The 2017 Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute concluded a few weeks ago, but it’s really more of a beginning than an ending. In addition to having four days together to work on projects imagined in the proposal process many months ago, participants in SCI concluded our time together feeling like we had forged a community. As Jeana Jorgensen wrote in her #TriangleSCI 2017 Wrap-Up blog post:
One unexpected benefit is that I now feel like I’m part of a cohort, not just with my team (who are AMAZING) but also with all the scholars in attendance. I follow a lot of them on Twitter now, and I’m invested in their work. Just now I saw that one of my colleagues liked a tweet of mine from the conference hashtag, and it filled my heart to know that someone’s cheering for my progress.
I might wager that scholarly community is just as important as scholarly communication; not only do we need to communicate with one another (and the public) for our work to have any real meaning, but we also need to have that sense of belonging, of camaraderie, to help situate us in the world. We need to know that there are others who care passionately about the same materials and methods we do, who are committed to researching and teaching them. It makes the grind of institutional (or altac) life feel a little less lonely.
It’s difficult to convey what TriangleSCI is like, since it’s so different from traditional academic conferences, and so focused on fostering collaboration and community. So the best way to get a sense of the SCI experience is to see it from the perspective of the participants. Many of us were active on Twitter throughout the program, and highlights of that activity have been collected in this Storify thread. If you scroll through here you’ll be able to get a sense of the people in the room, the conversations we were having, the engagement with people out on the net, and the food, drink, and fun that were part of the whole experience. The Storify has photos, and a sampler slide show is also included below.
Some participants have already set up web sites for their projects, blogged about their experience, and written an article for Inside Higher Ed. Here are some links where you can read more from their perspective:
- #TriangleSCI 2017 Day 1
- #TriangleSCI 2017 Day 2
- #TriangleSCI 2017 Wrap-Up
- How Can We Make Scholarship More Relevant?
- Telling Medieval Stories: Prolegomenon
- Digital Storytelling and the Future(s) of Multimedia Scholarship
- Storytelling and the Triangle SCI Conference [podcast with transcript, with an overview of the program]
Part of the TriangleSCI experience is excursions in the evenings to the neighboring universities and cities for walking tours and dinners in local restaurants, and on one night, a visit to the National Humanities Center, tucked into the woods in Research Triangle Park. On that evening, we eat and drink and talk with colleagues from the Humanities Center, local universities, and the broader community. The remarks given that evening by Josh Sosin, a member of the TriangleSCI advisory board, convey what the National Humanities Center and the Scholarly Communication Institute are about. Here’s a transcript provided by Josh:
At this year’s SCI dinner at the NHC I had the honor of addressing SCI participants, NHC staff and fellows, SCI Advisory Board members, local worthies, and the crew of deer and squirrels who must wonder what takes place in the strange glass temple in their woods. Paolo thought it might be nice to put my comments down ‘on paper’ for the blog. Here goes.
<story>Thanks, it’s always a joy to have dinner here at the NHC. I like dinner. When I was a kid dinner at our house was usually a three-hour affair, and raucous. My friend James used to love to come eat with us. “I love coming to dinner at your house,” he’d say; “your family is always fighting.” “James, James,” I’d say; “that’s not fighting. That’s spirited debate.”
It was true. Dinner was where ideas happened, where we shared with each other our daily triumphs and failures, tested out ways to be in the world, discovered listening and empathy. Dinner was where we fashioned community by talking like one.
This year’s SCI is about storytelling in scholarly communication. The subject is powerfully interesting by itself, but especially so in an intellectual community that often privileges doing and making and building, over talking and deciding. So, this year’s SCI is like being back at the dinner table.
My job tonight is to say something relevant to the SCI. I am terrible at following instructions. So, I prepared a few words about the NHC, where I was fortunate to have been a fellow a few years ago. I’ll mention a few qualities of the place that I really valued.
First, the freedom from deliverables. But we have to come back to this, because this isn’t quite the truth.
Next, the freedom from distraction. But, you know, that’s not quite right either. Really, it’s the freedom to choose your distractions.
And there is a rich menu of choice here because another quality of the NHC is diversity. Each year the NHC brings together around 35 Fellows from a wide range of places, levels of seniority, institutions, disciplines, and scholarly dispositions, and puts them here, in this beautiful spot in the woods.
Not just a menu of distractions, but a venue too. Here. The room where we sit. Where during the day, every day, the Fellows gather for lunch, seek respite from their own minds, road test ideas with others, sit with peers and learn some of the ways in which the world is quite a lot bigger than the corners that they inhabit.
It is great. I loved it. Look around. The space is great; but, you know, I have space now. The freedom from distractions is awesome, but I do shut my office door sometimes. The room to have ideas is fantastic, but even now I still manage to have ideas at work. But what I realize I don’t have now, and haven’t probably since college, is the regular, ready-made opportunity to sit round the table with a rotating group of colleagues, a kind of professional ‘family’ whom I did not choose but in whose company a person can grow and thrive, sharing a meal, day after day. That is magical.
And there’s a tempo to the day here. Colleagues trickle in, share a morning coffee, maybe read the paper, retreat to their offices, pop out occasionally to see what lunch smells like, chat a bit, return to their offices, emerge to share lunch with new people, return again to their offices, pop out to the kitchen for afternoon chat over leftover desert, get back to work; then drinks and discussion in the evening. It’s like being at home, in the kitchen, at the dining table.
And if you know anything about the Triangle SCI you know that it breathes the same air, shares the same life-force as the NHC. Diverse teams of people come together in the woods, with no required deliverable (again, this is not true…we’ll return to it); there’s a shifting terrain of venues—now we’re all in one room, now in groups, cross-pollinators jumping from one team to another—a rich menu of distractions, smart people to chat with, beautiful spaces to walk in. And above all: a steady, relentless, crashing torrent of food. Opportunities to sit and eat, stand and eat, walk and eat, talk and eat. And then eat some more.
At first I thought all that food was just the kind of extravagance one expects from a professional conference center. But whatever the cause, I am convinced that it is central to the SCI mission. It fills the dinner table around which we talk and think, build ideas, and become a community.
Let me explain the two small lies I told a minute ago, that there are no required deliverables at the NHC and SCI. For, these two programs share another crucial quality: the key deliverable is the process itself, the process of talking and doing, of nurturing collaboration and conviviality (and returning to your home community ready to do the same). And that too is an essential kind of scholarly communication, one rooted in process, community, shared commitments and habits of mind.
And this kind of communication is also a kind of doing, maybe even the most important kind of doing. My friend James and I aren’t really in touch. His profession is fighting and teaching others to do the same; he is a mixed martial arts trainer. He’s a nice guy, a great guy, but I can’t help thinking that he didn’t have enough of the right kind of dinner. The right kind of meals. The right kind of environment in which people understand that talking together is how we decide what we value, how to be in the world, how we fashion community. And surely that is the wider goal of both the NHC and Triangle SCI.</story>
Planning is already underway for SCI 2018. If you’d like to propose a project, build a team, and join this community next year, look for the new Request for Proposals to be announced in January here at trianglesci.org, on Twitter @TriangleSCI and #TriangleSCI, and in lots of other places. SCI 2018 will take place October 7-11, 2018. If your proposal is selected, the Institute will cover all expenses for your team to attend, with funding generously provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.