Our presentation at ASTR ("Digital Methodologies" working session)

22 Nov 2013

Posted by amy

In early November, Naomi, Scott, and I participated in an "electronic roundtable" focusing on methodologies and tools deployed in the digital humanities, organized by Sarah Bay-Cheng (SUNY Buffalo) and Debra Caplan (Baruch College, CUNY) for the annual American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) conference in Dallas. It was a truly excellent session -- more like an "electronic poster session" because the participants demonstrated their projects on laptops as everyone circulated in the room. The session ended with a fascinating all-group discussion about some of the issues that our position papers (distributed in advance) brought to the foreground, e.g. how each of us is dealing with questions of public vs. private publication and the problematics of labor in DH.

We offered a paper and demonstration of our (this!) web portal, which is designed and maintained by Scott and powered by the open-source content management platform Drupal. One of the things we emphasize in the paper is the fact that our Drupal web site not only allows us to have a public presence for HWD but also (behind the scenes) is a robust workflow and data-management tool. Our project presents several procedural challenges, including the large number of files to manage (one for each page in the diary -- nearly 1,200 in total), the geographic dispersal of the editorial team (currently, seven people at three CUNY campuses), and a multi-staged workflow (initial transcription of each page, two rounds of tandem proofreading and revision, and final approval). To address these challenges, Scott used Drupal to create an online tool (which we call the "Workbench") that not only allows each member of the editorial team to work from any location but also automates the process of moving assignments from person to person. Drupal offers the additional benefit of maximizing our options for future development, adjustment, and growth; for example, we can use it to host the digital edition of HWD when it is ready for the public. We think that editors working on other documentary-editing projects might find our use of Drupal interesting, so we are discussing and demonstrating the Workbench at academic conferences and other forums.

If you're curious to learn more about how HarryWatkinsDiary.org is our "command central" in many different ways, you can read our paper -- as well as the other participants' position papers (and the rich discussion we had online before the conference) -- on the blog that Sarah and Debra created for the working group: http://astrdigitalmethods.wordpress.com/ We are grateful to Sarah and Debra for putting together such a dynamic and interesting session, and to the other participants for inspiring us with their work!