Relationship-Centered Scholarship bit.ly/Janco-ASEEES18

Haverford College, Digital Scholarship

In 1984, the friends and family members of Guatemalans ‘disappeared’ by state security forces formed the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM). Members of the GAM searched for their loved ones and demanded information from state officials during a period of Cold War violence in which Guatemala’s military and police routinely murdered activists, union leaders, agricultural workers, and anyone deemed an insurgent or subversive threat.

Digital Curation and Digital Scholarship Project (2016-present)

Key Priorities:

Protection of the GAM's case materials and archives through digitization against environmental and political threats.

Creation of tools to research the collection for ongoing legal cases and historical memory.

Engagement of students (US & GT) in the work of the archive as well as research projects using the GAM collections.

What is "relationship-centered" scholarship?

In what ways is the GAM project an example of this type of scholarship?

Could we and should we support this kind of scholarship in the profession more generally? What would we gain? What might we lose?

A few useful points of comparison

The Scholar-Centered Model

A scholar designs and implements a project. Others join to augment the principal scholar's skills and knowledge and for contract labor.

The GAM project has no "principal investigators." The GAM represent themselves, the Provost represents faculty interests, and the Librarian represents the Digital Scholarship team. We have a CLIR postdoc, Alex Galarza, who facilitates dialogue and engagement among project investigators.

Role-Based Model

Scholars and practitioners from various disciplines and professional backgrounds work together according to established roles, such as humanist, technologist, data steward. All roles are equally "principal."

The research agendas and interests of all partners are accounted for in project design and work.

All parties should gain professionally and intellectually from the project or be fairly compensated for their labor.

In GAM project, we deliberately create spaces for the research interests and professional goals of individual project members, including faculty, staff and students. This requires flexibility to allow individual research interests and personalities to shape the project as it grows and evolves. It requires a "big tent" to deliberately make spaces for diverse voices and to address the individual interests of researchers from Political Science, Anthropology, and History as well as Computer Science, Data Science and Computational Linguistics.

Tania, Mariana, Rafael and Natalia

6 Digital Scholarship Compañeros: Individual research projects as well as transcription, and authority record creation.

10 DS Student Workers: Mostly Computer Science majors who work on research projects, application development, and the development of computational research methods for the GAM collection.

Radical Collaboration & Emergence

Greenhouse Studios is interested in what new knowledge might emerge when we allow academic communities to self-organize. ... At Greenhouse Studios, we’re running an experiment in radical collaboration, exploring what happens when you remove the labor hierarchies and predetermined workplans that normally structure collaborative scholarly projects, and instead embrace the emergent qualities of collaboration itself.

Emergence describes how hundreds of birds, each following its own, relatively simple rules of behavior, self-organize into a flock that displays its own complex behaviors, behaviors that none of the individual birds themselves would display. In the words of writer Steven Johnson, emergence describes how those birds, without a master plan or executive leadership, go from being a “they” to being an “it.” In other words, emergence describes a becoming.

With "“collaboration from the start," ideas, questions, new directions of action all emerge from the of personalities affected by the project and the social interactions of various project stakeholders. Individual investment in the central ideas and potential of the project drives the formation of a self-organizing community based on participants' engagement with the project and one another.

The social and cultural behavior of scholars is comparable, but far more complex than a flock of birds. The "emergent qualities of collaboration" are inherently social and based on human social relationships, power dynamics and cultures. To be "relationship-centered" is to seek knowledge of the pivotal role that these interactions play in the seemingly spontaneous and miraculously complex systems that emerge from radically collaborative research communities.

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Work that serves a community need in active dialogue with community partners.

In the GAM project, we aspire to be a community where all researchers are equally engaged in research, practice, service and learning.

Postcolonial Digital Humanities

...we position postcolonial digital humanities as an emergent field of study invested in decolonizing the digital, foregrounding anti-colonial thought, and disrupting salutatory narratives of globalization and technological progress (dhpoco.org).

"Relationship-Based" Scholarship?

Relationship-based scholarship is a focus on the key role of social relationships in collaborative scholarship and the aspiration to create spaces that value stakeholders’ intellectual, professional and personal investment in their projects. It is comparable to human-centered design, but rather than making things that better suit people, it embraces the centrality of relationships in research communities and their role in the creation of knowledge.

Are personal interactions and relationships the key drivers of new ideas and project development in self-organizing communities?

For the profession:

The values, ideas and mission that organize a research community are very distinct from the research questions and findings of scholar-centered projects. Students should have opportunities to engage in the practice of community-driven collaborative scholarship.

Given its culture of collaboration and community-building, the Digital Humanities are one of the leading fields in this type of research.

Funding agencies and academic institutions should support the work of community organizers in terms of resources, professional advancement and formal commitments to the sustainability of projects.

We need ways to assess the strength and vitality of a community. What is the impact of community work? How does it generate knowledge, inform how people think and what they know? We lack a language to discuss this impact and knowledge creation.

Final note of concern. In communities with partners from various socio-economic groups, how can we assess that relationships are, in fact, equal? Are our aspirations to overcome institutional hierarchies visible in practice? If not, how would we know?

Thank you and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!

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