Storytelling and the Triangle SCI Conference

Storytelling and the Triangle SCI Conference

A New Digital Publishing Framework for Exploring and Reflecting Non-Textual Cultural Narratives

Benson: Hello, and welcome to an edition of Copyright Chat. Today, I’m going to be here with Harriett Green, who is the Head of Scholarly Communication and Publishing at the University of Illinois Library, and we are going to chat about the Scholarly Communication Institute that we just attended in November. Hi, Harriet.

Green: Hi Sara, thanks for having me on here.

Benson: Thanks for being here. So for those of you who are not familiar with the Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute that occurs in November at the University of

Green: North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Benson: Exactly

Green: And Duke.

Benson: And Duke. It is a wonderful kind of think-tank experience. Is that how you would describe it, Harriett?

Green: Yes, just a research retreat.

Benson: Yeah.

Green: That’s highly selective.

Benson: Yeah. So people submit, as teams of scholars, proposals about a research project that they really would like to dive into as a group, in-person, during this institute, and then we spend about three days eating enormous amounts of food.

Green: Yes.

Benson: There’s a lot of food involved and a lot of coffee, and we do some activities together in our group, and we also report out to the other groups, and kind of discuss as a whole. And so we just participated in this, and I’ll have Harriet describe our project to you a little bit.

Green: Great, so our project was focused, the title escapes me at the point, but we can put a link to the project [], but we have a team of me, with my expertise in scholarly publishing, Sara and her expertise in copyright, Brad Tober, who’s a professor at Boston University in Art and Design, and Camee Maddox who’s a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and in anthropology, and together, we came up with a research project to think through, what does it mean to do digital publications with works of cultural heritage, in particular, indigenous cultural heritage of communities who have particular cultural traditions that aren’t in the same way that we usually treat text, images, and other works of culture and art. There’s been a number of works addressing this issue, from Kim Christen and Mukurtu, and with, you know, different things with repatriation and cultural heritage, and so we wanted to take it a step further and think about how do we disseminate and create digital publications. So we spent the week of Triangle SCI exploring these questions. Camee Maddox was, essentially, our case study. So it us was centering around her work as a dance anthropologist studying cultural dance in Martinique, an island in the Caribbean that’s a French protectorate, and her work that involves the African Diaspora, colonialism, and post-colonialism, and again, cultural works. So this is what we started to focus on, we started to work on that project, and now we’re moving forward with it.

Benson: Yeah, and Camee’s work is really cool because she actually went to Martinique to study for her book that she’s writing about the Bele dance movement, and she became a part of the movement. I mean, she started dancing the dance, and there are videos that she has of her participating in the dance, and it almost looks like she was born to do this dance. I mean, she’s very much a part of the community, and through that trust with the community, she’s really been able to build partnerships, and so one of the questions that I am looking at is the co-option of work from indigenous and less-represented communities by the majority and using that work in ways maybe that aren’t necessarily what they wish would be done with the work, and how can we avoid that, right.

So I think with Camee’s participation in the dance and with the community, she’s really gained their trust, and that’s a good thing to be able to then use their own input to help shape the project going forward so that it looks and feels the way they would want it to look, and one of the things that we’ve been contemplating is having kind of different projects. So one would be a companion to her physical book, right, that would be like an online presence where you could actually find out more information and maybe see some dances online, but another project would be kind of a project led by and for the community itself where they could then input their own data and their own experiences into this repository which would maintain their culture for the future generations, and it would be less outward-focused and more inward-focused, and I think it’s along the lines of Mukurtu, and that might be a good fit for it, but we’re not really sure at this point what they, they meaning the community, would want it to look like. And so it’s kind of an exciting thing, in terms of the traditional cultural expressions and thinking about how to really engage with communities and not take over their property, which has been happening for so long and to help them kind of really have ownership and pride in their own culture, and that’s a really exciting part. I just love listening to Camee talk about the community because she really has a passion for the different expressions that they have in their dance and through the meaning that they attribute to the dance, in terms of using it in the streets when there’s a strike, for instance, and people ascribing spirituality to the movements that maybe wasn’t ever present before and really kind of taking back their original roots and going back to feeling at home in their own skin in a way that, since they’ve been really part of a culture that they feel like they don’t really fit into, so it’s a really interesting case study, but hopefully, it could be expanded a little further.

