In September, I attended the PressForward Workshop at CUNY GC, and it helped me a lot during my volunteering week as editor for Digital Humanities Now. The tool is very easy to use, and very powerful to engage with diverse audience. The hard part was to pick the subject: What should I nominate to be published?
Before I start, I read previous editors’ experiences on the blog, and tried to develop my own strategy: First, it should be related to the topics that we have been discussing in our digital humanities class, and second, it should cover current public debates.
Since it was the week after the election week 2016, the role of digital media during the election campaigns was still a hot topic, and on my first day I nominated Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s status update on fake news on Facebook. I personally found this discussion quite important especially in the framework of civil rights. We all know that social media is represented as a platform for freedom of speech. Then we have been witnessing deactivation of activists’ Facebook accounts, and now the claim of blocking the spread of particular views in Facebook newsfeeds. Putting everything on “algorithms” has been always an easy solution, but we should request more precise explanation from Facebook. I found just another text worth to nominate on the same day, and it was focusing on the same topic: Did social media elect Donald Trump?
On my second day, discussions on Facebook and their algorithms were still on the table. But I wanted to turn the wheels more towards digital humanities in academia, and I nominated a project from Norway, the visualization of language and identity. The project seeks answers to the following questions:
- How is literature used to address and express issues of language identity in Norway?
- How can a digital platform negotiate boundaries and barriers of language use and identity in ways another medium is perhaps limiting?
- How can we use a digital map or timeline to show flexibility in language use boundaries in ways that acknowledge the complexities of creating boundaries of language use and identity? How are these complexities challenging assertions of homogeneity?
- How can a digital platform be used to acknowledge perspectives and boundaries, such as those in a cultural, political, or colonial context, while still providing an answer to the question of how literature, through time, has contributed to a Norwegian national identity through language?
Then I stumbled upon an entry on Leonard Cohen, wanted to nominate, but when I checked the link, I saw that it was a reminder post of a library about Cohen’s books, cds, dvds, etc. in their collection. There was not any digital content, so I did not nominate. After having checked all new entries in the dashboard, I decided to nominate a content from outside: Getting started with digital security. Nowadays, especially after the election day, we have been talking about the importance of recording human rights abuses, and sharing them on social media in order to create awareness. Needless to mention, security is the core point, “If you are documenting human rights abuses, technology can put powerful people’s wrongdoings in the spotlight, or it can put you in jail.”
After the third day it got a little bit difficult. It’s hard to find relevant-interesting topic to nominate everyday. At that point, I realized it’s hard to maintain such a blog without a community, and then I totally understood the crucial role of PressForward. But also the importance of having such a digital community. So I’d like to take this opportunity to talk more about PressForward and challenges of creating a digital community, instead of keep mentioning my nominated posts.
Since June 2012, I have been voluntarily working as the digital editor of Museum Professionals Association in Turkey: www.mmkd.org.tr. The main objective is to spread national/international museological news in Turkey, and share professional knowledge. In this regard, we updated our website, redetermined categories, and also launched a blog where members can post their works, and also their interpretations about current issues. The latent goal was to create a museum community in digital. But I have to admit, it didn’t work the way it was aimed. Even each member has their personal account to upload their posts, except a few of them, they keep sending their articles, news links to me. As a volunteer, it is hard to edit all the articles: mainly changing their format into a blogpost since most of them are written as an academic paper; rewriting the news from other sources since we don’t publish copy-paste posts; finding related images because most of the members don’t send image, or just say “I don’t have any”; attributing keywords; and finally publishing it. And one more step, sharing them on social media. Even though I created a manual, and wrote down all the steps with screenshots, members did not want to be part of it. So, today, the blog is there, but it has not been updated since July 2016.
To conclude, at the end of my volunteering week as editor for Digital Humanities Now, I have conceived that digital humanities is strictly related to digital culture of the society, and it doesn’t happen overnight. So I’ll definitely introduce PressForward to the members of the Association, ask them to add it their browser’s toolbar, and retry to develop a museologist community in digital.