Pre-Institute Talks

The Decentralizing Potential of Community-based Mapping — Randa El Khatib (University of Victoria, Canada)

Apart from their direct purpose of wayfinding and navigating our world, historically maps have also served as tools of colonialism, exclusion, and oppression. However, the rise of open access and open source Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the increased participation of volunteers and citizen scholars in knowledge production, such as through volunteered geographical information and community-based or participatory mapping supply social justice-oriented projects that help counter, rewrite, or at least portray parallel histories and narratives to the dominating ones passed from the top down. This talk will focus on how community-driven and community-university partnerships use geographical information produced by citizen scholars, and often facilitated by open technology, to create data that is not typically supplied by professional geodata providers, for advancing public well-being. The types of projects driven by volunteered geographical information and participatory mapping that have become established in the short time since the technology’s inception certainly make this area one of the richest in terms of enacting open social scholarship, and can provide models for future projects that consider implementing user-generated content and community knowledge.

 

The Time is Now: Public Engagement and Open Social Scholarship in the Humanities — Alyssa Arbuckle (University of Victoria, Canada)

For decades now, there has been pressure on those working in academia in North America to engage more seriously with the publics they serve. Steps have been taken in this direction: witness the rise of the “public humanities” as a movement, the transition from closed, for-cost publishing to open access to research, and the establishment of public engagement priorities in funding agency agendas. Circumstances and opportunities for academic collaboration with wider communities have only improved with the rise of networked technologies and practices (e.g. social media), and the resultant de-centering of authority in regards to who is expert on any given subject. Narrowing down to the humanities, in particular, the development and international establishment of digital humanities as a robust and vibrant field of study has opened further doors; those working in digital humanities often have the proclivity, skills, and aptitude for working with colleagues across disciplines and outside of traditional academic institutions. The prerequisites are in place for socially creating knowledge, collaborating across groups, and engaging with publics in more comprehensive and sustained ways. So why hasn’t socially-engaged work become standard practice for academics?

In this presentation, I argue that the humanities, as a field, is well poised to embrace more comprehensive social knowledge creation practices. In doing so, humanities practitioners can put open scholarship theories into practice. Regardless of challenges, the current state of the humanities is ideal for social knowledge creation practices to proliferate—as long as such practices are undertaken conscientiously, and with awareness of risk and opposition. In rising to this timely occasion, humanities practitioners might realize some of the promises of open scholarship, and move toward a goal of creating and sharing knowledge widely and democratically.