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Invisible Work, Fungible Labor

With the approaching Symposium on Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities, I’ve been thinking increasingly about my transition from graduate work in a “traditional academic department” to working in a library. As a graduate student, I was aware of the fact that my work was rendered invisible by the fact that it was often not treated as work. Indeed, until very recently, graduate assistantships at private universities were not treated as real employees. And often graduate students are ineligible to become PIs on grants, or receive other opportunities that would allow them to advance in the field. Central to the idea that graduate students don’t “do real work” is the idea that their labor and research is somehow secondary or derivative of “real work” done by faculty. Even in the digital humanities, graduate labor is figured as research assistantships, project management positions, and coordination.

The issue of “centrality” in a research project (especially a funded research project in which there are “principal investigators”) is a problem for DH researchers in libraries as well as for graduate students. As a recent article in Digital Humanities Quarterly entitled “Student Labour and Training” points out, graduate student research outputs often come in the form of less academically viable formats (like blog posts and social media). The authors note that students’ “lack of involvement in the dissemination of project outcomes […] prevents both students and the academic field as a whole from seeing student research as tantamount to faculty research.” Arguably, the traditional outputs of conference papers and single- or co-authored publications allow students more room to diverge from the PI’s stated goals for the project. The idea that students could be writing and generating scholarly products that expand upon, rather than simply feed into, a faculty members’ stated goals is somewhat jarring in an academic landscape. To many, graduate students are apprentices rather than budding practitioners in their own right.

As I moved into the realm of practitioner (in the sense that I was considered a valid employee by FLSA and NLRA), I began to realize that, while some issues of labor disappeared, the issue of centrality to research remained. I have had the good fortune to work in a library that is open to exploring digital scholarship, and has indeed encouraged my efforts in the digital humanities. Yet, there is a still-persistent underlying question about the utility of some of the work I have done: “How are you serving the existing needs of the scholarly community?” Often, especially when new initiatives have been posed, the immediate question has been “Have you done a climate survey?” or “What are the preexisting needs of the campus community?” My reaction to this sentiment has been similar to that of Dot Porter’s to the OCLC report “Does Every Research Library Need a Digital Humanities Center”:

It is galling for these professionals to be told, as they are in the OCLC report, that “the best decision is to observe what the DH academics are already doing and then set out to address gaps,” and “What are the DH research practices at your institution, and what is an appropriate role for the library? What are the needs and desires of scholars, and which might your library address?” and especially “DH researchers don’t expect librarians to know everything about DH, and librarians should not presume to know best [my italics].” What if the librarians are the DH researchers? What if we do, in fact, know best? Not because we are brilliant, and not because we are presumptuous, but because we have been digital humanists for a while ourselves so we know what it entails?

I understand the impulse from librarians to take their cues from researchers in more “traditional” academic departments, especially considering the fact that library and information science is considered a social science, where climate surveys, environmental scans, and other such methodologies are common. However, the fact is that in the context of digital humanities, librarianship and information science as disciplines have greatly influenced the types of intellectual work that is being done in the field. To artificially remove this influence from the equation is a disservice both to librarians and to potential collaborators.

Part of this problem comes back to the issue of “centrality” I mentioned with graduate work. Acting as if the library’s (or a librarian’s) goals should be derived from the goals of faculty limits the potential impact of scholarship from librarians, either through limiting the media or venue through which it can be disseminated or limiting the findings it is allowed to make. And it’s not just the idea that librarians should be in service to faculty; it’s the idea that libraries (as organizations) generate priorities based on faculty priorities, which then filter seamlessly down to the librarians doing on-the-ground work. When talking about the complexities of librarians’ work (or service), Trevor Muñoz points out the significance of the venue of publication for the first major special issue on digital humanities librarianship: “Attending critically to this context means noting that this very welcome special issue on digital humanities and libraries was published in journal devoted to library administration” (emphasis in original). However, I would like to point out the significance of framing digital humanities as, primarily, a discussion for library administrators. It is, of course. However, it also contributes to the idea of DH in libraries as being a top-down issue, rather than one that is done in exploratory ways by librarians that feeds up into wider library (and, yes, university) goals.  

