At the heart of the Greenhouse Studios design process is the concept of “collaboration from the start.” All too often collaborators are brought on board at a late stage merely to implement or put the finishing touches on scholarly projects, not to conceptualize them. This is particularly true with respect to designers and developers, whose labor and expertise are typically used in a service capacity to support the work of credentialed faculty researchers. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with hiring a developer to build a website for a scholarly research project, or having a design technologist create colorful and engaging data visualizations. Indeed, designers, developers and other technologists can enhance conventional research outputs, especially at the publication and dissemination stages, by making them more accessible, more engaging and more comprehensible to broader audiences.
But what happens when collaborators with expertise in design and technology are part of a project team from the very beginning? Moreover, what happens when technologists work alongside other diverse researchers, whose respective fields may lie adjacent to one another, but rarely overlap?
Since the 1970s, scholars in fields as varied as sedimentology, ornithology, sociology, and philosophy have come to understand the importance of self-organizing systems, of how higher-order complexity can “emerge” from independent lower-order elements. Emergence describes how millions of tiny mud cracks at the bottom of a dry lake bed form large scale geometries when viewed at a distance, or how water molecules, each responding simply to a change in temperature, come to form the complex crystalline patterns of a snowflake. Emergence describes how hundreds of birds, each following its own, relatively simple rules of behavior, self-organize into a flock that displays its own complex behaviors, behaviors that none of the individual birds themselves would display. In the words of writer Steven Johnson, emergence describes how those birds, without a master plan or executive leadership, go from being a “they” to being an “it.” In other words, emergence describes a becoming.
We, too, form emergent systems. Emergence describes how a crowd of pedestrians self-organizes to form complex traffic flows on a busy sidewalk. Viewed close-up, each pedestrian is just trying to get to his or her destination without getting trampled, reacting to what’s in front of him or her according to a set of relatively simple behavioral rules—one foot in front of the other. Viewed from above, however, we see a structured flow, a river of humanity. Acting without direction, the crowd spontaneously orders itself into a complex system for maximizing pedestrian traffic. The mass of individual actors has, without someone in charge, gone from being an uncoordinated “they” to an organized “it.” Continue reading →
Wes Hamrick is a Greenhouse Studios Mellon Fellow who will be managing the Cohort B projects that started this year. A dedicated team member, Wes recently answered some questions related to his role at Greenhouse Studios.
At Greenhouse Studios, we are working out the process of creating new forms of scholarship. One important aspect of what differentiates scholarship from projects is sustainability. As I like to say, there is no scholarship without persistence. The infrastructure of persistence is well understood in traditional academic publishing, but is less understood in the world digital humanities.
The Greenhouse Studios model works through five distinct phases, Understand, Identify, Build, Review, Release, and is based on the idea of flattening traditional academic hierarchies: we do not build things for faculty, we gather together a group of people around a common intellectual question, and go from there.
Archivists have traditionally insisted that it improves the preservation potential of any digital record for the archivist—or at least preservation thinking—to be a part of the creation of that record from the beginning. At Greenhouse Studios we are testing what that actually means in terms of new forms of scholarship. What is the beginning? When is it appropriate to consider preservation? Continue reading →
The Greenhouse Studios Team would like to congratulate and extend a sincere thank-you to this year’s group of graduates for all of their efforts and accomplishments during their time as Greenhouse Studios collaborators!
d’Archive is a weekly show curated by the Archives & Special Collections at the UConn Library to broadcast sound recordings from within collections around themes and interviews conducted amongst archivists, researchers, librarians and music aficionados. This project was established to promote unexpected collections in everyday spaces throughout the campus and surrounding community.”
– Graham Stinnett via iTunes
When people ask me about what we do at Greenhouse Studios, it is challenging to distill all of its ambitions into a easily digestible tidbit. Ultimately, we are attempting to change the way scholarship is produced. As a result, many of Greenhouse Studios’ features are responsive to the limitations of mainstream academic practice. In this post, I thought I would share an in-depth explanation of the Understand phase, the first phase stage of collaboration in the Greenhouse Studios design process. I will describe our current process with a degree of generality, as we are constantly evaluating its efficacy and suggesting possible tweaks. I’ll explain how this first phase sets the stage for our teams to generate innovative forms of scholarship.
Greenhouse Studios opened the doors of its new workspace on level 1 of the Homer Babbidge Library in August of 2017. As a new open-plan multi-functional office space, it had room for finishing touches and decorative elements. My immediate response to the name “Greenhouse” envisioned lush plantlife along its glass walls. Joining Greenhouse Studios team in fall of 2017, it soon became my task to add these decorative and green elements to the space in a way that added both beauty and functionality.
Congratulations to the Greenhouse Studios Working Group, which was recognized today as a finalist for the 2018 Team Award at a ceremony for the UConn Spirit Awards! The team was one of three finalists, along with the University Events and Conference Services Department and the Team Award recipient, the UConn Hartford Campus staff & administration.
The ceremony was a wonderfully-organized event which acknowledged several inspiring individuals and groups, and even featured Jonathan the Husky as a guest! It was an honor for the Working Group to be recognized as a Team Award finalist, and congratulations to all of the award finalists and winners!
Here is a quick description of the UConn Spirit Awards, from the program's website: “The University of Connecticut established the UConn Spirit Awards to honor staff and faculty at our Storrs and regional campuses for stellar contributions and dedication to civility in the workplace. The goals of the UConn Spirit Awards are to:
Build community within the University and University departments;
Provide an opportunity for employees to be recognized for their contributions to the University, which are not specifically academic but related to teamwork and civility; and
Create an event that acknowledges the efforts of all employees, especially staff members.”