Meet Spencer Keralis, Digital Humanities Librarian

Spencer Keralis teaches a class.

This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features one of the newest members of our team, Spencer Keralis, Digital Humanities Librarian.


What is your background and work experience?

I have a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University. I started working in libraries in 2011 as a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Fellow with the University of North Texas Libraries, doing research on data management policy and practice. This turned into a position as a Research Associate Professor working to catalyze digital scholarship on campus, which led to the development of Digital Frontiers, which is now an independent non-profit corporation. I serve as the Executive Director of the organization and help organize the annual conference. I have previous experience working as a project manager in telecom and non-profits. I’ve also taught in English and Communications at the university level since 2006.

What led you to this field?

My CLIR Fellowship really sparked the career change from English to libraries, but I had been considering libraries as an alternate career path prior to that. My doctoral research was heavily archives-based, and I initially thought I’d pursue something in rare books or special collections. My interest in digital scholarship evolved later.

What is your research agenda?

My current project explores how the HIV-positive body is reproduced and represented in ephemera and popular culture in the visual culture of the early years of the AIDS epidemic. In American popular culture, representations of the HIV-positive body have largely been defined by Therese Frare’s iconic 1990 photograph of gay activist David Kirby on his deathbed in an Ohio hospital, which was later used for a United Colors of Benetton ad. Against this image, and other representations which medicalized or stigmatized HIV-positive people, people living with AIDS and their allies worked to remediate the HIV-positive body in ephemera including safe sex pamphlets, zines, comics, and propaganda. In my most recent work, I’m considering the reclamation of the erotic body in zines and comics, and how the HIV-positive body is imagined as an object of desire differently in these underground publications than they are in mainstream queer comics representing safer sex. I also consider the preservation and digitization of zines and other ephemera as a form of remediation that requires a specific ethical positioning in relation to these materials and the community that produced them, engaging with the Zine Librarians’ Code of Conduct, folksonomies and other metadata schema, and collection and digitization policies regarding zines from major research libraries. This research feels very timely and urgent given rising rates of new infection among young people, but it’s also really fun because the materials are so eclectic and often provocative. You can check out a bit of this research on the UNT Comics Studies blog.

 Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

I love working with students and helping them develop their research questions. Too often students (and sometimes faculty, let’s be honest) come to me and ask “What tools should I learn?” I always respond by asking them what their research question is. Not every research question is going to be amenable to digital tools, and not every tool works for every research question. But having a conversation about how digital methods can potentially enrich a student’s research is always rewarding, and I always learn so much from these conversations.

 What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I think comics and graphic novels are generally underappreciated in both pedagogy and research. There are comics on every topic, and historical comics go back much further than most people realize. I think the intersection of digital scholarship with comics studies has a lot of potential, and a lot of challenges that have yet to be met – the technical challenge of working with images is significant, and there has yet to be significant progress on what digital scholarship in comics might look like. I also think comics belong more in classes – all sorts of classes, there are comics on every topic, from math and physics, to art and literature – than they are now because they reach students differently than other kinds of texts.

 If you could recommend one book or resource to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

I’m kind of obsessed with Liz Losh and Jacque Wernimont’s edited collection Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities because it’s such an important intervention in the field. I’d rather someone new to DH start there than with some earlier, canonical works because it foregrounds alternative perspectives and methodologies without centering a white, male perspective. Better, I think, to start from the margins and trouble some of the traditional narratives in the discipline right out the gate. I’m way more interested in disrupting monolithic or hegemonic approaches to DH than I am in gatekeeping, and Liz and Jacque’s collection does a great job of constructively disrupting the field.

Scholarly Commons Brownbag Discussion: Librarians Training in Digital Scholarship

On Tuesday, November 14, 2-3pm in 106 Main Library, Librarians Dan Tracy, David Morris, Antonio Sotomayor and Harriett Green will be speaking about their experiences at the inaugural Association for Research Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Institute. Held in June 2017 at Boston College, the Institute introduced librarians who are not currently involved in digital scholarship to the methodologies and tools for such work. This multi-institutional initiative, led in part by the University of Illinois, aims to facilitate broader transformations in academic libraries and create a strong community of practice around digital scholarship work. Harriett Green and Dan Tracy will speak about their involvement in organizing and teaching for the Digital Scholarship Institute, and Antonio Sotomayor and David Morris will share their experiences attending the first Institute.

