Why do we need a Modernist DH Collaboratory?

Collaboration is a foundational method and ethos in the digital humanities and related fields, such as New Media Studies and electronic literature. Notable examples of group-based work in the modernist digital humanities include the Modernist Journals Project, the Modernist Archives Publishing Project, ModNets, He Do the Police in Different Voices, and Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde. In these examples collaboration takes a number of forms, falling anywhere along the spectrum ranging from face-to-face synchronous co-working environments to asynchronous crowdsourcing efforts that join the work of researchers from across the globe. What unites these projects is the necessity to join the effort of more than one person to create digital tools and projects, which often require a wide range of digital and analog skillsets; a great number of labor hours spent gathering and cleaning data, coding, encoding, creating visualizations, and other common DH activities; and access to many different kinds of equipment, personnel resources, and funding.

Despite the urgent necessity of collaboration in digital humanities projects, it still remains a difficult endeavor. How do you find a collaborator, especially if you are in a small institution with few internal resources for support? How do you communicate with collaborators who may be remote (in a wildly different time zone) or very many (and difficult to keep track of)? When conflicts arise, how do you resolve them? Who gets credit for the work, and how is it fairly apportioned? How do you articulate these scholarly contributions to advancement and tenure committees that are only familiar with traditional publishing? If you do not need the kind of long-term support implied by collaboration, where can you find opportunities for short-term consultation? After all, when a digital project is first brainstormed, sometimes what is needed is a sounding board of peers who can suggest certain platforms, workflows, funding sources and pool skills in programming languages.

To make inroads on these problems and questions, Margaret Konkol and Shawna Ross have organized a workshop on the topic of scholarly collaboration between modernist scholars interested in the digital humanities. This event will occur at the annual MSA conference in November 2018, bringing together many scholars with research specialties in modernism and experience or interest in the digital humanities, offers a strategic opportunity for jumpstarting peer to peer consultation and collaboration. In sum, the seminar aims to facilitate the practical development of collaborative projects by bringing researchers together to find partners for existing projects and/or to inspire through dialogue new collaborative projects.

Check this site for future developments in modernist collaboration. If you haven’t already, join our MLA Commons Group and join the conversation!