Minutes May 2019

Designing ADRELA: The Alliance for Digital Research on Early Latin America

Minutes from workshop session/organizational meeting, held at XXXVII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Boston, May 25, 2019, 10:45-12:15 PM


Holly Ackerman, Duke Univ.
Hannah Alpert-Abrams, Brown Univ.
Ignacio Carvajal, Univ. of Kansas
Paul Firbas, State Univ. of New York/Stony Brook
Evelina Guzauskyte, Wellesley College
Matt Hill, Brigham Young Univ.
Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, Haverford College
Felipe Lopez, Independent Scholar
Paul Losch, Univ. of Florida
Jade Madrid, Georgetown Univ.
Pablo Martínez, Gramuglia Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana/UBA
Clayton McCarl, Univ. of North Florida
Alexandra Pita González, Univ. de Colima
Ernesto Priani Saisó, Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México
Maria Cristina Rios, Univ. del Claustro de Sor Juana
María Gracia Ríos, Univ. Católica del Perú
José Antonio Rodríguez Garrido, Univ. Católica del Perú
Leonor Taino, Univ. of Notre Dame
Lindsay Van Tine, Univ. of Pennsylvania

Introductions and overview. Hannah and Clayton called the session to order. Attendees introduced themselves. Hannah and Clayton reviewed the purpose of this workshop and the history of previous conversations and conference sessions over the past several years leading up to this event. These included sessions organized/co-organized by Clayton and/or Hannah at the 2015 joint meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing and the Society for Textual Scholarship (University of Nebraska–Lincoln, June 17–20), the 2016 Congress of LASA (New York, NY, May 27–30), the 2017 Book History and Digital Humanities conference at the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture (Madison, WI, September 22–24), and Digital Humanities 2018 (Mexico City, June 26–29). A precursor to this session is also a special issue on digital humanities and Colonial Latin American studies that Hannah and Clayton are working to publish with Digital Humanities Quarterly, to which some of the attendees at this session are contributors.

Lighting round. To provide additional context for this meeting, the following individuals (all listed in conference program as workshop participants) briefly discussed their digital projects: Clayton McCarl (coloniaLab); Evelina Guzauskyte (Andrew W. Mellon Blended Learning Initiative); Ernesto Priani Saiso (Biblioteca Digital del Pensamiento Novohispano, Oceanic exchanges/Intercambios Oceánicos); Paul Firbas, María Gracia Ríos and José Antonio Rodríguez Garrido (Diario de Lima: imprenta de Joseph de Contreras y Alvarado, 1700-1711); Brook Lillehaugen (Ticha: A Digital Explorer for Colonial Zapotec); and Lindsay Van Tine (The Digital Bibliotheca Americana).

Organizational structure. Clayton and Hannah proposed that, for an initial two-year period, ADRELA function as an informal association. During this time, they would serve as interim co-chairs, working with members of the group to develop a web and social media presence, establish a system of group communications, and draft organizational bylaws. During the second year of that interim period, the proposed bylaws would be put before the group for ratification, and leadership would be elected for the following period. The group offered the following feedback:

    • It is preferable for ADRELA to not be tied to LASA, as participation in LASA is prohibitively expense. This group should exist outside the context of any specific organization. We can organize panels and events at a variety of conferences, hold our own mini-conferences, and can conduct business meetings online.
    • This group should also not become a DH section of LASA for the additional reason that it would then need to include 20th and 21st century work, which would make scholarship on colonial/19th century a minority pursuit.
    • A listserv would be a useful communication method for the group, in order to share ideas and ask questions.

Functions. Clayton and Hannah reviewed the list of possible functions listed by workshop participants in a Google Doc prior to this event, and asked for feedback. The group offered the observations indicated beneath each item below.

Coordinating/defining standards for peer review of digital projects 

    • Such work should address both how to evaluate DH projects and how to write and evaluate ‘traditional’ scholarship about our DH work.
    • We need to also address the evaluation of dissertations & book projects. We should look at the existing standards, including those developed by the MLA and redHD.

Creating a public database listing colonial DH projects

    • We need to find a way to create our website in a way that it can be maintained over time and easily transferred between institutions as needed. WordPress and GitHub pages were mentioned as solutions that might provide durability and portability.

Supporting efforts to implement DH in a classroom setting, including the promotion of digital pedagogical methods and approaches to involving undergraduate students

    • Brook Lillehaugen is particularly interested in promoting a conversation around involving undergraduate and high school students, and in building pedagogical resources.
    • Evelina Guzauskyte indicated that Wellesley is also involved in thinking about how to you engage students, and do research with students.

Promoting collaboration between colonial DH scholars and stakeholder communities

    • This can be complex, as multilingual, multicultural situations are involved, but can be accomplished through diligent effort.

Helping members address matters of funding and sustainability

    • The group sees this as a fundamental function of ADRELA.

Creating a forum for building tools and sharing data

It was suggested that, while the topics discussed so far could pertain to DH projects in any field, this is a problem specific to colonial Latin American studies. As a field, we are lacking good, standard resources and tools. For instance, we need reusable shape files for GIS that reflect political boundaries in colonial times, in order to do mapping projects.

    • We need to establish institutional support for sharing data, determining first, how to share, and then actually doing it.
    • We should develop a data gazetteer.
    • A desirable goal would be to create one functional site from which scholars could download shape files, census data, place names, and other standard materials.

Defining strategies for involving university libraries in hosting and preserving online academic projects

    • LAMP and LARP could provide small funding resources for projects in alliance with librarians.
    • The desire for coordination among librarians is very strong, but researchers need to express specific needs in order to get things started.
    • Digital repositories at libraries can host digital projects, which can give longer-term sustainability for projects.
    • We should ask questions about whether library budgets go to supporting DH projects in place of (or in addition to) subscriptions.
    • The conversation with libraries in Latin American needs to be different, due to variations in financial resources and digital strategies.
    • We should inquire as to whether the JCBL could support what we are doing.

Supporting members’ work examining digital culture and indigenous semiotic systems

    • We should look at the relationship between DH & language pedagogy and revitalization.
    • We need to consider strategies for ‘omnivorous’ funding from diverse sources.

Following the meeting, some additional suggestions were made:

    • Providing mentoring opportunities, through which established DH scholars could assist graduate students and early-career scholars in finding ways to navigate challenges related to the job market, tenure and promotion, and other topics
    • Create “Getting started” materials that could be published on an ADRELA website, to help scholars begin experimenting with tools and methodologies
    • Organizing hands-on instructional workshops to teach the use of tools and methodologies

Mission. Clayton and Hannah asked to the group’s feedback on this preliminary mission statement: “to support digital research related to colonial and nineteenth-century Latin America.” The group suggested the following:

    • We should use the term “digital scholarship” in place of “digital research,” as it is more inclusive. Work involving collaboration and pedagogy are central to DH, but are not always strictly “research.”
    • An expanded version of this statement should include language about “providing access,” “fostering dialog and collaboration,” and “pedagogy.”

Chronological scope. Clayton and Hannah asked the group whether anyone had any concerns about including the nineteenth century within the chronological scope of ADRELA. Several scholars present clarified that they work on the nineteenth century. No objections were raised.

Session adjourned at 12:15.

Minutes submitted by Hannah Alpert-Abrams and Clayton McCarl.