dhsocal

DH Collaboration: Oxy Meets with Whittier, UCLA, USC, and Claremont

AJ Strout

Having decided that collaboration will be the focus of their 2nd Mellon grant in the Digital Humanities, the DH team at Occidental College called a meeting with surrounding institutions in early December. The meeting was held in their very impressive Varelas Lab, a multi-use space whose walls are made of glass. The space opens completely on one side by way of a collapsable wall which acts as a kind of signal. When the wall is open, the room becomes a study space that students are encouraged to use. Closed, the space acts as a meeting room, a classroom, or a project presentation space.

In attendance at the meeting were members of Whittier College, UCLA, USC, and the Claremont Colleges. Together we discussed the possibility of cooperation and sharing resources, similarities between existing and developing programs, and Oxy’s plans to work regionally through their most recent grant. Following our comparative discussion about plans and work in progress amongst representatives from each attending college, a generous lunch was provided. As lunch wrapped up we had a brief discussion about next steps which include connecting with DH So Cal, and thinking generally about a follow up meeting for the day’s discussion.

This very productive day was brought to a conclusion with a tour of Occidental’s impressive DH spaces. In looking at these spaces, it’s easy to see how fruitful Oxy’s program has been. In the center of Johnson Hall is a fantastic multi-media art installation complete with a colorful LED light display. The unique installation, which adorns an entire wall, features several television screens. Through an easily accessed web program these screens are programmed to display a rotation of media which includes student projects, world news, and upcoming departmental events.

occidental-college-1

Regarding our conversation’s specifics, below is a series of summaries highlighting the main discussion which covered DH program objectives, future plans, and similarities between the DH programs at each of the attending Universities.

Claremont

The DH project at the Claremont Colleges is focused on pedagogy. The goal is to build a strong portfolio of digital course offerings through a decentralized program that reaches across the consortium. There are also plans in place to develop a DH space within the library; a collaborative studio space which can be used for teaching, studying, meetings, and developing DH projects. Current concerns regarding a DH program at the 5Cs includes sustainability for technologies acquired through the Mellon grant, communicating across five colleges, and questions regarding what kind of events should take place at the DH Spring Symposium. Building DH at the Claremont Colleges will take place through four main activities:

  • The Spring Symposium is meant to facilitate communication, encourage collaboration and inspiration, and offer learning opportunities for faculty and students.
  • For the Summer Institute 10 faculty members will be selected over two summers to receive grant money for skill building and method development in using DH tools.
  • Digital Course Development: Beginning in summer of 2015, selected faculty members will be paid to develop DH related courses with the assistance of undergrad and/or grad students. Their classes will be taught twice over the course of 5 years. At the conclusion of the grant, the result will be a portfolio of 32 classes that investigate the uses of technology through a humanist lens and/or improve existing courses with technology.
  • In years 3-5, faculty will apply for project grants that will be supported by teams of undergrad and grad researchers in the Collaborative Digital Research Studio led by a Project Manager. There is also a budget for technology and tools to be housed in the studio. Conversations regarding how to spend the technology budget will take place in 2015.

Occidental College: Center for Digital Learning and Research

A year ago Oxy applied for a second Mellon grant which would focus on extending faculty development through their Faculty Fellows Program. This program enables instructors to delve deeper into DH work alongside a team of post-doc fellows. Instructors re-think their courses and, if they wish, develop them beyond the traditional classroom into a lab setting. This facilitates a kind of hybrid DH experience where some courses are lecture or discussion based, and some have lab components. Courses in digital learning and research focus on a range of topics from theory to technology to digital scholarship.

Digital Course development at Oxy has resulted in a series of beta courses which are team taught by faculty and post docs. Through the digital arts labs, students are integrating their every day work into digital modes. In one of their courses, which is a 5 unit course with lecture and lab components, students developed a virtual walking tour and a digital mapping program.

