The Scholars’ Lab is pleased to share Connection Established, the project launched by this year’s Praxis cohort.
The Praxis Program is a year-long reimagining of graduate methodological training for the digital age. Each year, a cohort of students works with the Scholars’ Lab to design, implement, and execute a digital project. This excerpt from the about page for Connection Established best summarizes the work of this year’s cohort:
Connection Established examines university teaching, life, and governance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interactive digital story, it asks users to make choices that engage issues of equity, accessibility, and mental health. And in an accompanying manifesto it urges a whole-person approach to teaching, learning, and labor.
In the fall, the students were asked to consider the nature of the Praxis Program. This was the tenth year of the program, but most of the original staff involved with the design of the fellowship have since moved on to different positions. Brandon Walsh, our Head of Student Programs, asked the students to consider these facts and offer their own perspectives on the digital humanities education they were receiving. What should an introduction to DH look like, now, in 2020? How can it be grounded in equity and inclusivity? The students took it from there and had broad self-governance over the project’s research questions and outcomes. The resultant project was grounded in the contexts in which their work was taking place: the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage, and the communities around the world continued to vocally struggle for racial justice. The students knew they could not ignore these ongoing crises, and Connection Established explores questions of digital pedagogy and equity in the context of the pandemic through an interactive story and accompanying manifesto. From a technical standpoint, the group worked with the Scholars’ Lab to implement the story in Twine within an embedded Jekyll framework, a technical challenge that was productive to explore.
The students did extensive work to ground Connection Established in reality, researching their local context and incorporating real, collected digital materials into the narrative. They also worked hard to build empathy - connections - into their project: they incorporated fonts made from their own handwriting, the design of the project also showcased a great deal of beautiful hand-drawn art, and the interactive nature of the story asks the reader to place themselves in difficult decisions and reflect on the consequences of their actions during ongoing health crisis. This emphasis on closeness was intentional and a theme throughout the year. The students developed their project remotely, and they never actually met in person. As a result, they prioritized intentional connections with each other and worked hard to give depth to the otherwise flat, digital representations of each other from a distance. The group worked hard to develop a generous community over the course of the year under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The result is a powerful call to action for all of us involved in teaching and learning.
The members of the 2020-2021 Praxis cohort are:
- Grace Alvino, English
- Emma Dove, Art and Architectural History
- Elise Foote, English
- Crystal Luo, History
- Savanna Morrison, Music
- Aaron M. Thompson, Slavic Languages and Literature