Watch Online Communities & Social Justice on YouTube

If you missed our first CORE deposit party fear not, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. Again, a huge thanks to all of our participants!

Held on March 30, 2021, Online Communities and Transformative Justice was an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement.

Keynote: “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College.

Lightning Talks:

“Virtual & Digital Speaker Series: Life Saving Knowledges and Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity,” Ruby Mendoza, Michigan State University

“Re/Building and Recovering Comics Communities Through Wikidata @ Michigan State University,” Justin Wigard, Michigan State University

“Introspective Videos as Antiracist Praxis,” Nick Sanders, Michigan State University

Welcome: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Michigan State University

Introducing the Online Communities and Transformative Justice Panelists

The Commons is pleased to announce the panelists for our CORE Deposit Party, Online Communities and Transformative Justice, on March 30th from 12 to 1:30pm EDT. The event will be an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement.

The event will start with three 5-7 minute lightning talks:

“Virtual & Digital Speaker Series: Life Saving Knowledges and Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity,” Ruby Mendoza (they/them)

This presentation explores the initiative within the MSU Writing Center, through the efforts of their Liaison to the LGBT Resource Center, to develop a digital/virtual speaker series titled “Life Saving Knowledges: Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity.” This speaker series utilized and centered graduate students’ intellectual knowledges and experiences to convey complex theoretical frameworks into a simplified manner for LGBTQ+ youth. In many ways, this speaker series worked in a multitude of ways, including providing students with life-saving knowledge to utilize in both academia and activism, and within their own communities outside of an educational institution. Therefore, this presentation addresses the need to understand digital community engagement as a method to empower and support emerging intersectional adults, as well as providing life saving discourses and frameworks to navigate their lives in and outside of the academy.

“Re/Building and Recovering Comics Communities Through Wikidata @ Michigan State University,” Justin Wigard (he/him)

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Comics@MSU community sought ways to not only support existing connections within the greater comics community, but build new ones virtually by making transformative use of the MSU Libraries Comics Collection. To this end, in Fall 2020 the MSU Graphic Possibilities Research Workshop hosted a two-day virtual Wikidata Edit-a-thon, using bibliographic metadata to add missing comics publishers and authors from 1929-1956 to Wikidata. This lightning talk will discuss the planning that went into the events, along with a reporting-out of both our first event in Fall 2020 and our follow-up event to be held in Spring 2021. The event brought together 50-55 participants from MSU and across the US (even some folks from Canada & the UK) into an online community. During the event, participants  worked against WikiData and Wikipedia bias, the latter being historically implicated in racial and gendered erasure other forms of bias. This lightning talk will demonstrate how, participants worked  to a) connect MSU’s comics metadata to Wikidata, b) recover PoC and women comics creators’ narratives that may have been absent from Wikidata, and c) reflect their contributions in Wikidata or correcting misattributed entries therein, thereby contributing to the Digital Humanities@MSU community.

“Introspective Videos as Antiracist Praxis,” Nick Sanders (he/him)

Guided by critical antiracist (Baker-Bell; Johnson) and feminist pedagogies (Omolade; Friere), anti-deficit frameworks (Mejia et al.), and multimodal writing pedagogies (Shipka; Arola), this talk describes a reflective video assignment sequence that can support critical un/learning around whiteness and white supremacy. These video sequences story students’ identities and values and name the social forces which shape them at different points in the course. Consistent with critical race theory tenets of story and critique, these videos allow students to position themselves as embodied learners and use story as a tool of knowledge-making. This talk will also offer an assignment that invites students to draw on these reflective videos toward a larger end to track their learning goals throughout a course and to map new goals for un/learning. Ultimately, this talk will demonstrate the ways in which  introspective video sequencing might support deep critical introspection consistent with antiracist and critical whiteness pedagogies, challenges performativity in written assignments, and provides maps for students to understand their learning and development in the context of a course.

Following the panel discussions there will be a keynote, “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College. After the program the panel will be available to answer questions and meeting attendees will be encouraged to deposit work of their own into CORE. Commons Open Repository Exchange, or CORE, is a library-quality, noncommercial repository that provides members with a permanent, open access storage facility for sharing, discovering, retrieving, and archiving scholarly output. A short video on CORE can be found on the Commons YouTube channel. Syllabi, learning materials, handouts, articles, and other works on this topic or others are welcome to be deposited.

To register visit https://forms.gle/3HdZHp8YFTeBi53W6.

Commons Highlights: The Open Access Books Network

Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, Tom Mosterd.