Oxy DH courses are quite creative and engaging. Some of the courses are organized into themes. For example, next semester they’ll host a “music semester.” A couple of different courses will be held, one which explores Chicana music in LA, and another which explores the history of Hip Hop. Through the second course, a digital archive of Hip Hop ephemera is expected to be developed. Fall of 2015 will be focused on GIS, and the spring semester following that will highlight a queer mapping of LA.

Currently, Oxy is also developing a DH lab through the second part of their grant. They plan to renovate the library into an undergraduate research center. As with many Mellon liberal arts college DH grant recipients, Oxy’s DH program is closely tied to the library.

Amongst some of their developing issues, Oxy faculty report that there has been some confusion regarding their roles in relation to critical pedagogy and tech support. Issues like this are expected to be at the foreground of conversation in coming months.

Like the Claremont Colleges, Oxy has a set of major activities:

  • Summer Institutes: A series of summer workshops designed to build capacity and community amongst faculty.
  • Faculty Learning Community: Faculty are engaged throughout the semester in conversation and collaboration.
  • Digital Arts Lab/Center for Digital Arts: Students integrate their every day work into digital modes.

UCLA

UCLA, which seems to be the patron of DH, centralized their DH program in the library. Their program is focused on learning and collaborates with the institution’s Center for Digital Humanities which offers support for departments across the humanities. The DH program at UCLA features options for undergrads who can earn a DH minor through a series of requirements and electives:

  • An introduction class: DH 101
  • Three upper-division electives
  • One lower division elective
  • One Capstone Class
  • Additional interdisciplinary classes that intersect with DH

Grad students at UCLA have the option of earning a graduate certificate.

Since having wrapped up much of their work with Mellon, their focus is now centered on sustainability, time management, faculty, and sharing their findings with the community. Time and cash are, at times, an issue and have been at the center of recent discussions.

There are many ways to engage with the DH program at UCLA. There are experts across the campus, including a GIS specialist who works in text analysis.

USC

USC’s Mellon-funded DH program acts as a training program for humanist scholarship through the College for Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Mellon grant at USC provides funding for post docs and graduate students who engage in rigorous scholarship.

DH Space at USC is shared with the Media Arts and Practice department. This provides students with access to experts and faculty as they work through projects. Students also collaborate with the Digital Repository at the library where materials are digitized and then made available to the public. As a part of the DH program, students are required to be affiliated with an institute that will guide them in job finding. Their chosen institute also facilitates better research and more fruitful projects.

Like most of the Mellon DH programs mentioned, USC has allocated funds for an annual symposium which will begin next year. The symposium will focus on a single research based issue or project. Funds have also been dedicated to what they are calling a “Best Practices Workshop,” which will function much like our meeting with Oxy. It is a meeting/workshop meant to help faculty and administrators and staff working in DH to determine what is working, what future plans look like, and what does not work as well.

Whittier College

Present from Whittier College were Andrea Rehn, Professor of English and PI of the grant at Whittier, Laurel Crump who is head librarian, and Sonia Chaidez, Instructional Media designer and co-coordinator of DigLibArts. The DH program at Whittier College is one year into their Mellon grant and is also focused on pedagogy. Members of the college have established, however, that they are first in need of digital classrooms. Following this need, the plan is to support faculty in developing new skills and interests. Like with the Claremont Colleges, stipends have been dedicated to enable faculty exploration of the DH landscape, or meet with other interested parties to engage in discussion and possibly collaborate. Speakers have been brought to campus to build awareness and knowledge two or three times each year. So far these events have been successful and well attended.

To meet the needs of the DH grant at Whittier College, new staff have been hired. They have opted out of a post doc initiative and instead designed a permanent position. The person in this position acts as a liaison between the library and the faculty. This position is held by Anne Cong-Huyen, who also teaches a class every year. Another component of Anne’s position is to help faculty think critically about technology use in their teaching.

