From June 15 – 19, 2015, I attended the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The workshop focused on developing professional and transferable skills that include building scholarly profiles on social media (e.g. LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ORCID), developing or improving a professional website, funding sources to support digital humanities projects, and considering how we may deploy these skills in graduate and undergraduate programs to support students’ professional development. The course summary notes: “These skills–knowledge mobilization, working collaboratively, maintaining an effective online presence, clear-language research communication, networking, project management–can help digital humanists ensure that their work has the greatest possible impact, and that they have the greatest possible opportunity to develop and deploy those skills where they wish.” Thank you to Melissa Dalgleish (@meldalgleish) and Daniel Powell (@djp2025) for a fruitful discussion, helpful tips, and advice last week.
To begin, please note that this is a lengthy post. I am hoping to provide substantive coverage of my week at DHSI. The intention of doing so is two-fold:
- I am aware that many graduate students and early career faculty (particularly from underrepresented communities) lack the resources or supports to attend professional development workshops such as DHSI. I was fortunate to receive a DHSI scholarship and support from my university to attend. Thank you to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Maria Cimitile and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies Dean Anne Hiskes. And thank you to my department chair, Wendy Burns-Ardolino for being supportive of my work and research.
- I am deeply committed to sharing what I’ve learned at conferences with colleagues and friends. We don’t do enough of this in the academy.
I have used sub-headers to guide your reading. This post is broken into segments that focus on the following:
- Constructing an online presence
- Nuts and Bolts of Websites
- Funding Digital Humanities (DH) Projects and Example DH Projects
- Major Takeaways (& what I hope to do at DHSI 2016)
For a deeper understanding of what occurred within the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop, I encourage you to view the Storify feed created by Jodine Perkins. For an in depth look at what occurred on specific days, check out “The Life DHSI” by Steve Anderson. Dan Royles also created a feed documenting the work of individuals in the “Data, Math, Visualization, and Intrepretation of Networks” workshop.
CONSTRUCTING AN ONLINE PRESENCE
Aware that one’s online presence is a construct, “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” sought to encourage participants to actively engage with how their image and information is being used across the web. The workshop emphasized the fact that each of us already has digital footprints from our use of Twitter and Facebook to LinkedIn and Google+ profiles. Yet many of individuals do not create a coherent link between these profiles. This could be detrimental because many first impressions between employers and colleagues may be based on what is “Google-able.”
PRO-TIP: Open an incognito tab in Google Chrome or turn on private browsing in Safari and Google yourself. What comes up first? Did you learn anything new about what people may find?
This portion of the workshop sought to ensure all participants gained confidence in exploring and deploying digital tools and developed the basic elements of a strong digital academic presence. Four questions we asked ourselves throughout the week were:
- What do you need to do?
- When do you need to do it?
- What are you doing it for?
- How much is enough?
We discussed how we could enhance existing digital profiles. For those with a limited online presence, they learned what tools would be best suited for their needs. This conversation was part of a wider discussion concerning professional websites and search engine optimization (SEO).
PRO-TIP: If you do not have a consistent, professional headshot for your profiles, ask your university if you can get one done. If you cannot ask your university, ask a friend. Using the same or a few of the same images will allow for consistency and coherency.
The two images below illustrate what appears when I searched for the following: GVSU Liberal Studies and Kimberly McKee GVSU.
The next image below shows the terms that directed individuals to my website on June 17, 2015, when interviews I completed with news outlets regarding Rachel Dolezal appeared in American media. (Please note that a separate post concerning why and how adoptees and allies including myself came together the week of June 15th will appear next week.)
Knowing what terms are used to find my website gives me a better understanding of how people find me online. Again, it’s about recognizing that you have an existing digital footprint and taking control of your digital identity.
Yet what was extremely helpful for me as an advisor and colleague/friend to graduate students and early career faculty was our focus on creating professionalization plans. We kept the following questions in mind:
- What type of advising and/or professional development opportunities do they need to successfully mark themselves as burgeoning professionals in their chosen fields?
- How can we help them create a skills based resume on LinkedIn, for example, as well as on paper to adequately capture their capabilities?
In the case of LinkedIn, when promoting yourself for a particular job, we were encouraged to insert key skills associated with the job description under our names where one’s job title typically goes. We were also urged to change the summary description to ensure it’s tailored for the position. Because Melissa and Daniel recognize that sometimes those individuals looking at #altac careers, they also noted that we should ensure that our LinkedIn profile settings have been updated to ensure our “connections” are not receiving notifications when our profiles are updated.
When discussing Twitter, we reflected on the following questions:
- How do we value the social media site and what is our presence?
- Do we only tweet during conferences?
- Is Twitter part of the broader way we network and build community?
Melissa and Daniel also noted that depending on our intellectual community connecting via Facebook may or may not be a norm. For me, I connect with individuals affiliate with Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Adoption Studies via Facebook. In fact it was one method used to organize an upcoming 2015 National Women’s Studies Association roundtable and was how I received an invitation to write chapter in a forthcoming edited volume. The latter was a direct result of conversations I had with one of the co-editors at the Association for Asian American Studies conference.