Even the promotional materials for the Invisible Work Symposium betrays some of the underlying sentiment about the role that libraries play in the wider university community. From the announcement:

Imagine, for example, a typical project between a professor of history and a university digital scholarship center. Is the digital scholarship center simply providing a service, or are they considered an equal partner in the work? […] Similarly, the digital scholarship center might be thinking about recycling the resulting code for use in other projects, contributing to broader digital scholarly efforts, and so on.

In this scenario, the labor of the “digital scholarship center” is always collectivized and always working with the intention of feeding into broader efforts. The assumption that there is always one mission for a group of library staff and that this mission is univalent and universally agreed-upon. I think that this view reduces the impact that individual librarians actually play in research projects. Which is not to say that libraries don’t have unified (and often stated) goals. Libraries frequently use strategic initiatives to promote specific areas, focus collection development and digitization around specific subjects, and play to the strengths of their employees and the wider university community. However, I’d like to posit that this is no different than how departments look for candidates in key areas or conduct cluster hires for faculty positions.

I think the main problem is that flattening the various perspectives and individual research interests of librarians exacerbates perceptions of library staff as “in service.” By acting as if librarians prioritize research solely upon the basis of administrative-level or department-wide mandates, we are basically saying that the work of librarians is fungible: “Anyone who can do this prescribed work in a procedural manner is qualified to do this job.” In treating the laborers who build and sustain infrastructure, design metadata schemas, and preserve and provide access to research as essentially fungible we are treating library spaces as neutral and failing to acknowledge the rhetorical and political impact of universities as sites of knowledge production. Pushing back against this notion is especially critical in a time when administrators see libraries as primarily empty student space, and when outsiders ask “Why do you need libraries/librarians when you have Google?

Since so many of the methods from the digital humanities are the intellectual descendents of research done in library and information science, it makes sense that librarians would own their intellectual contributions to DH work. In order to give librarians the institutional power to assert their ownership of their research, it is essential for us to acknowledge that library employees’ research agendas are not simply derivative of wider library goals (generated in some sort of nondescript aether of environmental scans). Rather the opposite is the case: the research interests of individual employees are essential to shaping the type of work that is done at an institutional level.

Open Access Week 2016

There is a serious, systemic problem in scholarly publishing that disadvantages academic authors, their institutions, the global research community, and the general public. The problem stems from the subscription-based model of scholarly publishing, whereby publishers place academic journal articles behind paywalls so that anyone can’t pay can’t read them.

Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue,  used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Open Access (OA) is a movement based on the principle that this situation is fundamentally unjust, and that the fruits of academic endeavor should be freely available to everyone. OA archiving and publishing are the two main strategies for accomplishing this goal, and they promise to benefit both the global research community and individual authors, moving published research into the open and thereby broadening its readership and generating more citations. OA is also fast becoming a requirement for recipients of research funding, as many public and private funding agencies are enacting public access policies to make the results of funded research accessible to all.

Open Access Week, Oct. 24-30, is an opportunity for the global research community to learn more about this important movement and the many ongoing efforts to make it the new norm in research and scholarship. To celebrate the occasion, FSU Libraries is hosting a number of workshops related to OA publishing, and we hope you’ll join us to learn more about OA and how it can benefit you as a student, teacher, or researcher. In addition, we’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight some important milestones in efforts to advance OA at FSU over the past year:

So, what can you do to advance the cause of OA and start taking advantages of the benefits it can bring to you as a scholar?

For more information, see our research guide on Open Access, or contact Devin Soper, Scholarly Communications Librarian at FSU Libraries’ Office of Digital Research & Scholarship. And don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter! #OAweekFSU

books and bytes

Discover DH: An Introduction to Digital Humanities Theories and Methods

For budding digital humanists, it can often be difficult to know what you need to learn. On top of writing for courses, exams, presentations, and learning the traditional work of your field, you now need to learn a series of unfamiliar methods and terms (many of them opaque acronyms: RDF, TEI, JSON). Even knowing where to ask for help is a challenge, since DH resources are frequently scattered across campus.

FSU digital humanists

A sample of the FSU DH network.

If you’re attuned to channels of communication in the digital humanities, you’ve probably seen a lot of learning opportunities this summer: DHSI in Victoria, HILT in Indiana, the DH conference (in Kraków this year). All of these are excellent places to immerse yourself in the field of digital humanities and to learn about the great work current scholars in the field are doing. There’s only one problem: these conferences and training events are prohibitively expensive. Even with scholarships and waived tuition, it can be very difficult to get yourself across the country (or the globe!) to learn about DH, especially if you’re in school.

