In this era of pervasive digitization, political polarization, and media saturation, the academy needs to foster—and value—narrative practices that contribute to genuine public engagement with questions of what it means to be part of a public. The problems facing democratic society right now are not technological problems, but rather narrative chasms amplified by technological platforms and digital communications systems. Symptomatic of this development are the profound gaps between those trained to think critically about culture, art, or philosophy—those within les sciences humaine (the human sciences) who investigate what it is to be human, alone and together—and the general public (whatever that means). We are all increasingly bombarded with stories told by vested interests, in exchange for money, data, clicks, and eyeballs. But these platforms and channels are focused on cultivating attention and generating money rather than a functional democracy, social justice, or even the old standard of the philosophically ‘good’ life.
Effectively telling the stories of our research and of our teaching is crucial to a functional society. We have no illusions as to how the traditional work of the arts & humanities is viewed by the public, a perception that such work is at best unnecessary and at worst malicious. Recent calls to eliminate via non-funding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the United States of America only underscore the urgency of this discussion, and how far from a social consensus on such work we have found ourselves through systemic inattention, perverse incentives, and cultural/institutional inertia.
This working group, while we cannot solve these problems in their entirety, believes that changing these entrenched narratives is not only possible, but can be undertaken constructively with joy, with empathy, and with excitement.
- How can scholar-teachers integrate existing digital media platforms and activities into current practice for more effective research, teaching, and community building? (“What would an academic podcasting or a podcasting network even look like?”)
- What frameworks are in place for assessing and rewarding these practices within colleges and universities, scholarly societies, and funding agencies? (“Can I submit five years of internet radio broadcasting to my tenure committee? Should I?”)
- In what way do our choices of what to build and deploy in research and teaching change those practices? (“What does constructive, pedagogical interaction in a multiplayer first person shooter video game even mean? Can e-lit prompt us to rethink our subjectivity in a way that printed works cannot?”)
- How can we begin working with these vectors of activity to build better societies, from our classrooms to our regions to our world? (“Is what we are doing online actually impacting what we do in our communities? How do we ascertain if it is? How can podcasting, digital gaming, and internet broadcasting come together for social change?”)
Our overarching objective is to begin a conversation amongst ourselves but also, crucially within the wider SCI community, on how multimedia digital objects, storytelling and narrative, and building better societies intersect. Bringing a working group as diverse as this one together—compounded by the varied viewpoints we are sure the SCI will bring together as a cohort—we hope to use this as an opportunity to begin a conversation.
- PodcastingSCI: Several of our group have longstanding interests in sound design and public outreach using recording & broadcasting technology. PodcastingSCI will be, in essence, a ‘live’ record of activities at SCI and the always impressive group that will gather in North Carolina. We are partly inspired by the approach of the #dariahteach group in Europe which has, in order to give fuller discussion to digital humanities pedagogy, produced a series of video interviews with experts in the field:
- Public-Facing Multimedia Casebook: Those wishing to integrate public-facing digital multimedia content into their everyday intellectual practice often face difficulty finding examples or successful models. Our group plans to compile a casebook documenting how these moments have played out in our own teaching & research. Containing at least sections addressing our own working group (electronic literature, games, broadcasting, podcasting, social media outreach), this will be an extensible output; contributions from other SCI attendees will be actively sought, onsite or after the event, and it has the strong possibility to extend even further. Documenting practice in emerging areas is vital to ensuring their propagation, and the Antigonish2 group (http://antigonish2.com/) has committed to hosting this resource; the “evolving anthology” model used by the Modern Language Association with their volume Digital Literary Studies (https://dlsanthology.mla.hcommons.org/) is another possible publication model.
- Best Practices and Guidelines: In the course of our work, we anticipate that a discussion of best practices and guidelines for doing this kind of intellectual outreach well will naturally emerge. Drawing on both the input of other SCI attendees (gained through podcast interviews) and real-world case studies (drawn together in our casebook collection), this document is intended for scholar-teachers interested in public-facing, digital multimedia scholarship in a variety of institutions.
Our international and interdisciplinary working group consists of six teacher-scholars with distinct expertise in scholarly storytelling, including games, electronic literature, digital radio, podcasting, and social media. We also share a collective investment in student-centred and practice-based teaching, and a concern with how innovative pedagogy can help to break down the walls between the university and the public. We are largely based in Canadian higher education, and nearly all group members work in regional, student-centred universities rather than R1 institutions. Some have held administrative roles in large research projects and led or taken part in international academic organisations. Some are early-career scholars based in professional disciplines, while others bring to this group extensive experience in education practice and policy—with the reality, of course, that all group members bring some combination of many of these profiles. This working group represents a new collaborative enterprise for all of us, one that pushes us to reframe our scholarship in the light of larger conversations about digital storytelling and multimedia scholarship.
