Greenhouse Studios has always been concerned with fostering meaningful work using digital tools as a medium. However, the members of Greenhouse Studios, and the Digital Humanities movement as a whole, often rely on physical space to cultivate collaboration as well. While Greenhouse Studios has always used virtual spaces such as Google Docs and Slack in our design process, having a physical space filled with whiteboards, screens, notepads, and other tools has been integral to the process of collaboration. Since the beginning of COVID-19 and the practice of social distancing, Greenhouse Studios has been searching for creative solutions to try to replicate the physical space of the design process. These efforts are exemplified in a recent 2 week fully virtual collaboration by the team.
The team took up the project with the prompt “Social Distance” and condensed the design process to fit a 2 week timeline. Throughout the early, discussion-heavy phases of the project, the team used WebEx, Mural, and Google Docs to replicate synchronous, conversation-based brainstorming. As the project progressed, the team also communicated through Slack and Mural asynchronously. The team even experimented with using the app House Party to try to simulate the random encounters in physical workspaces. All of these tools were used to help create a sense of a common “place” where everyone in the project could meet and share ideas.
Overall, the project was successful, and the team learned a lot about planning and managing online collaboration efforts. The result was a video that explores why people are driven, both voluntarily and involuntarily, to isolate through history and the present moment.
Members of the Courtroom 600 project team recently participated in the 2020 ED Games Expo in Washington, D.C., allowing students, educators, and others to dive into an immersive encounter with the Major War Criminals Trial (1945-46) at Nuremberg, Germany. The annual expo, hosted by the Department of Education, is described by the ED as a “public showcase and celebration of educational learning games as well as innovative forms of learning technologies for children and students in education and special education.”
Collaborators Clarissa Ceglio, Stephen Slota, and Ken Thompson presented an early-stage prototype of the virtual reality experience to crowds of all ages; attendees were able to wear the headset and engage with the project first-hand, while also discussing both the research and the process of creating the experience. Courtroom 600, which integrates collections materials from UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections (ASC) into the learning quest, is supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities‘ Digital Projects for the Public grant. You can read more about the Courtroom 600 project and its other team members, here, and explore the ASC’s fully-digitized collection of materials from the U.S. Prosecution’s Executive Trial Counsel Thomas J. Dodd, here.
A young ED Games Expo attendee explores an early Courtroom 600 proof-of-concept. ED Games Expo is a showcase of government-supported
educational learning games and technologies.
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?
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 →
Enter Greenhouse Studios and you'll almost always spot Design Technologist Tom Lee diligently at work in the corner project room. Step up to its glass wall and inside you'll see architectural blueprints, virtual reality (VR) equipment, and Tom, who's often wearing a pair of VR goggles and staring into space. He's not just day dreaming, he is actually working on Greenhouse Studios’ first and furthest-developed collaboration: The Charles V Coronation. This project involves experts from the History, Music, Research Services, and Digital Media & Design departments. Their goal is to recreate the coronation Mass of Charles V, which took place in 1530, as realistically as possible, including the original architectural space, artifacts, and music of the event.