Welcome to Commons Highlights — a new series highlighting groups, sites, and organizations that make the Commons their home. We will be speaking with users who have created vibrant and thriving communities on how they did it, and the lessons they have learned.

The Open Access Books Network

The Open Access Books Network (OABN) was begun by members of OAPEN, OPERAS, ScholarLed and SPARC Europe to foster discussions about OA books among researchers, publishers, librarians, funders, infrastructure providers, and other stakeholders. What started on Slack after the ELPUB 2019 conference has become a thriving Humanities Commons group of over 180 members, engaging in events, discussions, and the sharing of ideas and information.

Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, Tom Mosterd.
Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, and Tom Mosterd.

The OABN Humanities Commons group was built by the OABN’s coordinators, Lucy Barnes, Editor and Outreach Co-Ordinator at Open Book Publishers; Tom Mosterd, Community Manager, OAPEN/DOAB; and Agata Morka, European Coordinator OA books, Open Book Publishers. The group was looking to boost engagement and open new ways for members to interact. They chose to move to the Commons because, as Lucy Barnes states, “The ethos of the Commons and the way it’s run is very much in line with our own values.” The Commons’ emphasis on privacy for user data, openness to all regardless of affiliation, and the fact that it is an explicitly academic space made it the ideal home for the group as they sought to increase discussion and boost membership. As Tom Mosterd points out, “A lot of the people on Slack were already familiar with the Commons,” so it seemed like a natural fit as they worked to grow the group and increase participation.

Using the Commons to Engage Members

In addition to providing a forum for discussion, the Commons group structure also provides an event calendar, shared files and docs, and the ability to maintain a WordPress-based group blog or website. The OABN website is used to publicize live events and uses a WordPress widget to incorporate a feed from the Open Access Tracking Project to provide updated news and information from the wider community. By consistently updating their website, the OABN team keeps members engaged and continues to activate discussion within the community. Lucy Barnes on driving group growth: “It’s been a mix of letting it grow naturally and using events to drive traffic.” For example, the team celebrated Open Access Week by posting a “mini-series of blog interviews about new and interesting initiatives within the open access book ecosystem” (Mosterd, 2020).

As the team uses the blog to drive event traffic, they use the discussion forum to alert users to events and engage members in discussion. The group puts on one to two events per month and providing links to the event recordings on the Commons reaches those who could not participate live and preserves the content for future members. By creating group events using the community calendar and publicizing those events through the group blog and Twitter, they have been able to not just maintain discussion, but grow it. Allowing the group to be publicly visible encourages people to drop in to see the conversation and then join to take part in the discussion. Twitter has been vitally important in driving users to the group and events, as well as own personal networks and peers.

Finding Ways to Grow

The OABN team has done several things to grow their group and that have contributed to their success. By reaching out and engaging with other initiatives who are working on similar topics, Barnes remarked, “it’s easy to collaborate with other groups on Commons.” CORE deposits can be posted to up to five groups at a time, alerting not just your own members but other key groups to new papers, syllabi, or learning materials. As a public group, any member of Humanities Commons can join in the conversation, which can help draw in users who may just be exploring the idea of open access publishing.

Barnes, Mosterd, and Morka were also conscious of helping to “demystify” the Commons for new users by providing a clear description of the group, contact information for the administrators with specific information how to seek help, and providing an explainer pinned to the top of the discussion forum on how to register and join the group with clear guidelines on participation. The openness has encouraged people to join and ask questions and has allowed several students to post surveys and conduct research among its members.

By using multiple forms of engagement, the OABN team has been able to gauge how the community has received different kinds of content. Twitter allows for discussion with the wider community outside of the core group membership, and the discussion forum and blog allow for focused discussion on events. Barnes has also been using the Google Analytics plugin to look at site traffic and most-visited content.

What’s Next for OABN?

Barnes says the group plans to “use [the Commons] to gather community feedback in a more structured way.” She indicated open access publishing is a diverse community and that there are a lot of policy developments under discussion. Large presses have advantages in getting their voices heard, while many smaller presses do not. The Humanities Commons group makes gathering the perspectives of smaller presses easier. While they have not used the Docs feature much yet, Barnes views it as a way “to think about different policy areas that might benefit from discussion and where people may not always agree, but where they can represent their points-of-view in a way people can look back on and refer to, and that we can perhaps present as well.”

The other key area that OABN wants to grow is to find ways to make it more useful for people new to open access publishing. The community is currently made up of mostly publishers, but seeks to bring students, researchers, librarians, and others with an interest in OA publishing on board. Barnes remarked that Humanities Commons attracts the kinds of individual researchers and students that they would like to connect to the community. Mosterd added, “I hope that people will find our network and ask their questions. That it becomes more of a place where researchers, students, or people new to the library or publishing world can find resources. There are a lot of people there who can help them.”

