Making Works-In-Progress Public

Lately I’ve been thinking about digital history as process. That is to say, it’s the journey as much as the end that makes digital history exciting to me. For heritage professionals working on digital projects, there are plenty of opportunities to engage with the wider public before producing that final deliverable.

With all of that in mind, I want to use this week’s post to talk more about the benefits of sharing digital works-in-progress. In terms of process, I can think of a few particularly good reasons for doing so.

  • Sharing project updates with a public audience is an effective way to give definition to loose thoughts and brainstorms. It also illuminates the distance between where you are and where you’d like to be, making that next step easier to identify. Later, such updates enable individuals to look back at a given project’s development, making it easier to identity what worked (and what didn’t) along the way.
  • Making a work-in-progress public exposes your work to a wide audience that can provide comments, criticism and suggestions. Soliciting outside opinions can help a project receive enlightening feedback from individuals with novel perspectives and different expertise. While exposing a project’s weaknesses and uncertainties isn’t always flattering, doing so may help resolve outstanding dilemmas before that pending deadline. (For instance, check out The Historian’s Macrosope, a book being written in public by the captain of the HMS Hist5702x and his cohort.)
  • On a more philosophical note, exposing the development of a digital history project is one way of fostering transparency in the heritage field. Heritage organizations, from the museum to the archive, conservancies to historic sites, are important democratic institutions that encourage and inform conversations about the past. As such we tend to value public access to the services they provide. Perhaps we should also consider what it means to encourage public engagement within the heritage process.

Undoubtedly, there are many other reasons. I’ve only touched upon the idea of encouraging public engagement (it probably merits its own post). I am a newcomer to the world of digital history, and these thoughts are undoubtedly thoughts-in-progress.

Whether you are a #hist5702x follower or just happened upon us, I would encourage you to engage with what you see. Peruse other posts; follow the conversation on Twitter (#hist5702x). Comment. Criticize. Encourage. Participate.

3 Comments

  1. Kyle Lagrandeur

    Hi Jesse, former student of Dr. Graham’s here. I’ve recently engaged with some of the theoretical material with regard to epistemological pursuits. That is, I read this book: The World, the Text and the Critic and in it Edward Said argues for something that I, or he, calls an epistemological companion piece. A glorified term for a research log and journal. I call it the former, epistemological companion piece, because I find it more truly represents the purpose. Sharing this information is an act in letting others know how you came to know what you know. It is useful for the purposes of greater organization as well. We have a copy of the book in the library if you’d like to check it out here is the Call Number: PN81.S223. Lastly, I can’t quite remember the page. But, one of the author’s points is a movement towards close readings. It takes time but, a reading of the text in its entirety would be the best way to digest it.

    • Jesse Robertson

      Wonderful! Thank you for this, Kyle. I would definitely like to take a look at this when I have the time. I had no idea Said had written something so pertinent to these questions. That someone should be able to suggest a useful theoretical concept in so short a time itself seems to be evidence of the value of this kind of practice.

      • Kyle Lagrandeur

        Not a single person I have suggested this book too is aware of its existence. I grabbed it from the History Department Booksale in the Fall in an effort to diversify my portfolio of historical theory. Interesting note: My copy belonged to Professor McKillop. He dated the book 1989. I’m interested in the degree to which this book had shaped his own thoughts and approach.