DH 2013: Multimedia Design for Research Creation, Community Engagement and Knowledge Mobilization

Earlier this month I attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria for the first time. I am hoping to be back next year, and probably for many years after that. I have a secret dream of eventually teaching a course there on the topic of creating inclusive online spaces, and using anti-oppressive language and community-building skills to create safer and more welcoming spaces for marginalized groups. And I’m thrilled because DHSI seems like the kind of place where the intersection of social justice and academics would be more than welcome.

I wrote a bit about my DHSI experience over at Uni(di)versity (where you can catch me blogging much more regularly, since I have deadlines and an editor!).

DHSI offers a wide variety of courses over the week, and I attended Multimedia Design for Research Creation, Community Engagement and Knowledge Mobilization. You can read about the course in this Storify link.

Over the course of five days, I developed an extensive (and expanding) idea for ‘multimedia design’ in multiple areas of my life. Read about my activism, academics, and some kind of wacky alt-academic career plans after the cut (in that order, because if I’m honest that’s the way I prioritize my life).

DHSI2013 mindmap

The course had three major components: research creation, community engagement and knowledge mobilization. I made a mindmap (using MindNode, which I am loving) and there’s a lot of overlap between the three areas, and between the three areas of my life where I want to apply this new knowledge. Basically, the mindmap represents what is, in reality, a big swirly mess of community engagement, knowledge mobilization, academictivism, and career planning (hopefully. Please, career, don’t just be a pipe dream.) The research creation bit is less clear for me – it was pointed out to me today that what I’m doing is not “research” since I’m an undergrad, but I want to disagree. I want to believe that the work I’m doing does ‘count’ as research, because I feel like I’m starting to engage with some important questions, and I feel like I have a contribution to make to the academic field. And I want to believe that I can do good academic work even as an undergrad. Anyway. I’m going to plan for it and see what happens! More on developments in the academic area when we get there, but first…

Activism!

Coming up with a social media plan and an intentional design for community engagement and knowledge mobilization means that Possibilities might be able to reach more people, develop connections with other QUILTBAG groups and organizations, and start generating the kind of community-wide buzz that will allow us to offer more social and educational events. If people can find us, we can help them. And they can help us. And we can work together to accomplish the big goals that have been on the to-do list from the beginning. Goals like becoming a registered non-profit, presenting a gender and sexuality conference (originally titled Meet the Rainbow and already sketched out, then shifted to an attempt to convince Dee Dennis to collaborate with Possibilities to run Catalyst Con North, then shifted again after a conversation with Maggie Mayhem to be a year-long speaker series that would be podcast and promoted, a segmented ‘unconference’ that would allow the cost and effort to be spread out, and would build momentum), and eventually opening a queer-inclusive coffeeshop/workshop/gaming space. Yes, my nerd identity influences my activism. I am a nerdy academictivist and there is just nothing that can be done about it.

I started a Twitter account for us today (follow us @bi_yyc!) and I’ll be setting up a blog for the group eventually. We already have a pamphlet project underway, with one (truly awesome) member taking the lead on developing a series of pamphlets on topics that come up frequently in our discussions. These will be printable pdfs on topics like defining bisexuality and pansexuality, coming out as bisexual, pansexual, fluid or otherwise non-monosexual, responding to someone who has just come out as bi/pan/fluid, being an ally to the bi/pan/fluid community, asexuality, polyamory, etc. Having a website would mean being able to get those pamphlets out to people who need them, whether they are in Calgary or not.

Although I’m not sure when I’ll find time to do all this social media outreach, I am excited to shoehorn it into whatever little pockets of time I can find.

Possibilities has three major events coming up – our second annual BiBQ on August 31, our second march in the Calgary Pride parade on September 1, and our first Pirate Prom* on September 21. Each of those events will benefit from having a social media outreach plan in place, and after DHSI I feel like I have a better idea of how to create a plan and make it happen. Fortunately for me, I have lots of help. And if you’d like to donate to Possibilities, let me know!

Multi5 (as the course came to be called) made me aware of the potential for podcasts to widen our audience, and I can see potential for podcasting about issues that are relevant to the Possibilities community. Everything that we’re doing a pamphlet for also presents a podcast opportunity. A podcast might also give us a great way to introduce people to the events that we regularly offer by giving them a chance to “listen in” on something.

I can also see the value in creating a Possibilities Delicious account, perhaps, and using that as a way to post links to interesting articles and resources. Right now I use facebook to post those links, and it’s a very search-unfriendly format. Delicious might be an intermediate step between facebook and a fully functional (and regularly updated) blog or website.

And Twitter! Twitter is probably the most valuable thing I took away from Multi5. Especially when it comes to…

Academics!

When the course started, I was a little frustrated by the fact that I felt like I knew most of what we were talking about. I already use facebook extensively, blog about both my personal life and my academic work, and am fairly confident picking up the ins and outs of new apps and programs. So, since the first day was more basic than I had anticipated, I decided to use the week to practice tweeting.

I have always hated twitter. The interface is frustrating, because I can’t keep track of things as easily as I want to. I don’t like the linear scrolling, the annoyingly non-linear spidering out of conversation threads. And it’s overwhelming! If you don’t check twitter for 8 hours, there’s no way to catch up. The massive flow of information that is always present on the interwebs is just really obvious in twitter and I have never been willing to engage with it seriously because it’s always seemed just… too much. Facebook gets a little overwhelming sometimes and facebook is nothing like the constant flow of twitter.

But!

Twitter is important, I heard. So I used it. For a week, I tweeted about the class and about my Year of Self-Care and about other things.

And it was super cool! Still overwhelming, but super cool. Mainly because I found Amy E. Forrestt. Or rather, she found me. And we started tweeting back and forth, and then added each other on facebook and skype, and then she started the XCircle (which I feel will inevitably result in spandex uniforms for us all *cough nerd *cough). Which means that I now have a network of international alt porn scholars to work with!