Because there is a digital divide on their small, intimate campus, they are interested in teaching students new skills, but not without careful consideration. DH at Whittier is determined to use technology in a critical and thoughtful way.

DH members at Whittier College are also focused on resources. They’ve acquired technologies and a space in the library but are interested in de-centering their program. They feel that, if they put all their resources in one place, faculty won’t have access. Other topics under discussion include how they’ve been working with faculty. Seed grants have been distributed in a relatively open fashion. Moving forward, they want to bring more focus to the program and develop a solid process for doing so.

Whittier is also thinking about adding a DH related major or minor, perhaps in film or media. They currently have an on-campus interdisciplinary design-your-own-program titled the Whittier Scholars Program, which may be expanded to link with their DH program. This will move the project beyond reaching faculty alone and facilitate direct contact with students.

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2014 Digital Frontiers Conference – Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals:
 
The University of North Texas Libraries and Digital Scholarship Co-Operative seek submissions of conference presentations based on the use of digital archives, social media, and digital tools for humanities research for the third annual Digital Frontiers Conference and THATCamp, September 18-20, 2014 at UNT. Submissions may include individual papers, fully-constituted panels, birds-of-a-feather discussions, hands-on tutorials, audio-visual/multimedia, or posters.
 
We encourage contributions from anyone who creates or uses digital collections, including scholars, educators, genealogists, archivists, technologists, librarians, and students. We welcome submissions from local and regional historical and genealogical societies, and anyone working in the public humanities. The goals of this conference are to bring a broad community of users together to share their work across disciplinary and administrative boundaries, and to explore the value and impact that digital resources have on education and research.
 
Possible Topics
 
  • Specific ways digital libraries have changed the state of research
  • Digital tools and methods for conducting research
  • Using digital collections in the classroom
  • Using digital libraries for research on any humanities topic
 
Proposal Types
 
Digital Frontiers is accepting proposals for:
 
  • Individual papers/presentations
  • Panels or Roundtables
  • Birds-of-a-Feather Discussions
  • Hands-on Tutorials & Workshops
  • Posters (36” x 48”)
 
Individual Papers/Presentations
 
Abstracts should be no more than 250 words in length; proposals for fully constituted panels or roundtables should include abstracts for each presentation.
 
Panels
 
Toward achieving the conference goals, we encourage panels to be organized to represent a range of professional backgrounds and experience.  Proposals that include diverse perspectives (i.e. faculty, students, community members, and/or archivists) will be given preference over homogenous panels. We also encourage alternative panel formats (pecha kucha, lightning talks followed by small group discussions, or others) that will facilitate dialogue and enlarge participation.
Please submit one 100-word abstract for the overarching panel theme, along with 250-word abstracts for each paper.
 
Posters
Project updates, single-institution case studies, and preliminary research can be presented as an academic poster. Proposals should be in the form of an abstract of 250 words describing the topic to be presented. Please do not submit the final poster! Further guidelines and specifications will be provided upon acceptance.
 
Birds-of-a-Feather Briefs
 
Birds-of-a-feather sessions are networking opportunities in which presenters will lead an informal discussion about a chosen topic for fellow practitioners. Proposals should be in the form of an abstract of 250 words describing the topic to be discussed.
 
Hands-On Tutorials
 
Share your knowledge about a research tool, software, or methodology. In 250 words, explain what kind of tutorial you plan to provide and how this tutorial is intended to benefit the audience. 
 
Digital Frontiers is growing and we are excited to work with individuals to ensure that you are able to participate. Due to anticipated number of submissions, the program planning committee may request that an individual’s contribution be presented in an alternate format such as a Birds of a Feather Brief. 
 
Peer Review
 
A panel of scholars will review proposals and make recommendations to the Program Committee.
 
Deadline
 
 April 15, 2014
 
Submissions
 
  • Submit proposals online.
  • With all submissions, please include a brief professional bio (100 words or less – do not send CVs) and specify any A/V or other technical needs with your proposal.
 