Green: Right, and that’s what makes the richness of Camee’s case study, will hopefully allow us to build a model of how do we work with traditional cultural expression, and for Brad Tober’s part, you know, how do we design these systems and platforms inner-activities and user interfaces for this digital platform or digital publication and whichever forms it takes, and then, yes, how do we work with other communities, how do we use the types of workflows, the types of community engagement that we see with Camee’s case study, and really, her exemplary work in connecting to that community with future projects, and one really wonderful thing at SCI as we talked with the other teams, they had a number of ideas of communities that we could reach out to, other Native American communities, and other indigenous communities around the world who are have done this work or who are really seeking to do this work and how our model that we build could potentially benefit and how we might connect to those communities. And so having the interactivity at SCI allowed us to not only delve deeper into Camee’s case study but also think through how can we start building this as a model to share with others.

Benson: Yeah, and I would encourage those who have interdisciplinary scholarly communication ideas and work flows that they really need the time to delve deeply into to consider the Triangle SCI conference. It’s really unique. I’ve never been to a conference quite like it, where you really have so much free time, and so much time away from your other obligations at work and meetings and all those other things to really think exclusively about a particular issue.

Green: And we should mention, it’s funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who funds a number of wonderful projects and initiatives for especially, the humanities and social sciences, so having that space and having the support that allows them to bring people really from all over the world to interact in this way is a really valuable experience.

Benson: And it’s also a lot of fun.

Green: Yes.

Benson: We got to play some games at the bar. So that’s fun, and just meeting so many different people who are thinking about so many different things. This year’s topic was Storytelling through Scholarly Communications, and one of the groups was doing a project about food, and they really thought outside the box because they had the chef at the conference hotel come in and talk about a dish and talk about where the ingredients came from, and then they had other people talking about food, and they kind of wanted to develop more of a connection between people and the things that they’re eating, so that they understand the environmental impact and the health impact and the community impact of the food that they eat. So there are some really interesting conversations that happen there.

Green: And that highlights a key thing about the SCI is, you know, scholarly communication as a field, we often think it really is the domain of librarians and publishers and, you know, the traditional stakeholders, but SCI really tries to punch that box open, and the types of people that were coming, there were anthropologists, there were storytellers, there were technologists, people from the full gamut of scholarship and of community, of the arts, of culture in the arts, and really think through scholarly communication and not just journalism, monographs, although, you know, a lot of our work talked about, how do we disseminate scholarship, but really thinking through what are all the ways that we connect, that we engage, that we tell our stories, in this instance, and what can we do to really be innovative and experimental and completely creative, and how we do that, and, you know, one thing I took away from SCI, just from my day-to-day work, was really rethinking, how do I think about scholarly communication, how do I talk with faculty and students about this type of engaging with communities, and, you know, what can we do to really help people make use of all the different tools we have at our hands, both digitally and just our own talents and interests, to share our stories.

Benson: That’s a really great point. You really start thinking outside the box, and start thinking broadly about different issues, and you make some great friends.

Green: Yes.

Benson: I actually got some mail from Ruth’s Stotter. Shout out to Ruth. She sent me her children’s books because we had a conversation during lunch about how I have a daughter, and she wrote some children’s books, so that was really fun to get some mail from her.

Green: That’s so great.

Benson: And I feel like I’ve made some friends for life there, and it’s just going to be fun to kind of watch their scholarship grow over time and see where where it takes them. So I really encourage people to think about this as a possibility, as an unconference going forward, if you have a project that you think might benefit from a deep dive, and some time away from your daily work with other like-minded scholars, it’s just a magical place. So I really encourage people to think about it, to get involved, to follow what people are doing, and to just be a part of that community.

Green: Agreed.

Benson: All right, well thanks for joining me today, Harriett. This was a fun walk down memory lane, and hopefully, it inspires some other scholars to get involved in the Triangle SCI conference.

Green: Thank you, Sara, I enjoyed it.

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