- Alyssa Arbuckle (http://www.alyssaarbuckle.com) is Assistant Director, Research Partnerships & Development, in the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) at the University of Victoria. In this role she works with the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) group and assists with the coordination of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI). Arbuckle is also an interdisciplinary PhD student at the University of Victoria, studying open social scholarship and its implementation (planned completion 2019). Her previous studies at the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria have centred around digital humanities, new media, and contemporary American literature. Currently, she focuses on open access, digital publishing, and how text lives online, which will directly influence her engagement with this working group.
- John F. Barber (http://www.nouspace.net/john/) currently teaches in The Creative Media & Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver. His scholarship, teaching, and creative endeavors focus on digital archiving / curation and sound+radio art. John developed and continues to curate the Brautigan Bibliography and Archive (brautigan.net), an online, interactive information structure known as the preeminent resource on the life and writings of American author Richard Brautigan. He also runs Radio Nouspace, which is both a repository and a laboratory supporting his research, scholarship, teaching, and creative practices regarding radio, sound, and listening as closely connected with communication, creative endeavor, literacy, and social justice. As a repository, Radio Nouspace collects and organizes information and resources. John brings to our working group a historically-grounded understanding of radio and digital broadcasting, as well as the ways those technologies can structure communities of interest around particular figures, issues, and topics.
- Dene Grigar (http://www.nouspace.net/dene/) is Professor and Director of The Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University Vancouver whose research focuses on the creation, curation, preservation, and criticism of Electronic Literature, specifically building multimedial environments and experiences for live performance, installations, and curated spaces; desktop computers; and mobile media devices. She has authored 14 media works such as “Curlew” (2014), “A Villager’s Tale” (2011), the “24-Hour Micro E-Lit Project” (2009), “When Ghosts Will Die” (2008), and “Fallow Field: A Story in Two Parts” (2005), as well as 52 scholarly articles. She also curates exhibits of electronic literature and media art, mounting shows at the Library of Congress and for the Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA), among other venues. As Director of an academic program in a seemingly always new field, Grigar has had to find ways to credential faculty, demonstrate scholarly viability of collaborative research, and develop assessment documents that evaluate excellence. She brings 25 years of teaching experience in higher education to our working group.
- Hannah McGregor (https://hannahmcgregor.com/) is an Assistant Professor in the Publishing program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, where her research and teaching focuses on the histories and futures of print culture and new media in Canada, with a focus on Canadian middlebrow magazines, and podcasting as both self-publishing and public pedagogy. Hannah is also involved in research projects on scholarly podcasting and on inclusivity and accountability in Canada publishing. For this working group, her interests in the intersection of feminism and new media, particularly the challenges facing women in digital spaces, is most relevant. With collaborator Marcelle Kosman, she makes Witch, Please (http://ohwitchplease.ca/), a feminist podcast about the Harry Potter world. They have spoken about their public pedagogy and fandom in a variety of venues, including the feminist journal Ravishly, CBC Edmonton AM, the Edmonton Journal, and at various fan and entertainment expos around Canada.
- Jon Saklofske (http://socrates.acadiau.ca/courses/engl/saklofske/about.html) is a Professor at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. His specialization in the writing of the British Romantic period and continuing interest in the ways that William Blake’s composite art illuminates the relationship between words and images on the printed page has inspired current research into alternative platforms for open social scholarship as well as larger correlations between media forms and cultural perceptions. Jon is a longstanding member of the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) project, and is exploring ways to incorporate virtual environments and game-based stories into research and teaching. Other research interests include environmental storytelling in Disney theme parks, the critical potential of feminist war games, and representations of agency and self in video games.
- Bonnie Stewart (http://bonstewart.com/) is an educator and social media researcher fascinated by who we are when we’re online. Coordinator of Adult Teaching programs at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Founder/Director of the media literacy initiative Antigonish 2.0, Bonnie explores the intersections of knowledge, technology, and identity in her work. Community capacity-building and professional learning are the focus of her current research, which considers the tensions of networked and institutional practices in higher education. Bonnie writes and speaks about networked scholarship, digital strategy, leadership, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) around the world, and her work aims to enact the open, participatory, and collaborative ethos that it examines. She blogs ideas at http://theory.cribchronicles.com, and does her best thinking out loud on Twitter as @bonstewart.