Digital Field Scholarship

Digital field scholarship—click for larger image

What is digital field scholarship (DFS)? There are many, many examples taking place in liberal education institutions across the U.S. The diagram at right starts broadly with scholarship, zooms into a wide range of field-based scholarship, then considers how digital means may enhance field scholarship; in brief, the ultimate aim is quality scholarship in undergraduate liberal education.

This particular DFS Sandbox initiative, overseen by Prof. Jim Proctor of Lewis & Clark College, explored the potential of digital field scholarship in liberal education via a collaborative pilot during academic year 2012-13; see here for an August 2012 launch and here for an April 2013 webinar presentation. We focused on a few promising technologies, including:

  • Smart device geolocation. From spatial process and pattern in the sciences to the spatial turn and sense of place in the humanities, geolocation supports and connects a wide range of scholarship. For scholarship involving a field dimension—reconnaissance, exploration, data collection, landscape interpretation, groundtruthing, creative expression, service learning—ubiquitous handheld smart devices offer our students a ready means to perform geolocated fieldwork, an essential (and experiential!) component of field-based scholarship.
  • WordPress-based collaboration. Collaboration takes many forms in contemporary scholarship, from team-based research to online resource sharing. Of the many promising applications that support these modalities for collaboration, WordPress is one of the most ubiquitous, easy to use, and flexible, having evolved far from its origins in 2003 as a solo blogging platform. With appropriate plugins, WordPress offers support for field data storage and sharing, mapping, communication, and other essential DFS components; data can readily be exported for further (e.g., GIS) analysis or more formal collections. As such, WordPress can serve as a collaborative hub for the messy process as well as refined products of scholarship, in what Dan Cohen calls a “pyramid” model. Click here for one visualization of how a WordPress scholarly site, more specific scholarly tools, and the process of scholarship could relate.



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