With a $1.2 Million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, Shift, and the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia (UVA) will collaborate to lead the ongoing work of the Documenting the Now project. Started in 2014 with a grant to Washington University in St. Louis in partnership with the University of California, Riverside and MITH, Documenting the Now is committed to developing tools and community practices that support the ethical collection, use, and preservation of social media and web archives. Continuing the important work the project has accomplished over the past four years, the second phase of Documenting the Now will be focused on three interdependent strands of activity: software development, pedagogy, and engagement with community-based archiving of social justice activism.
Leading this second phase of Documenting the Now will be Trevor Muñoz, Interim Director of MITH & Assistant Dean for Digital Humanities Research at UMD who will serve as the Principal Investigator and the Administrative Lead; Bergis Jules, Director of Equity Initiatives at Shift Design Inc who will serve as a Co-Principal Investigator and the Project Director; Dr. Meredith Clark, Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies at UVA who will serve as a Co-Principal Investigator and Academic Lead; and Ed Summers, Lead Software Developer at MITH who will be the project’s Technical Lead.
During this phase of the project, our technical work, led by Summers with support from Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, Francis Kayiwa and Dr. Raffaele Viglianti, will focus on continuing to develop, test, and deploy the software utilities built during phase one. These tools include DocNow, the Tweet ID Dataset Catalog, Hydrator and Twarc. One of the main focuses for the software that the project team will develop in this phase will be human-centered design approaches that privilege interaction between content creators and users of our tools who are interested in collecting social media data as archival content.
One example of work that will exemplify the project’s goal to undertake human centered design is Social Humans. Created by Dolan-Mescal, UX and Web Designer for Documenting the Now, Social Humans is a set of data labels designed to empower content creators and inform researchers about user intent. In addition to continuing work developing software and fostering a community of practice around social media/web archiving that is grounded in an ethics of care for the histories of oppressed people, the next phase will also see the project team engage in pedagogical activities around social media and race, with the exciting addition of Dr. Meredith Clark as a Co-Principal Investigator. Dr. Clark is a former newspaper journalist whose research focuses on the intersections of race, media, and power. Her work on the project will include the development of academic courses, including a series of experiential learning tasks and assignments using DocNow tools and support. The project team is excited she agreed to join this phase of the effort.
Phase two will also include work on archiving activism history through a set of community-based archiving workshops. The goal of the program will be to build digital community-based archives in direct partnership with social justice activist organizations. Local activists are usually the people closest to the issues negatively impacting a community and they are most frequently on the front lines agitating for support and offering the most effective solutions, whether their causes are addressing police violence, inadequate educational opportunities, food scarcity, mass incarceration, or racial injustice. The Documenting the Now project is interested in exploring how we might build digital community-based archives from the perspectives of local activists and in equitable partnership with them. The archives will be built on Mukurtu CMS and we’re excited to work with that team because of their commitment to community control of local cultural heritage. Activist groups will be selected to participate in the program through an open application process. We will be sharing more information about the workshops and the application process soon, including incentives for the activist organizations, the workshop team, and the structure of the program. Stay tuned to the Documenting the Now Twitter and blog, or join our Slack for more information.
MITH, along with our partners, are extremely grateful for the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Documenting the Now, and for the Foundation’s continued support of cultural heritage work that is intentionally community centered and grounded in an ethic of care for the lived experiences of the most vulnerable people in our society. We are particularly excited for the opportunity that continued support provides for enacting our strategic values in combination with the Foundation’s support for African American History, Culture and the Digital Humanities (AADHum).
The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) is a leading digital humanities center that pursues disciplinary innovation and institutional transformation through applied research, public programming, and educational opportunities. Jointly supported by the University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities and the University of Maryland Libraries, MITH engages in collaborative, interdisciplinary work at the intersection of technology and humanistic inquiry.
Shift Design, Inc is a US 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that was established with a specific focus to design products for social change. Much of our work to date has focused on building an inclusive record of our shared cultural heritage, including projects like Historypin and Storybox.
The Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia began in Fall 2000 as an interdisciplinary undergraduate major in the College of Arts and Sciences. The department is historical and critical in orientation and takes media as its object of study. The department focuses on the forms, institutions, and effects of media (radio, film, television, photography, print, digital and electronic media), with particular emphasis on the mass media of the modern and contemporary period.