Conference Timeline
 
  • April 15, 2014: proposals due
  • May 2, 2014: notification of acceptance
  • September 18-19, 2014: Conference
  • September 20, 2014: THATCamp
 
 
Jennifer Rowe, MLS
Liaison Librarian to the College of Public Affairs
& Community Service
Research & Instructional Services
University of North Texas Libraries
940-565-3980

Whittier College Digital Scholar – job posting

Whittier College
Digital Scholar – Position Announcement
Whittier College, a 4-year liberal arts college in Southern California seeks to hire its first digital scholar. This dynamic and enthusiastic candidate will help create and manage a newly remodeled collaborative digital workspace to be housed in the campus Library. The digital scholar will guide a team of faculty, students and technology specialists to support individual and campus-wide digital initiatives. We are particularly interested in a scholar who can inspire and implement the College’s commitment to innovative pedagogies associated with digital technologies. A generous Andrew Mellon Foundation grant of $750,000 provides bridge funding to create this permanent position.
Major Responsibilities:
• Promote the innovative and evolving use of technology to advance the liberal arts curriculum at Whittier College
• Research and lead development initiatives to identify emerging technologies, industry trends and best practices that are appropriate to the College’s environment
• Promote and support the use of digital technologies to enhance hybrid learning, the use of web-based collaboration tools, mobile learning technologies and games and simulations in multi-user virtual environments
• Serve as a liaison to faculty, informing them about options to integrate technology into their pedagogies
• Promote the conceptualization, design, development, and assessment of scholarly digital projects
• Coordinate training opportunities for faculty to increase their understanding and awareness of established and emerging technologies
• Engage faculty and students in collaborative scholarship and the creation of knowledge using emerging digital technologies
• Advance collaboration with other other colleges, including efforts to expand undergraduate research
• Be knowledgeable in the production of audio and video content in support of teaching and learning, and digital media, electronic media presentation, production, and distribution tools
• Teach an annual course in your area of specialization, after year one
• Participate in campus governance committee work, after year one

Qualifications:
• Graduate degree in a Humanities field (PhD preferred)
• Evidence of successfully created and managed digital projects
• Successful work experience with students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and with various levels of technical expertise.
• Relevant experience working in higher education
• Active involvement in academic communities related to digital scholarship (NITLE, EDUCAUSE, HASTAC)
• Demonstrated effectiveness in a teaching environment
• Sophisticated understanding of digital projects and publishing
• Familiar with digital repositories
• Conversant with digital methodologies, geographic information systems, data visualization and other modes of digital scholarship
• Exceptional organizational, presentation, project management, interpersonal and communication skills
• Works effectively across disciplines
• Working knowledge of Learning Management Systems (Moodle preferred)

To be considered for this position, please email your CV with cover letter, three references and salary history in a single PDF file to: lcrump@whittier.edu.

Applications will be reviewed beginning December 10th, and will be accepted until the position is filled. The start date for this position is open for negotiation, but preferably will begin by Spring, 2014.

Whittier College is a nationally recognized, selective, independent liberal arts college with a diverse student body of approximately 1600 undergraduates and is distinguished by its small size and innovative interdisciplinary programs. The campus is located on a 95-acre hillside18 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. We have a long history of commitment to equity, reflecting our Quaker origins, and our student body mirrors the diversity of the region. We are an official Hispanic-Serving Institution and have had two Title V grants. Our faculty, committed teacher-scholars, weave issues of diversity into their work with students. We seek to attract and retain a highly qualified and diverse faculty (AA/EO).

Post-Baccalaureate Fellow position at Oxy 2013

Mellon Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Center for Digital Learning and Research

The Center for Digital Learning and Research (CDL+R) at Occidental College offers a one-year Mellon Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship focusing on visual argumentation and interactive or pervasive modes of learning.  The Mellon Post-Bac will explore the implications of emerging technologies, working closely with CDL+R staff and Occidental College faculty and students on a variety of digital and experiential projects.