Harriett Green, Head of Scholarly Communication and Publishing
David Morris, Classics Librarian, Research & Information Services Librarian
Antonio Sotomayor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian
Dan Tracy, Information Sciences and Digital Humanities Librarian

Hope to see you there!

Meet Merinda Hensley, Digital Scholarship Liaison and Instruction Librarian

This post is part of our series profiling the expertise housed in the Scholarly Commons and our affiliate units in the University Library. Today we are featuring Merinda Hensley, Associate Professor and Digital Scholarship Liaison and Instruction Librarian.


What is your background education and work experience?

I got my BA in Political Science and Environmental Policy from the University of Arizona. I always thought I would work in DC for a non-profit or for the government but when we moved to Illinois in 1999 I decided to volunteer for AmeriCorps instead. As a volunteer, I administered a local rental assistance program. That was a really tough job, helping fill out paperwork for people that needed money to make a rent payment. I learned that while I thought I wanted to be on the front lines of social work, it was too easy for me to get attached to people’s situations. After I had my daughter, I decided to apply for a position at the Champaign Public Library. At the time I was also taking a course at the iSchool to see if librarianship was right for me. That was an easy decision! I kept my position at CPL until I was offered a graduate assistantship in the Education and Social Science Library. To round out an already very busy schedule, I was also offered a position working with the Information Literacy and Instruction Coordinator, which ended up being serendipitous because I never thought of myself as a teacher.

What led you to this field?

Since I was a child I knew I wanted to contribute to society in a way that would help make the world a better place. Until I found librarianship that always felt cliche and too big to be real for me. As an AmeriCorps volunteer, I was reminded how energetic I feel when guiding someone through a real world problem. I come from a family of teachers – my mom was a high school math teacher and my nana was a first grade reading teacher. Being a “traditional” teacher never resonated with me and in fact, I’ve sworn more than once I would never be a teacher. It turns out my view of teaching was short sighted and one dimensional. In library school I learned about information literacy and I immediately saw the potential in empowering students and faculty to learn how to use and find and create information.

What is your research agenda?

I am focused on developing effective ways to teach students critical thinking skills that translate into a lifelong ability in finding, evaluating, using, sharing, and creating information. As an instruction librarian, I investigate emerging methodologies for how librarians can extend our information literacy mission into new areas, especially the factors that influence the decisions students make as creators of new knowledge. I also work with my colleagues to design best practices that assist students at all levels in understanding scholarly communication, a process through which scholarly work is created, evaluated by the academic community, disseminated through presentations and writings, and perhaps most importantly, preserved for future use. My research contributes new discoveries to teaching and learning for librarianship, and enhancing how libraries support students as they identify as scholars including preparing academic librarians to lead this transition.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

My favorite part of my job is when a student has an a-ha moment while I am teaching. Students have a hard time hiding when they are excited and that makes me extraordinarily fulfilled.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I think it’s really important for undergraduate students to learn about the value of institutional repositories. Ours is called IDEALS and anyone affiliated with the university can submit their research (including conference posters or PowerPoint slides!) for archiving and a permanent URL for their resume. For the past year, I’ve been working on a project that will collect undergraduate theses and capstone projects into IDEALS from across all disciplines. In addition to keeping a record of the research students have engaged in at Illinois, it also provides future students the opportunity to pick up research questions where previous research left off.

If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer.

Interested in contacting Merinda? You can email her at mhensle1@illinois.edu, or set up a consultation request through the Scholarly Commons website.

Twine Review

Twine is a tool for digital storytelling platform originally created by Baltimore-based programmer Chris Klimas back in 2009. It’s also a very straightforward turn-based game creation engine typically used for interactive fiction.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m a serious researcher who don’t got no time for games.” Well, games are increasingly being recognized as an important part of digital pedagogy in libraries, at least according to this awesome digital pedagogy LibGuide from University of Toronto. Plus, if you’re a researcher interested in presenting your story in a nonlinear way, letting readers explore the subject at their own pace and based on what they are interested in, this could be the digital scholarship platform for you! Twine is a very easy-to-use tool, and allows you to incorporate links to videos and diagrams as well. You can also create interactive workflows and tutorials for different subjects. It’s also a lot of fun, something I don’t often say about the tools I review for this blog.