To find more information on the Open Access Books Network please visit their group on Humanities Commons.

If your group is interested in being featured in Commons Highlights email hello[at]hcommons.org.

Online Communities and Transformative Justice, a conversation and CORE deposit party

Join MSU Commons on March 30th from 12 to 1:30pm EDT for Online Communities and Transformative Justice, an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement. There will be a panel discussion with a series of 5-7 minute lightning talks around the subject, followed by a keynote, “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College. 

The Humanities Commons network, of which MSU Commons is a part, is a free and open online community with an expanding reach. With over 25,000 members, Humanities Commons has become a visible place for members to share their scholarly work and connect with one another regardless of field, language, institutional affiliation, or form of employment. MSU Commons is the first institutional node on the Commons network, and is due to roll out to the full campus later this year. Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Project Director of Humanities Commons, Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University will give opening remarks.

After the program the panel will be available to answer questions and meeting attendees will be encouraged to deposit work of their own into CORE. Commons Open Repository Exchange, or CORE, is a library-quality, noncommercial repository that provides members with a permanent, open access storage facility for sharing, discovering, retrieving, and archiving scholarly output. A short video on CORE can be found on the Commons YouTube channel. Syllabi, learning materials, handouts, articles, and other works on this topic or others are welcome to be deposited. 

To register visit https://forms.gle/3HdZHp8YFTeBi53W6

More information:

Jan Miyake is associate professor of music theory at Oberlin College & Conservatory, where she chairs the music theory division and leads the curriculum and pedagogy subcommittee of the presidential initiative on racial equity and diversity. She publishes on the topics of corpus studies, Haydn’s instrumental works, Formenlehre, linear analysis, and inclusive pedagogy. After being elected Treasurer of the Society for Music Theory (2015-19), Miyake was recently appointed chair of its Committee on the Status of Women (2021-23). She is a founding member of the Composers of Color Resource Project, which uses Humanities Commons to store, organize, and publicize its resources.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Prior to assuming this role in 2017, she served as Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association. She is author of Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), as well as Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is project director of Humanities Commons, an open-access, open-source network serving more than 26,000 scholars and practitioners in the humanities.

We Need Your Input

The questions that have recently surfaced for us around community, safety, and trust have made clear the extent to which we on the Commons team need ongoing feedback and advice from our users. Our network governance model, recognizing that need, provide for two advisory groups: a technical advisory group and a user advisory group. Members of each are to be named by the Participating Organization Council, and each group will bring the concerns and ideas of the Commons community to the team for discussion and integration into our project roadmap. (See our bylaws for more details.)

We are currently seeking nominations for each of these groups. If you would like to join us, please email a brief statement of interest, along with a link to your Commons profile, to hello@hcommons.org.

Let us know if you have any questions — we’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Community, Safety, and Trust

Earlier this month, the Modern Language Association held its annual convention, and our team hoped that we would be able to engage with attendees, helping them continue their conversations with one another via the Commons. Instead, we found ourselves fending off what initially looked like a bot attack: a massive influx of new account creation attempts with a few shared characteristics that made clear that there was orchestration involved. We put some measures in place to attempt to ensure that the majority of these attempts did not succeed, and spent several days playing whack-a-mole with the few that did.

In the process, it gradually came to seem that we might not be dealing with bots, but with humans: bad actors who were trying to find ways into the Commons community. To what end, we weren’t sure. But given the visibility of the MLA Convention, we really, really did not want to find out.

Things have gotten a bit quieter since the convention ended, but the suspicious account creation attempts continue. And fighting off this attack has taken all of the time that might have gone into the work we’re trying to do to improve and advance the platform, and it’s left our very small team exhausted. So we’re discussing some longer-term options, options that raise a few key questions we’d like to open up for discussion with the Commons community.

The most important question is this:

How do we balance our commitment to ensuring that the Commons is open to anyone — regardless of credentials, memberships, employment status, language, geographical location, and so forth — with our commitment to ensuring that the members of our community are safe and free from harassment? We’ve all seen much too graphically of late the costs of a hands-off approach to open social networks, but even within a more local academic frame of reference, we’ve seen what can happen when virtual events get Zoom-bombed or otherwise disrupted. We absolutely do not want members of our community to be threatened in any way that unsettles their ability, not to mention their willingness, to engage in the shared collaborative work that they’re undertaking here. We’re grateful that the Commons has managed to avoid such incidents up until now, but we’ve achieved a size and a visibility that has led us to become a target. As a result, we need to take action to protect the network and its members.