NUTS AND BOLTS OF WEBSITES
The individual modules associated with professional development, more broadly (e.g. elevator pitch, tools for professionalization), built upon one another to allow workshop participants consider the development of a website to enhance their digital presence. We discussed concerns about privacy and whether sharing scholarship online may impede a contract with a university press or negatively impact a journal submission. This particular discussion also explored what it means to host one’s own domain (e.g. Reclaim Hosting) and then utilizing a plugin such as WordPress versus using WordPress directly.
As someone who came to the workshop with a working website based on the WordPress platform, I am looking into migrating my site to a new platform such as Reclaim Hosting in order to have more autonomy of my materials and files. I have yet to complete the migration process. I plan on looking into various options and making a decision within the year.
We compared two different website building platforms – WordPress versus Square Space and engaged in an active conversation about what happens when your ideal, first choice domain name is already taken. What are the costs benefits of buying .info, .net, .digital versus using .com? For me, I selected mckeekimberly.com because kimmckee.com and kimberlymckee.com were already taken.
A quick note about Square Space, many of my colleagues at the workshop who selected this option use many images, which Square Space seems more ready to handle in comparison to WordPress. This judgment is based on observing my colleague’s sites. Great examples of how images are used in Square Space from my class (#DHSI2015 #C32) are from Drew Barker, Greg Chan, and Allison Lange.
We also discussed best practices concerning what information we should include on our sites. Melissa and Daniel offered their knowledge and skills about to embed and link documents (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive files), video (e.g. YouTube), sound (e.g. SoundCloud plugin, podcasts), images (e.g. Creative Commons Flickr images, Instagram), and social media plugins (e.g. Twitter).
While website design may seem periphery to how people conceive of digital humanities, if we’re engaged in digital humanities we should have an online presence. This presence should not just merely exist on it’s own. Rather, it should demonstrate our fluency and participation with the online world. And remember, we already have digital footprints.
Even if you do not want to build your own website, making sure your presence on the social networking sites mentioned above is clear, crisp, and coherent is critical. To this end, make sure your profile on your university website tells viewers who you are and what you do. Don’t forget that your scholarly presence intersects with your work in the digital humanities.
FUNDING DIGITAL HUMANITIES PROJECTS AND EXAMPLES OF DH RESEARCH
The final portion of our workshop highlighted various funding schemes offered by Canadian and American government and non-government organizations. Below are the funding streams applicable to the American context:
As we pursue various funding schemes, it’s important that we learn how to clearly discuss one’s project to digital humanities scholars and laypersons. They suggested look at Karen Kelsky’s grant template from The Professor is In.
Melissa and Daniel also underscored the fact that many of funding organizations are deeply invested in ensuring that digital humanities projects have professional development plans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs working on the project and knowledge mobilization plans concerning how we intend on disseminating our findings. Moreover, these digital projects may also have both digital and print components. How do these two aspects of the overall project interface and intersect with one another? An example of a digital project is Canada and the Spanish Civil War.
As part of the weeklong workshop, I also took part in broader institute presentations. Five minutes presentations during the final two colloquia of the DHSI discussed the use of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), data mining, and network mapping across disciplines, including history, literature, and art history. These presentations also showcased the deployment of various digital tools to strengthen humanities in the twenty-first century. For example, Lindsay Kang discussed data mining in her presentation, “Robots Reading Vogue.”
This past week was a whirlwind of activity and skills building. After engaging in discussion with colleagues, I created my Academia.edu profile. I had yet to do so as I was not entirely sure of it’s “value-add.” In fact, I am still in the process of developing it and adding a list of publications and conference presentations. It is very much a work in progress. My goal is to at least improve its readability and content during the 2015/2016 academic year. This profile along with my Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ profiles are connected to my website.
Since I had an existing website, I used the time this week to ask myself questions concerning what information I want to share with viewers:
- How is this website a tool for my undergraduate students?
- How can I use this site to enhance the content they receive via syllabi and the Blackboard course site?
- How can digital humanities enhance students’ experiences in their courses? What skills should be developed/strengthened? What knew digital tools should be learned?
- How may I use my website to effectively support the professional development of graduate students and postdocs?
- How can we level the playing field for graduate students and early career faculty?
- How can we provide clear supports for faculty of color and other underrepresented faculty in the field of Digital Humanities?
- How can I share this information with my colleagues at GVSU and elsewhere?
- What does it mean to share information online? How is this linked to wider issues re: professionalization? What’s at stake when we don’t value open access?
I continue to make revisions to my website. I realize that it is text-heavy, so I am striving to include more photos to make it more eye-catching and appealing. I recognize that my website is a work-in-progress that will evolve and change based on the nature of my research, teaching, and service. In addition, as a work-in-progress it reflects the fact that my digital identity will never be a static presence.
Finally, the learning that occurred during DHSI was not limited to the workshops. Rather through conversations with colleagues attending the other workshops occurring throughout Week Three, my interest was peaked in using digital tools such as text mapping, GIS, and data visualization. I have already begun to consider what workshop(s) I would like to attend during DHSI 2016 as new research projects become further developed.
 The first five occurred during Weeks One and Two of the Summer Institute.