Twine is open source and free. Currently, there are three versions of Twine maintained by different repositories.There is already a lot of documentation and tutorials available for Twine so I will not be reinventing the wheel, but rather showing some of Twine’s features and clarifying things that I found confusing. Twine 1 still exists and there are certain functions that are only possible there; however, we are going to be focusing on Twine 2, which is newer and updated.

Twine 2

An example of a story on Twine

What simple Twine games look like. You would click on a linked blue or purple text to go to the next page of the story.

The Desktop version is identical to the online version; however, stories are a lot less likely to be inadvertently deleted on the desktop version. If you want to work on stories offline, or often forget to archive, you may prefer this option.

Desktop version of Twine

 

Story editor in Twine 2, Desktop edition with all your options for each passage. Yes I named the story Desktop Version of Twine.

You start with an Untitled passage, which you can change the title and content of. Depending on the version of Twine you have set up, you write in a  text-based coding language, and connect the passages of your story using links written between brackets like [[link]] that automatically generate a new passage. There are ways to hide the destination. More advanced users can add logic-based elements such as “if” statements in order to create games.

You cannot install the desktop version on the computers in Scholarly Commons, so let’s look at the browser version. Twine will give you reminders, but it’s always important to know that if you clear your browser files while working on a Twine project, you will lose your story. However, you can archive your file as an HTML document to ensure that you can continue to access it. We recommend that you archive your files often.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to archive your stories. Step 1: Click the “Home” icon.

Twine editor with link to home menu circled

 

Click “Archive”

Arrow pointing at archive in main Twine menu

This is also where you can start or import stories.

Save Your File

Save archive file in Twine for browser

Note: You should probably  move the file from Downloads and paste it somewhere more stable, such as a flashdrive or the Cloud.

When you are ready to start writing again you can import your story file, which will have been saved as an HTML document. Also, keep in mind if you’re using a public or shared computer, Twine is based on the browser, so it will be accessible to whoever is using the browser.

And if you’re interested in interactive fiction or text-based games, there are a lot of platforms you might want to explore in addition to Twine such as: http://inform7.com/ and https://textadventures.co.uk/  and http://www.inklestudios.com/inklewriter/ 

Let us know in the comments your thoughts on Twine and similar platforms as well as the role of games and interactive fiction in research!

Juan Pablo Alperin: Does Our Research Serve the Public, or Only Ourselves?

Juan Pablo Alperin.

Mark your calendars: Juan Pablo Alperin is coming to campus on March 9th to give a lecture titled, “Does Our Research Serve the Public, or Only Ourselves?” The Talk will place in Illini Union 407 at 4:00 pm.

Here is the official abstract for the talk:

Traditionally, scholarly efforts have focused on making research available and discoverable among scholars, scientists, and related professionals. However, with the onset of the digital era and the electronic circulation of research and scholarship, a new model of “open access” to this body of work has taken hold, one which is committed to making research freely and universally available online. The same digital era has given us the possibility of capturing and measuring how knowledge is produced, disseminated, and used, both within and beyond this traditional group of professional researchers. In his talk, Dr. Alperin will present research findings, gathered through novel strategies and tools, that the public is already taking advantage of the growing body of freely available research. However, despite the growing evidence and a stated interest that our work have societal impact, many of our scholarly publishing practices continue to keep the research out of the public’s hands. As it becomes easier to provide evidence of public interest even in the most obscure and esoteric topics, academics of all stripes will be increasingly challenged to ask ourselves if our scholarly publishing system is serving the public’s best interests, or simply our own.

And here is Juan Pablo Alperin’s bio:

Juan Pablo Alperin is an Assistant Professor at the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing and the Associate Director of Research with the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University. He is a multi-disciplinary scholar, with training in computer science (BMath, University of Waterloo), social science (MA Geography, University of Waterloo), and education (PhD, Stanford University), who believes that research, especially when it is made freely available (as so much of today’s work is), has the potential to make meaningful and direct contributions to society, and that it is our responsibility as the creators of this research to ensure we understand the mechanisms, networks, and mediums through which our work is discussed and used.

 

A list of his publications and presentations can be found at http://alperin.ca/cv, and he can be found on Twitter at @juancommander.

For more information on the event, see our Scholarly Commons Speaker Series page and the Facebook page for this event! Hope to see you there!