Should we establish some kind of verification requirement before new accounts are permitted to use some of the network’s features? We imagine that we might restrict new, unverified user accounts in ways that prevent such accounts from sending direct messages to other community members, for instance, or from creating unwelcome groups and sites within the network. This might work something like the trust levels model that Discourse uses, relying on a demonstration of good-faith engagement to gradually open up features to new accounts, though we may need something a bit lighter weight as we get started.

If we establish such a requirement, what paths toward verification should we enable? We could imagine verification happening as part of account creation if the new user uses an email address that demonstrates a connection with a trusted institution or organization, or if the new user links their account to another trustworthy scholarly data system such as ORCiD. But we also want to ensure that independent scholars and practitioners who may not have institutional credentials or established publication records can join us as well. Should we take the arXiv approach of having established members of the community vouch for new members, or does that run the risk of clubbiness? How do we preserve access for good actors while minimizing the damage that bad actors can do?

We welcome your thoughts on these questions, and we look forward to discussing the path ahead with the community as a whole.

Using the Commons for Canceled or Virtual Events

For those who have had to cancel events or shift to virtual meetings in response to COVID-19, this post will provide information about ways Humanities Commons could be a resource.

CORE, our open access repository, is a place presenters can share conference papers and other presentation materials. The deposit will get a DOI and structured metadata; it will be openly available and indexed. 

screenshot of core deposit page for a conference paper, which asks for conference title, dates, organizer.
The CORE deposit page for a conference paper.

Conference organizers can create a group for the event. Members of the group can use the discussion forum, calendar, documents library, and collection of CORE materials for asynchronous communication. For presenters who don’t want to share work in CORE (where work can’t be edited), Docs could be used instead of CORE. 

If the event doesn’t already have a site, organizers can create a WordPress site on the Commons to share information about the event and present conference materials. For more information, see What is the difference between a group and a site? 

The planning committee of the Global Digital Humanities Symposium recently decided that their event would not be held as planned. Instead of meeting in person, presentations will take place via Zoom. Below, you’ll find a guide adapted directly from the materials they are distributing to symposium participants, describing how to use their Commons group and CORE to participate in the event. You may find this example helpful to think about how you might communicate with your conference participants about using Humanities Commons.

Thank you to June Oh and the Global DH Symposium organizers for making this example available!

Continue reading “Using the Commons for Canceled or Virtual Events”

Infrastructure and Capacity Building

I was delighted this week to be notified that the Humanities Commons team has received an Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This grant is the foundation of a long-term sustainability strategy for the Commons, which includes hiring two new full-time staff members to join the team and contribute to the build out of both our technical infrastructure and our community and governance models.

Of course, being a challenge grant, it comes with significant responsibilities on our part: chiefly, the raising of a 3:1 match to augment the federal funding. But we are excited about the prospects, and looking forward to getting started.

Another aspect of this plan includes migrating the Commons’s hosting and fiscal sponsorship to Michigan State University. The MLA has committed enormous energy and resources to getting the Commons off the ground and will continue to contribute to the network as the founding member organization and a key development partner. A research university, however — and particularly one as focused on public-facing research and scholarship as MSU — can provide certain kinds of long-term stability for our growing network.

You’ll be hearing more from us about all our plans in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I want to thank the NEH for their ongoing support for this project, and thank all the members of the Humanities Commons community for getting us to this point. We look forward to serving the future of your work for years to come.

By the Numbers

party decorations

The steady increase in membership on Humanities Commons since launch was been very gratifying for the small staff developing and maintaining the network. We started with a strong base of nearly 6,000 MLA Commons members, but began registering members immediately and have seen a steady flow of new members since launch.

Continue reading “By the Numbers”

HC User Spotlight: Luís Henriques

Balloons

Luís Henriques is a musicologist and PhD candidate at the University of Évora. In this special birthday-edition HC User Spotlight, he reflects on how he has used CORE (over 250 deposits!) and sites hosted on the Commons to share his work.

I joined the Humanities Commons community in early 2017. The platform had launched in late 2016, so it was still in a very initial stage with not many users. I remember that at the time I was disappointed with surge of commercial advertisement and the introduction of a “premium” feature in academia.edu, where I had all of my research output. After reading an article posted by a senior scholar and user of that website where he raised some interesting questions for reflection, I started looking for a non-commercial platform. I found a 3-minute video of Nicky Agate at OpenCon 2016 on the The Right to Research Coalition YouTube channel. This led me to search for HC and found the website. In short, this is the story of me finding the Humanities Commons website. Continue reading “HC User Spotlight: Luís Henriques”