We seek a recent college graduate who can serve as a catalyst in experimental scholarly work being conducted at Occidental at the intersection of information, technology, and social spaces.  The successful candidate will contribute to investigations of transformative learning, support CDL+R initiatives for developing digital media scholarship at Occidental College, and advocate for these projects in their interactions with students and faculty.

Requirements for the position include a Bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) from an accredited institution.  Major and minor are not specified, but disciplines of preferred study include political science, world affairs, history, languages and literatures, music, psychology, cognitive science, media studies, geography, sociology, philosophy, and religious and/or cultural studies.  Desirable qualities include: prior experience in interdisciplinary academic contexts, design experience and aptitude, and specialized knowledge of tools, platforms and methods for data visualization and/or game-based learning.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

 

  1. Assist in the development and implementation of a custom-designed web application and media installation for a major new center at Occidental College for the study of global affairs, politics and foreign language area studies.
  1. Assist in the planning and implementation of a pervasive game to develop digital media fluencies amongst Occidental College students.
  1. Work with faculty and students across the curriculum to help them learn and adopt new ways of incorporating digital content and technologies into their teaching and learning.
  1. Develop and conduct training sessions, workshops, and a speaker series around topics of techno-pedagogy, new modes of digital scholarship and publishing, and the development, use, and assessment of digital content and technologies in instruction and research.

Occidental’s Center for Digital Learning and Research

Occidental College is in the midst of an ambitious, forward-looking effort to re-imagine its library space and services as an Academic Commons, a scholastic environment that makes visible the institution’s commitments as a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college.  A key element in this transformation is the Center for Digital Learning+Research, a campus center designed to enable useful connections among digital content, technologies, and services to support teaching, learning, research, and new types of scholarly work for faculty and students.  The Mellon-funded Post-Baccalaureate Fellow is expected to demonstrate and support modes of innovative learning that will help shape and define the Academic Commons.

The center supports faculty in the exploration of new pedagogies and practices, in the use of course management systems and classroom technologies, and in exploration and development of incubator programs, web tools, e-publishing and digital collections.  The professional staff actively creates connections among faculty, students and partners beyond College boundaries to foster exploration, experimentation and innovation, especially in new applications of digital technologies to scholarly work.

About the College:

Occidental College is in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in the northeastern corner of the city of Los Angeles.  The College offers a unique combination of a rigorous academic program, intimate scale, a diverse student body, and all the resources of Los Angeles.  An interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to the liberal arts takes place in a close-knit community of excellent teacher-scholars and involved students that focus on creativity, academic accomplishment, civic engagement and making a difference.

Occidental’s location in a world city on the Pacific Ocean and near the mountains and deserts of Southern California offers ready access to the broadest array of activities and proximity to internationally important libraries and museums, not the least of which are the Huntington Library, the Getty Center, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, Cal Tech, and the Claremont Colleges.

Application Requirements

In addition to a letter of interest, which should address how to best foster digital scholarship projects tied to visual argumentation and pervasive modes of learning in the context of a liberal arts college, please include a current resume and three references (confidential letters of recommendation encouraged).

THATCamp SoCal 2012

I spent Friday enjoying the great workshops and conversations at THATCamp SoCal, held at CalState Fullerton this year (this has been an annual event for a couple of years now). Due to family illness, I was only able to attend the first of the two days.

Morning Session:

After melting my brain with some Zotero API discussion, in which I was clearly in over my casual-Zotero-using-head, I moved over to the Project Management Session. This kind of session hoping is more than ok at THATCamps – it’s encouraged. As Amanda French reminded us “vote with your feet” – the objective of attending a THATCamp is to get some useful new skills/insights/connections. Campers are encouraged to go where they will be most productive.

