Emory Report
October 5, 2009
Volume 62, Number 6

Digital evolution

Beginning in 2010, the Laney Graduate School will offer a certificate program in Digital Scholarship and Media Studies. The program will be a four-course certificate, including a required internship, that will help graduate students enhance their career prospects by engaging in digital scholarship.

“Digital scholarship is a new field that addresses technological challenges and opportunities to the development of traditional methodologies of scholarship,” reads the introduction to the proposal that was approved by the Emory Board of Trustees this September. “In research institutions across the world, the power of advanced technologies is causing a shift in practice. Whether working in the humanities or the sciences, which already possess established frameworks for collaborative work, computer hardware, software, and networks are significantly impacting the nature and degree of scholarly exchange.”

In a related step, Emory Libraries will take advantage of its interdisciplinary space to create The Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC), a new initiative that will harness the power of new technologies for traditional fields of research. DiSC will promote the creative intersections of hybrid teams of information science experts, librarians, and researchers to explore digital scholarship, focusing on research resources, scholarly collaboration, pedagogy and politics of knowledge.

Read more about digital scholarship at Emory in the Academic Exchange.


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October 5, 2009
Digital journal captures the real and imagined Souths

By Mary Loftus

One minute, you’re clicking away with your mouse while sitting in front of your computer.

The next, you’re strolling past the tombstones in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery, noticing the cityscape just beyond the weathered graves. Standing beside the track as stock cars churn up a cloud of red dust at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock. Or watching poet Sean Hill, of Stanford University, read from his debut collection, “Blood Ties & Brown Liquor,” in his hometown of Milledgeville.

And you’ve just barely sampled a few of the Georgia-based selections from Southern Spaces, a multimedia, open access, interdisciplinary digital journal that showcases innovative scholarship exploring the U.S. South, its regions, landmarks, culture, stories or myths.

“Five years is pretty good for a digital journal,” says Associate Professor of American Studies Allen Tullos, who co-founded Southern Spaces, one of the first digital academic journals based at Emory, in 2004 and remains its senior editor. “Everybody has to find their niche. Ours is places and spaces, real and imagined, in the section of the U.S. called the South.”

The peer-reviewed journal, which gets tens of thousands of visitors each year from around the world, publishes essays, events, conferences, interviews, videos and performances—a smorgasbord of sight and sound, with several forms of media sometimes making up one piece. The journal also publishes “timescapes,” short documentaries that focus on a particular location, either in one continuous take or an edited series of shots over time.

“Southern Spaces lends itself to the synergy of maps, recordings, photos, drawings, video, and links to selective content of other sites . . .” Tullos says. “It pulls these materials together to create something new.”

One of Southern Spaces most popular series has been "Poets in Place," original videos of contemporary poets reading and discussing their work in locations they write about—Southern regions such as the Black Belt, Carolina Piedmont, Atlanta Metro area, Gulf Coast, Southern Appalachians and Lowcountry. The series includes Emory’s own Natasha Trethewey, a member of the journal’s editorial board, reading her poetry from Gulfport and Ship Island, Mississippi (the setting for her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection “Native Guard”) as well as interviewing several of her fellow poets.

Works published in Southern Spaces are posted in perpetuity and stored in an online repository at Emory. By providing this level of permanence as well as a searchable archive, Southern Spaces, which is supported by the Robert W. Woodruff Library, provides a stable digital presence for scholars, whose opportunities to publish on paper have diminished somewhat in the digital era. The Woodruff Library maintains the journal’s archives as part of its Digital Library Research Initiatives.

“We do function, in some ways, as a digital press,” Tullos says. “We’ve had a great reception from scholars around the country and outside the U.S. both in sending submissions and providing peer review.”

Indeed, the journal’s editorial reviewers number 150 to 200 scholars at any given time.

One thing Southern Spaces tries to avoid, says Tullos, is “arcane theorizing. We embrace critical regional theory, but we want the journal to have a broad, general audience.”

Far from nostalgic, the journal prefers to explore the South and its regions in complexity, acknowledging contradicitons: there’s a photoessay by conceptual artist Tom Zarrilli, “Crosses, Flowers and Asphalt: Roadside Memorials in the U.S. South”; a series by Emory graduate fellow Matt Miller about the “Dirty South” as captured in rap music, culture, and album covers; and a discussion by Michael Bibler of the University of Manchester about his book “Cotton's Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968.”

The elasticity of online publication allows the journal to be continuously refreshed. “We’re putting up new pieces all the time, an average of two to three a month,” Tullos says. Much of the work Southern Spaces generates was “born digital,” and has never existed in any other format.

At the same time, the journal’s rigorous peer-review process and editorial board, the permanent URL, and the university-based archives also allow scholars a sense of security about the permanence and accessibility of their work.

“In many ways, Southern Spaces foreshadowed new e-publishing partnerships between Emory faculty and the library,” says Rick Luce, vice provost and director of libraries.

Emory hosts a number of University-based digital journals—such as Molecular Vision, the Journal of Family Life and Practical Matters.

The University also acquired Salman Rushdie’s digital archives, in the form of several Mac computers, along with his more traditional paper journals and manuscripts, in 2006.

“Emory has the raw materials to take a leadership position in the area of born-digital archives,” says Luce.

But as far as becoming a center for the digital humanities, Luce says, “no institution is even close to being fully there yet. This is a rapidly and dynamically evolving set of fields which converge together through enabling technologies.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, much of Southern Spaces material explores themes of mobility and migration, topicality and temporality—themes as old as the idea of the South and as new as digital media itself.