Focus on Digital Scholarship puts Emory on the Leading Edge
Connie Moon Sehat is piloting a ship through relatively uncharted waters.Sehat, director of digital scholarship initiatives, started in her position in August. Her job is two-fold:
• to help start a center for digital scholarship at Emory called the Digital Scholarship Commons; and,
• to develop curriculum for a certificated program available to graduate students.
But what is digital scholarship, exactly? Sehat says it’s “a merging of computer science and traditional disciplines of research. It’s a field concerned, in part, with solving the problem of ‘information abundance’: preserving, organizing and providing access to the vast amount of electronic writings and data communications. But it’s also about taking advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies to transform the way we research and teach, whether in archaeology or genetics research.”
Sehat says digital scholarship is difficult to define, perhaps best explained by examples. For instance, the Clinton administration generated roughly 46 million e-mails.
“If a person wanted to be a scholar of the Clinton administration, there’s no way they could read those e-mails back to back,” she says. “Someone once calculated it would take 70 years, but I couldn’t tell you if that was with sleep or not.”
That illustrates just two challenges of digital scholarship: the sheer volume of information that comes out continually, and the question of collaborative research.
“If you want to be a scholar of the modern era, you have something called the problem of abundance,” she says. “There’s no way a person could individually read all of those things. You’d need text-mining tools, at the very least, to search through that data.”
Then there’s the question of collaborative research—it’s difficult to imagine anyone being the lone scholar of the Clinton administration, for example.
“It will probably take a team of researchers to interpret and sift through this data,” says Sehat. “That kind of raises the question: Will there be joint publications in the humanities, and should people get tenure based on their participation in a long-term joint publication?”
The field of digital scholarship has been growing over the last ten or so years, she says. The National Endowment for the Humanities has opened an Office of Digital Humanities. The Mellon Foundation has been interested in scholarly communications and is funding various initiatives. Research organizations in Germany and the United Kingdom are also focusing on the issue, offering large grants and initiatives to advance the study of digital scholarship.
Sehat has a background in German history and holds a doctorate in history from Rice University. As an undergrad at the University of California in Berkeley, she pursued both art history and computer science. But it was easier to find a job in computer science, she says, and she landed a position at NASA and Lockheed Martin, working on an international space station project. “Working for the government may have led me to go back to school,” she says, laughing.
Before coming to Emory, Sehat worked at the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), a digital humanities center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Among its projects, the center started the September 11 Digital Archive, which used electronic media to collect, preserve and present the events of that day and its aftermath, including e-mails, firsthand accounts and digital images. The archive is now part of the Library of Congress.
Sehat was drawn to her new Emory job for two reasons: the opportunity to help start a digital scholarship center out of the libraries, and the chance to develop curriculum for a certificate program in partnership with Emory’s Institute for Liberal Arts (ILA). She says the certificate program would entail perhaps a year of coursework, then an internship possibly at the new Digital Scholarship Commons, which would give students the tools to approach this field.
One of the technologies useful in digital scholarship is a project she worked on at the Center for History and New Media called Zotero. It’s software that allows scholars to organize and view their own personal databases of research within a browser rather than offline. It saves citation information on an article being viewed and can save the item itself, as well as provide space for the researcher to make notes. “It’s a way to visually see your research,” Sehat says.
The capabilities of Zotero and similar software continue to grow. In the future, researchers and scholars will be able to take their own individual sets of data and connect them with those of a colleague. For example, if two members of an international Shakespeare society want to write a book together on a related subject, “You could share your notes, your bibliography, and your highlights with one another just by using a specific software, as opposed to e-mailing each other back and forth, to join all of your databases together,” says Sehat.
Sehat is working on the curriculum for the digital scholarship certificate program, to be offered through the ILA. The hope is to start offering courses by fall 2009 or spring 2010; any graduate student at Emory could add it to her or her degree. With the amount of grant money available and the number of centers being developed both nationally and abroad, “It looks like it is going to be a growing field in terms of job opportunities,” she says.
In addition, Sehat says the Council on Library and Information Resources is arranging an international colloquium on digital scholarship to be held at Emory, possibly in April. Scholars in history, English and media and communications studies from across the U.S. as well as Canada, the U.K., Germany and other countries will be invited. “I’m looking forward to that in terms of putting Emory on the map for digital scholarship,” says Sehat.
While there are universities that have a degreed program in digital scholarship, Sehat says Emory’s combination of the certificate program, the center and particularly the libraries’ involvement is unique. “That’s where the potential for really interesting stuff lies,” she says. “If we can harness this moment, then I think it will be really exciting to see what happens, not just in the next 10 years but the next two.”
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer
Have you checked out the Sparkfly website? If not, make some time to visit soon – it offers some great discounts to Emory employees.
Visit sparkfly.emory.edu – with this address, you can log in with your Emory ID and password while still keeping that information secure – i.e., not revealing it to Sparkfly. You can register for home access from your computer at work, too. On the site, you’ll find discounts on automotive services, necessities for babies and children, restaurants, travel (check out the Park-n-Fly discount at the airport) and hotels and resorts (including Callaway Gardens and worldwide accommodations).
You’ll find local and national bargains for bricks-and-mortar shops as well as online merchants. Be sure to sign up for your SparkCard, which will get you discounts at local participating restaurants (such as Lola, Noche and Goldfish) and other merchants.
Here are some of the categories and recent discounts we found:
Take a few minutes to sign up and start saving!
• Tickets and entertainment: discounts on movie tickets, the upcoming Cirque du Soleil show in Atlanta, a concert by swing/jazz group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Symphony Hall in April. In October, offers included Atlanta Hawks tickets.