The project management session was great for me. USC’s Tim Stanton was great – clear, concise, and to the point. I can see why he’s good a managing projects. You can see what we covered in the collaboratively authored GoogleDoc – another common feature of THATCamps. Much of what I took away was re-emphasizing the value of project management and the need to deal with infrastructural challenges before the work gets started. The questions around how to measure time and compensation don’t get any easier once you’ve secured the grant. There is little else that can wreck as much havoc on a project timeline than running into staffing issues.

Noon:

We’re in the middle of what’s known as the “Dork Shorts” session, in which a speaker gets five minutes to share a project, talk about an idea, ask a questions. This is a genre of presentation popular within DH circles. It’s sibling, the PechaKucha session is more formal, with 20 or so timed slides. Both are designed to imbue knowledge transfer with fun – something most of our conferences could use more of.

In the course of the dork shorts there have been a couple of great projects mentioned that I’d like share:

Grace Ye is talking about the Re/Collecting Project, which “is an “ethnic studies memory project of California’s Central Coast”—you can call it Re/Co for short. Our aim is to digitally capture and make publicly accessible the rich history of the diverse—yet under-documented—communities of the region, which includes San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. The images, documents, stories, and mementos that we digitize generally cannot be found in any public repositories. Instead, they reside with individuals—in their family albums, in their attics or garages, in their memories. By digitizing these materials, this project will make centrally and publicly available historically significant materials and stories. We thus seek to encourage community and academic research by providing information-rich materials for a regional understanding of these local communities.”

The photo montage that she’s displaying while talking is absolutely gorgeous and I’m struck by the great connections that she’s made with the local community. When the project holds  “Re/Collecting Days,” they invite families and individuals to recollect their stories as well as to participate in collecting their story materials for digital preservation and access. From what I can see here, these events do a beautiful job of integrating oral history, art and visual culture curation, and community-engaged learning. For more information you can follow the jump above and/or contact Grace at  (gyeh – at- calpoly – dot- edu).

This next tidbit came as a response to an open query that someone made during his short – basically he’s looking for a variety of image recognition tools. One particularly good example was cited: The Real Face of White Australia, which uses a face detection script to generate its content. The  experimental browser forces a user to think about the paths through the collection and does something different in terms of navigation. It’s a cool project and it certainly offers some facial recognition technologies that might be leveraged elsewhere.

Afternoon session:

We’re in the big room and I’m learning about both Scalar and Text Modeling/Data Mining this afternoon.

Scalar

Matt Delmont’s Nicest Kids In Town Scalar project was already familiar to me (we’re family), but I’d not had the chance to work with the interface myself since it had gone into its more public mode this spring. Scalar is a platform for  “born digital, media rich, scholarly publishing” and it comes out of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at USC. You can see the video that Craig Dietrich shared with us that introduces the platform and its affordances. While a networked publishing platform that can create a variety of narrative paths might sound daunting, it was dead easy. We made our own little books right there in about a half of an hour. Sure, we were using some provided content, but in terms of working with the interface and authoring architecture, I’m not sure it gets much easier. What is particularly exciting for me about this ease of use is that it makes possible envisioning bringing students into the authoring process. I was so tickled that I’m exploring using the platform to have my Creating Archives students author a scalar book this fall.

Text Modeling/Mining

The last session for today is Scott Kleinman’s  intro to text modeling and mining. This is a big topic (no pun intended here) for the “Big Data” folks within DH and Ted Underwood was virtually present as the guru in the room by way of frequent citation.

As Scott pointed out, text modeling can be used for:

improving search and retrieval

text classification (genre)

text clustering (revealing similarities and differences)

Text modeling (revealing meaningful components)

text visualization (rendering imperceptible patterns visible, esp in ‘big data’)

He walked us through the workflow – from tokenization to visualization – and introduced a variety of algorithms that might be used. We also looked at some sample projects, like the Lexomics work at Wheaton and Matthew Jocker’s analysis of 19th century fiction.

Scott, citing @Ted_Underwood on topic modeling: argues that its “a way of working backward from texts to find topics that COULD have generated them.” That is, one can use big data to think not only about a large number of texts, but also to think about possible cultural contexts out of which those texts arose. We had a brief bit of discussion on issues around certainty and positivism, which are critiques that seem lurk at the edges of the more quantitative DH methods. I’m sympathetic to the critiques, given that I’m more interested in understanding interpretation as an act of poeisis, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to understand more about text modeling and big data – in fact, I like to wonder if the two are actually harmonious, but that’s for another post.

 

 

Site Visit 1: UCLA Research Commons

Part of our work this fall is to learn from other people who have created spaces designed to foster or enable digital humanities work. Our first trip took us down to the bright and open Research Commons in the YRL Library at UCLA. Zoe Borovsky and Michael Samojlik – to whom we are most grateful for the time and good conversation — very graciously hosted us for a half-day visit.

YRL Commons photo courtesy of: today.ucla.edu

The Commons space was part of a major two-floor renovation at the YRL and was designed to foster collaboration and innovative pedagogy.  We spent some time talking to Susan Parker, Deputy University Librarian, about the planning process and part of what struck me was the willingness to move forward, despite not being sure how the space would be used and what kinds of needs it might address. As she put it – the University Librarian’s answer to many questions was “I don’t know.” Rather than a lack of planning or research (of which there was a lot!), I think the UL’s response correctly signaled the ways in which it is difficult to predict use for collaborative, open places. While this kind of approach enables fluid future use, that fluidity can pose challenges.

The Research Commons was initially conceived as a collaborative and pedagogical space, but usage thus far has largely been individual. With a real lack of seating on the UCLA campus for studying (approx 3% of need!), it’s easy to see why this open, inviting, and comfortable space has become an undergraduate favorite. While usage is great (no space should be empty)– the regular use of the space by individual students studying and enjoying their coffees, means that the space is not available for the seminars and research collaborations that were initially envisioned. Part of what the Research Commons needs, and is getting, is a better reservation system. The Commons is an evolving project and the staff has been attentive to actual use and imaginative in their approaches to the gaps between hopes/dreams/goals and current practice. They’ve also been honest about what does and doesn’t work – like some of that lovely furniture. Our hosts shared their hard won realization that tables that are too low are hard to work at and those sexy, highly mobile desks that make for great modular rooms aren’t so great when you need to spread out and pour over books, pages, or screens.

Part of the lesson learned here is that space management can be a full time task. The central area pictured above is just one of four areas in the commons, each of which has its own restrictions and usage needs. For example, a separate funding stream has enabled a BEAUTIFUL workstation with a rear projection screen.

Rear projection screen and workstations

Projector in the equipment room

This enables large-scale presentation of 3D mapping and data visualization, with ports in from the five work-stations in the room. This is a drool-worthy space to be sure, but it’s also technology heavy, which means it has the potential to be technician heavy. Where there are tools, there must be people who can trouble-shoot and operate. Adding to the labor concerns is the lack of clear architectural demarcation, which means that monitoring use and mediating noise expectations has been part of the new work of YRL staff. I share the surprise of YRL librarians that students are deeply wedded to the notion of a quiet library – going so far as to “shhh” staff!

Just behind this space is the Digital DH Hub and sandbox space, where Johanna Drucker and Jan Reiff have been experimenting with studio/workshop approaches to collaborative DH work and pedagogy.  With locking doors, the space enables long-term work with materials from special collections and the ability to leave behind one’s computer etc. when you run out for some fresh air and sunshine. Which, it turns out, is crucial for a happy working environment. However much we imagine the scholar laboring in the dark shelter of archive or computer lab, she needs sunshine and air. Windows, we learned, are very important.

Maybe we should all take a page from the MITH redesign and get garage doors! We’ve taken notes, an album full of pictures, and our heads are abuzz with ideas. Thanks again to the YRL and UCLA DH crew!

-Jacque with Allegra Gonzalez, who also provided photos.