In October, I attended the Digital Humanities API workshop at the University of Western Ontario. Almost all the workshop attendees generally agreed that, for any scholars to work with APIs and web services in general, we needed to create tools that make it easier to work with those service. It’s not enough to just create an API for a project; we also need to offer examples, provide working code that’s easy to customize for specific purposes. This is particularly true, I think, if we want to use blogs as a more serious and useful medium for sharing research. In addition to common reservations about sharing ongoing research among academics, there is also a very real technological barrier for most researchers who simply want to, say, add a citation to a blog post from their Zotero or Connotea library, or insert a bibliography they’ve already created somewhere else. Its even more difficult for the average researcher to set up mechanisms for returning relevant information while writing a paper or blog post or online article.
To use weblogs to share research, we need solutions to fully integrate the collecting/sorting/note-taking aspects of researching with the writing and disseminating aspects. We need to provide the tools to researchers to bring their citations, annotations, starred items, tagged items, et cetera, into their writing spaces. In doing this, we can make the process of research more transparent and participatory. The result would be in some ways akin to Jim Groom’s idea for “a domain of one’s own,” a place where researchers of any level (high school freshman to emeritus university professors) could establish a digital identity around their work, collaborate with other researchers, and more generally make meaningful use out of the stuff already collected. We can make it possible for any researcher to create their own online workspace, an atelier that contains all the things they have collected, from whatever services and APIs, in order to critically reflect on them and create something new out of them.
I think WordPress provides a fantastic platform to accomplish many of these goals, and I’m excited to present these ideas at WordCamp! I plan on talking for about 10-15 minutes, which will generally:
- Reflect on the research process, specifically the role of current web service in research.
- Discuss what is needed to better integrate weblogs into the research process, and the benefits for doing so.
- Elaborate on some potential solutions, and provide some previews for my next ScholarPress plugin, tentatively called Atelier.
What I’m most looking forward to, though, is talking with the audience! Like most academics, I could probably drone on for hours about this topic, but I’m planning to leave the last 15 minutes for discussion. Feel free to leave questions or comments here, or send me a message on Twitter @clioweb.