Nature, Environments, & Place in American Thought

Chelcie Rowell (Spring 2014)

As the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Z. Smith Reynolds Library, I liaise with humanities faculty who are incorporating digital components into their pedagogy. Working with Lisa Blee and all of the students in the First Year Seminar “Nature, Environments, and Place in American Thought” has deeply impacted the way that I think about my role and the role of the library in facilitating teaching and learning.

When Lisa and four of her students and I had the opportunity to present our semester’s work to a campus audience, another faculty member asked to what extent I could replicate this kind of collaboration. For example, with how many courses could I work per semester? Being able to answer this question requires clarity regarding the mechanics of scalability and sustainability. It’s appropriate to the framework of this course that in seeking to answer this question I’ve begun to think in terms of the ecology of digital projects here at Wake Forest — that is, the relations of people who are creating and consuming digital projects to one another and to their environment.

The technological infrastructure for building digital projects is a crucial component of the “environment” in this sense. Building on my experience with this course and others, we at ZSR are working to strengthen that infrastructure. We envision an environment that enables a faculty member to create a digital project on any number of platforms — WordPress, Omeka and Neatline, Scalar — with less fuss and frustration.

Because we chose to use Omeka and Neatline for this course, we are also participants in an ecosystem of open source software development. Open source software is software can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. After getting to know many nooks and crannies of Omeka and Neatline, members of the ZSR tech team and I got in touch with the developers to report bugs and suggest different design decisions. As we use these platforms more and more, we may take on more of a development role ourselves.

As this infrastructure is put into place, I hope to see the ecology of digital projects at Wake Forest thrive.

Chelcie Rowell (Spring 2014)