This is why the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship is offering a 10-week workshop series on topics in the digital humanities. These classes are designed with busy students and scholars in mind. We will be offering two sessions per each weekly course, with one session in Strozier library and another in a different building on campus. The workshops are divided into “hack” and “yack”: sessions that are discussion-based and sessions focusing on learning a new tool or DH skill, respectively.

We’ll be offering sessions on the following topics:

  • Getting Started in the Digital Humanities
  • Markdown and GitHub
  • Managing Digital Projects
  • Text Analysis and Visualization
  • Copyright and Digital Projects
  • Introduction to Text Encoding
  • Digital Tools in the Classroom
  • Network Visualization
  • Mapping
  • Publishing in the Digital Humanities

More details about the individual sessions and scheduling are at the Digital Research and Scholarship website. You can also register for individual workshops on our calendar.

Come join us in exploring this exciting new area!

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Using maps to fill in gaps

Maps have long served as a tool for colonialism, by promoting conquest, dividing up land, and asserting ownership. This 16th century Europa Regina map exemplifies this, by positioning Europe as a world ruler, and sequestering other continents off to the sidelines. Indeed, maps often distort the size and shape of the world, so that European powers seem the most prominent and powerful within the image.

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Map of Europe as a queen, printed by Sebastian Munster in Basel in 1570.

The advent of many new digital tools has given us means to push back against the dominant narratives that maps tell us about our world. Tools like this map puzzle allow us to see how projections distort the sizes of certain countries. Mapping projects like those at Radical Cartography give us a window into how we can represent geospatial information differently and critically.

Digital platforms like Wikipedia also give us the opportunity to present new and different information about the world that could not necessarily be contained in paper resources. In that spirit, the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, in collaboration with the Department of Art History and the Caribes project. The focus of the edit-a-thon will be topics related to the Caribbean. We will edit and correct existing pages to add more resources, citations, and information. We will also create new pages about important topics that have not been entered into Wikipedia yet.

Wikistubsmap

A map of all the the Caribbean buildings that have stub articles in Wikipedia. Generated for FSU Libraries’ Caribbean Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 4/16/2016.

For the occasion, I decided to create a map of the Wikipedia stubs related to the Caribbean. I focused on the Caribbean buildings and structures stub list, since this project is a collaboration with an Caribbean architecture project (Caribes). I found the geographical coordinates for all of the entries that were categorized as stubs. This allows us to visualize the areas of the Caribbean that have less complete information in Wikipedia.

Mapping could be used to visualize many other gaps in Wikipedia’s information base, and this is certainly not the only area in which Wikipedia is lacking. However, digital tools and resources like digital maps and Wikipedia could allow us to shift the focus towards important but underrepresented figures, events, and movements in the world’s history. However, we can only accomplish this if we put time into building out those information sources.

Join us this Thursday April 14th, from 10a-2p in the Art and Design Library (2020 WJB) for the Caribbean Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Bring a laptop if you can, and we’ll provide the training, treats, and text resources.

So FSU passed an open access policy… what does that mean for me?

Perhaps you are a new professor at Florida State University. And perhaps you have some articles you would like to publish. However, there are a few things getting in your way:

  1. Publishing contracts often confusing and restrictive, leaving faculty with little control over their work once it has been published
  2. The journals you would like to publish in often keep your work behind a paywall so that only a fraction of the world’s population can access it (which decreases your the impact of your research)
  3. Journals that do allow you to make your work openly available often have high article processing charges (APCs) which you can’t necessarily afford

CcAVRFDXIAAQTSMTwo recent developments may help you with these conundrums. The first is the Faculty Senate Open Access Policy. This policy was passed by unanimous vote on February 17th of this year. It creates a safe harbor for faculty intellectual property rights by granting FSU permission to share scholarly journal articles for non-commercial purposes. Basically, this gives faculty the language to avoid overly-restrictive publication contracts, and allows them to more easily share their work, despite publishers’ efforts to put scholarship behind a paywall.

sm-diginolelaunchThe launch of DigiNole: FSU’s Research Repository comes on the heels of the OA Policy, and provides faculty with a platform for making their research publicly available online. DigiNole is an open access repository, which allows anyone to view the scholarship contained within it. By making all of FSU’s articles available in repositories like DigiNole, scholars and researchers can increase the visibility and impact of their research by 50-500%, according to several studies. You can even track your impact more easily with DigiNole, since faculty who deposit their scholarship get monthly readership reports with analytics on the use of their scholarship. Having easy access to these numbers can help with hiring and promotion, as it gives you concrete and tangible evidence of your impact.