Knowledge mobilization and community engagement, right there!!**

And I found that the experience I had with twitter – using the course to push me into thinking about social media in a more intentional way – proved to be true in other areas as well. I was familiar with everything that came up over the week, but in many cases – podcasting, tweeting, Storify and Delicious – I had never seriously considered their usefulness in my academictivist life. Being aware of a thing does not mean being aware of a thing’s utility, or being competent in a thing. The course gave me a huge amount to think about – as well as an amazing zotero database of articles and blog posts on the topic. Aimée Morrison, the course instructor and a social media wizard, has made the zotero database public and I highly recommend combing through it. I haven’t gotten even a tenth of the way through the articles yet, and will be coming back to it over the summer as I put this plan together! My initial frustration was more than balanced out by what I ended up taking from the course.

I’m still not sure how to coordinate an intentionally designed multimedia/social media plan for myself as an academic. Participating on twitter and in the XCircle (cue theme music), of course. Continuing to work with this blog, of course. But what else should I be doing?

Delicious came up over and over again in Multi5, and I am hoping to start using that to track my links and bookmarks. I’m also hoping to start blogging more intentionally about the things that I’m researching and working on academically – I’m doing a major revision of the paper on Ned Mayhem with the assistance of the professor I wrote the paper for, with the end-goal of submitting it to the Porn Studies Journal. I’m also working on the long paper for DH 2013 – “Against the Binary of Gender: A Case for Considering the Many Dimensions of Gender in DH Teaching and Research” with Milena Radzikowska and Stan Ruecker, and will hopefully be revising my honours thesis to submit for publication.

We talked a lot at Multi5 about building an audience for our academic work, and getting our papers into the hands of people who want to read them. We talked about blogging our research process, and ethical engagement with marginalized groups. It was really interesting! And it was awesome to see that the idea I had with this blog – the make the research process transparent and to make the twists and turns and screw ups visible – is something that is being seriously and meaningfully engaged with in the field of Digital Humanities. I want to keep doing that, but I’m also aware now that I perhaps need to find a way to do it that is more accessible.

For example, I have felt for a while that the way I blogged my work in progress during the marathon of thesis writing was good (‘good’ meaning it fit with the goal of this blog) but also probably really annoying to read. So perhaps I need a separate section of the blog where work in progress posts go? I’m not sure. Since I do want to blog about my work on the three major projects I have on tap (plus whatever projects arise in this upcoming semester), I need to figure that out. For now, though, twitter, blogging (as I’ve been doing, with the goal of changing it going forward), starting up a Delicious account and using that, and participating in the XCircle seem like good places to start.

I’d also like to think about podcasting the feminist porn viewings. comprehensive reviews of porn films seem like one way into… (I’m just so witty this evening with the lead-ins. Are you amused? Please be amused.)

Alt-Academic Career Planning!

I’m not sure what this means.

Basically… I doubt I’m going to get a professorship. They’re rare and becoming rarer. Banking on finding a permanent career in the ivory tower seems like a bad idea.

We talked about these “alt-academic” careers in Multi5 – using our humanities skills to build a career in the non-profit sector (maybe Possibilities will be able to pay me a salary someday! … Since a good chunk of our expenses come out of my threadbare pockets right now, I will guess not.), or working with media outlets, or in corporations. Academic skills are marketable outside of the academy.

But I want to be able to continue to research, and to contribute to both the activist and academic conversations about sex, orientation, gender, pornography… I want to keep writing papers and I want to eventually get them published.

So it seems like a good idea to use social media and the vast, amazing interwebs to build a reputation for myself now, so that once I have my MA and my PhD I can launch into a career right away without waiting for a professorship to open up. Maybe I can even get that career started before I’ve completed my academic letter-gathering.

I’m just not sure how.

I suspect I need to tweet interesting and relevant things until people start to take notice, and blog interesting and relevant things (which may be in direct conflict with my goal of making my research transparent, since reading four versions of one paper is just not that interesting), and write papers that get published (either in journals or relevant blogs – I think my work with Uni(di)versity has the potential to be helpful here), and the XCircle also has huge potential here.

This one seems very important, because I do eventually need to be able to pay off the student loans that are accumulating at an alarming rate. But also very challenging.

Do you have ideas about using multimedia design for research creation, community engagement and knowledge mobilization? What would you suggest and what are you doing in your own life (academic, activist, or other)?

* As an exciting aside, the Pirate Prom will be our first major fundraiser, and the proceeds will go towards the Possibilities speaker series that Maggie Mayhem and I discussed this February in San Francisco. (Have I mentioned that I met Maggie Mayhem? And Charlie Glickman? And that they both want to come up and speak in Calgary? Because that happened. And I’m going to make the unconference/speaker series/podcast happen. And it’s going to be amazing. Stay tuned!) If you’re going to be in Calgary on September 21, you probably want to be at the Pirate Prom. This will be an all ages, all genders, all orientations event with live music until 10:30 and a DJ until 1, a costume fashion show/contest, free drinks for designated drivers all night, a grog tasting station with rum and spiced apple cider, and possibly a treasure hunt. This will be an inclusive and accessible event – the space is wheelchair accessible, we will be explicitly welcoming of non-drinkers, and the music will be quiet enough that you can still carry on a conversation if you don’t want to dance. We’re also going to have some kind of intentional community-building element to the event, so that people who come alone won’t feel awkward and isolated. It’s going to be fantastic.

** I almost said: Knowledge mobilization and community engagement, motherfuckers. Will have to assess whether strong language is Multi5 appropriate or not. I really do swear like a pirate. My poor disappointed mother can attest to this fact.

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