involving a variety of campus roles, research areas, methods, and publication forms would be pursued and fully publicly documented. These example projects would focus on several areas of humanities endeavor with broad impacts:

  • works aimed at broader, public audiences (the humanities as radically relevant and inviting)
  • works supporting public interaction with and participation with research and learning
  • works throughout the life cycle of research (not just polished monographs, but mid-state publishing during a project, blogging, dataset publication, digital dissertations…)
  • broadly reusable work documenting research practices, workflows, and infrastructure

Project deliverables are both the published, born-digital humanities publication that the collaboration will support, and the publicly documented model of co-evolving a digital humanities center and university press to make a campus’ humanities research radically more public (made available both as blogs on successes, failures, and experiments during the collaboration, and as a whitepaper after one year of collaboration). Finally, we’ll host a THATCamp unconference on “making the humanities public” at the end of the year, which will allow others interested in these goals to meet, exchange ideas, and plan future collaborations.

How does this project advance the library field?

This project explores a co-evolution of two areas of the library currently undergoing rapid digital changes, supporting university press born-digital publishing and digital humanities exploration. The project will both deliver real born-digital digital humanities publications, and also document and publicly share the model (workflows, best practices, failures, successes…) we use to achieve those publications. By creating regular blog posts on successes, failures, and experiments during the collaboration, and a whitepaper after one year of collaboration, we aim to thoroughly make public this project about making the humanities public, allowing other libraries to build off what we learn and use our collaboration as a model for jumpstarting their own partnerships toward a more public humanities.

Who is the audience and what are their information needs?

The broad humanities community at Purdue—especially those not traditionally enfranchised to experiment and publish their work—will benefit directly from the collaborative model explored by this project: undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and School of Interdisciplinary Studies, department and Libraries staff, and faculty at all levels of contract.

More broadly, the international humanities community can benefit from the public documentation of this project’s evolution, and citizen humanists will benefit from the creation of humanities publications aimed at inviting, welcoming, teaching, and learning with this under-served audience.

Team members & their qualifications

This project will be led by two units based in the Purdue University Libraries: the Digital Humanities Center and the University Press & Scholarly Publishing Services.

Amanda Visconti, an Assistant Professor and the Digital Humanities Specialist in the Libraries, directs the Digital Humanities Center. Her background includes work at diverse digital humanities (DH) centers, including at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities in a variety of roles (2009-2015). She holds a literature Ph.D. and information master’s both focused on DH, and offers almost a decade of experience as a professional DH web developer. An active member of the DH community, Visconti was elected to the ACH executive council (2016-2020), runs a popular DH research blog (http://LiteratureGeek.com), and recently completed a wholly digital humanities dissertation with a central project (http://InfiniteUlysses.com) that has drawn over 20,000 unique visitors in its first year. Her unique mix of coding and design experience coupled with digital humanities scholarship supports this project’s creations of sustainable, ethical technical workflows for born-digital humanities publication.

Peter Froehlich is the Director of the Purdue University Press and head of Scholarly Publishing Services at Purdue University Libraries. He brings to this project wide-ranging experience in the publishing world and a dedicated interest in innovating through born-digital publication. Froelich worked 2006-2010 at the Indiana University Press, and holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.