The Office of Digital Research and Scholarship at the University Libraries specializes in academic publishing and open access. If you have any questions about DigiNole or the OA policy, contact Devin Soper (850.645.2600), Scholarly Communications Librarian at Strozier Library.

FSU digital humanists

Visualizing FSU’s Digital Scholarship Network

It can be difficult to get started in interdisciplinary fields like the digital humanities, since people and resources are sometimes fractured and spread across different departments, schools, and even institutions. As a new staff member, I encountered this problem first hand. I often needed to know about the happenings in digital humanities around campus, but struggled to find out what goes on outside of my own department in the library. Since I am a member of the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (and since we are always trying out and teaching digital research tools), I decided to use Gephi to solve this problem.

Gephi is used to create network graphs—visualizations that show connections between different things. The “things” that we are trying to connect are called “nodes” and the connections themselves are called “edges.” Scott Weingart’s excellent “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II” provides a detailed overview of the terminology and logistics of networks.

In the context of my project, the “nodes” are people, projects, and places on FSU’s campus. The “edges,” lines, connect people to places and projects, and projects to places. All this data was compiled into two separate comma separated value (.csv) files: one that described the different nodes, and another that showed which nodes were connected to each other.¹ I then uploaded these files into Gephi’s data laboratory.

Gephi automatically generated a very simple, grey, and bland network graph. I then edited the view so that nodes displayed different colors depending on what type of node it was. People are purple, projects are green, and “places” (departments/discussion groups) are red. I then changed the display so that the nodes were generally evenly spaced, which allowed for better visibility.² I also made the node labels visible, which allows you to see the names of the different entities in the digital scholarship environment at FSU. And here’s what the graph looks like!

network visualization

The FSU Digital Scholarship Network. For a larger, better-quality version of this image, click here

Now, this visualization is nowhere near the complete network of people doing digital work at FSU. It was really only generated from the people and projects that the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship has encountered in our short existence, but we will continue to expand this list as more people engage within and across this network at FSU. Our hope is that by visualizing the interconnectedness of different scholarly activities at FSU will facilitate the creation of new and better knowledge.³

If you are interested in starting a digital research project, but find this visualization overwhelming, please stop by the Percolator: our “Digital Scholarship Support Group”, every Wednesday from 3-5 on the lower level of Strozier in the Technology and Digital Scholarship suite. The Percolator is an informal space to workshop project proposals, explore new tools, and discuss issues in the field of digital scholarship.

FSU Libraries’ newly formed Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) provides support, infrastructure and consulting for technology-focused research projects in the areas of digital humanities, academic/digital publishing, data management, and more. We are focused on connecting people to people, building collaborative research partnerships across campus, and providing platforms for new forms of scholarship. Visit lib.fsu.edu/drs for more information.

Notes

¹ You can find the .csv files for this document here.

² I used a layout based on the “Fruchterman Reingold” algorithm, if you are looking to generate a graph like this one.

³ Are you doing digital work at FSU and not yet on our list? Add yourself here!

Capture

Government Documents @FSU Libraries #lovemyFDL

Co-authored by Jaime Witman

February has been designated by The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) as Love My Federal Depository Library month. But what is a Federal Depository Library (FDL), what does it have to do with FSU, and why should we love it? These are all great questions, so let’s get started!

A Federal Depository Library is a library that provides free, equitable access to U.S. government publications to the public. The Federal Depository Library Program or FDLP was created by Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to published government information. The FSU Libraries became a member of FDLP in 1941. This means that at FSU Libraries, government information and documents can be accessed by students, faculty, and local and visiting patrons for free.
So what is a “government document”? 44 U.S. Code § 1901 defines a government publication as “informational matter which is published as an individual document at Government expense, or as required by law” (Pub. L. 90–620, Oct. 22, 1968, 82 Stat. 1283). Simply, government documents are publications produced by the different agencies of government. These can be bills and statutes, the U.S. budget, presidential materials, congressional documents, judicial publications (court opinions and independent counsel investigations), executive agency publications, regulations, and much more.

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