• Electronics and the Internet: discounts on Apple, Dell and HP computers; Verizon wireless service and accessories.
• Health and beauty: including discounts at fitness clubs, hair salons and dental services, in-home care, spas and tanning.
• Home and garden: deals on security systems, cleaning services, apartment rental and moving services.
• Services: discounts on registration for a babysitter and pet sitter service; pet supplies and services.
• Shopping: save on clothing (including ColdwaterCreek.com), flowers, office supplies and sporting goods.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer
… to Amanda Welter – who serves as Emory Libraries facilities coordinator and as assistant coach for the Emory Eagles women’s volleyball team. The team won the NCAA Division Three championships on Nov. 23 to become 2008 National Champions in their sport. Look for a profile of Welter in an upcoming issue of KeyWords.
… to Emory Libraries student employee Payal Kenia, who works in assessment with Susan Bailey; and former Goizueta Business Library student employee Nicolai Lundy, both of whom were recently named to Emory’s 100 Senior Honorary for the Class of 2009. This is a select group of Emory campus leaders who will be working with the Emory Alumni Association to create a connection between graduating students and their future as Emory alumni.
… to Joan Smith and the Digital Systems Division, which recently reorganized into a new structure. Benefits include the ability to address staff career path needs, to meet objectives in Emory’s business plan, to facilitate team-based project management, to enhance response to customers and to expand horizon and vision. For more on the reorganization, see http://www.library.emory.edu/reorgsys/reorgchart1.htm.
... to Joan Smith and her team for also ensuring that the Voyages Web site was prepared to receive countless visitors upon the announcement of a related Dec. 5-6 conference. The research team and the Emory University Communications and Marketing office anticipate that “Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database” could receive more visitors from the research community and the general public than any previous project!
… to Michael Page, whose recent book with Emory alum Harry G. Lefever has now been published. Check out “Sacred Places: A Guide to Civil Rights Sites in Atlanta, Georgia” at http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Places-Rights-Atlanta-Georgia/dp/0881461210/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1228180711&sr=1-1.
… to the Southern Spaces team, which recently added four new features to its site:
NOTE: If you’re on Facebook, be sure to “friend” Southern Spaces!
• “Shadows along the Waccamaw,” contributed by Dan Albergotti and accessible at http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2008/albergotti/1a.htm.
• “The ‘Tennessee Jamboree’: Local Radio, the Barn Dance, and Cultural Life in Appalachian East Tennessee” contributed by Bradley Hanson and accessible at http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2008/hanson/1a.htm.
• “Glimpsing Andalusia in the O’Connor-Hester Letters,” contributed by Christine McCulloch, accessible a http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2008/mcculloch/1a.htm. Enjoy Nancy Marshall’s photographs of Andalusia at http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2008/marshall/1a.htm.
• “Gold Records in Deep Space,” contributed by Steve Bransford, accessible at http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2008/bransford.
… to Myra Lovett, senior accounting assistant reporting to Larry Frederick. Myra comes to us from Payment Services where she began her career at Emory in 2003. We are fortunate to have someone on our team with her deep experience in using Emory payment systems.
… to Alex Thomas, a senior applications developer/analyst for the Software Development team led by Scott Turnbull in the Digital Systems Division. No stranger to Emory, Alex earned his computer science degree here and brings a variety of technical experience to his work for us based on eight years’ experience on many corporate projects.
… to Arthur Murphy.
… to Dawn Cadogan.
… to Paul O’Grady.
… to Ben McCormick.
… to Barbara Buehrer.
… to Jeannie Downey.
—Lea McLees, communications director, and Beth Kurylo, KeyWORDS contributor
You might not expect a library colleague to moonlight as a member of an improv comedy group. But that’s what Bran Peacock does when he’s not working as a training specialist and student coordinator for stacks.
(In case you’re wondering, Bran is short for Branyan, his mother’s maiden name, which is his middle name. “For some reason my folks decided to call me that instead of my first name, which is Alan. Then I just kind of got used to it,” he says.)
Bran attended the University of Georgia and graduated from LaGrange College in 1990, where he was a theater major. Growing up, he was influenced by “Saturday Night Live” and “Monty Python.” In college, he and a friend started a sketch comedy group – “she wanted a forum to do stand up, and I wanted a forum to do sketch,” he says.
Around the time he started working at the Woodruff Library, he took his first improv class at Dad’s Garage and loved it.
“I’ve been doing improv for about nine or 10 years,” he says. “It’s a fairly quick reward – or punishment.” He met his wife, Meghan, several years ago, when they were both members of a now-defunct improv troupe. “Our friends had to tell us we were dating. We didn’t realize we were dating,” he says.
Peacock teaches classes at the JaCKPie Improv Theatre Workshop and sometimes performs in its weekly shows at 9:30 p.m. every Saturday at Relapse Theatre in Midtown. In October, he produced a five-candidate mock political debate called “Political Stuff 2008: Feel the ‘Campain’” with JaCKPie, for which he performed in a sketch and led post-show commentary. You can find his sci-fi radio sitcom called “Space Squad 21” on his My Space page at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=74391124. He hopes to turn it into a stage show at the theater, in the style of old-time radio shows, he says.
You might catch him randomly on TV, too: Peacock scored a small guest role a few years ago as a guy who tries to counterfeit grocery-store coupons in a short-lived “Cops” parody show called “Blotter.” The show runs sporadically on TBS between late-night movies – logged on television schedules as “interstitial programming,” – or to fill time when there’s a rain delay during a Braves game, he says.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer