Event report: Force 11’s Summer School: FSCI 2022

In July, I spent some enjoyable time remotely attending this Summer School. Previously an in-person event, FSCI has been online-only since 2020.

This year’s theme was ‘Designing New Collaborative Horizons in Scholarly Communications’, encapsulated by Nathan Woods’ keynote. An early career researcher currently based at the University of Lethbridge, Canada, Nathan is interested in how communities collaborate to solve problems, and how knowledge production can be made more accessible and democratic.
Nathan’s insights include the advice to recognise and build upon what is already working. Who are the stakeholders, and what are their motivating factors? The standard methodology ‘action research’, is about getting results, and is centred on the researchers’ own interests and progress metrics. In contrast, the key objective for ‘participatory research’ is to stimulate community participation, which then leads to ‘success’ looking very different.

He describes his role as a ‘design anthropologist’, who uses his expertise to create problem solving opportunities among communities and across stakeholder groups. This involves mapping out and understanding the problems as well as thinking through how the priorities of those affected or otherwise involved need to be accommodated.

This results in an often iterative process, during which the actors all need to allow space for collaboration and be open to recognising when there needs to be a change of direction. This can also mean it’s difficult to set concrete performance metrics – such as when the achievement is the building of the community and what it resolves rather than any (scholarly) outputs the community produces. Having said that, the democratic potential of expanding research horizons beyond the academy makes the whole process worth the effort.

I also attended an online course: “When Global is Local: Multilingualism, Diversity, and Representation in Digital Humanities and Humanidades Digitales” with Gimena del Rio Riande, and Jennifer Isasi as course instructors. I was drawn to it as I’m interested in the effect that publishing in English has on knowledge producers who are native in other languages, and also what this means for the knowledge canon as a whole.

Gimena and Jennifer showed how, in the digital humanities, even bi- or tri-lingual writers will change their behaviours depending upon which language they are writing in. Most academic journals only allow a very limited number of language submissions (we did a search on the DOAJ for Digital Humanities journals and discovered a number of odd cases – such as the Italian Journal of Computational Linguistics, published in Italy but only accepting English submissions).

Then, once you’ve selected which journal to submit to, and therefore which language to write in, this has impact on how the work is constructed – Anglophone writers don’t cite other language publications. And even within multi-country languages, such as Spanish, Mexican and Spanish writers do cite English sources, although Argentine and Cuban writers will preferentially cite Spanish ones.

Understandably, there are complications when publishing and writing in more than one language. Ease of adapting work for new publications, using specialist vocabulary, determining which is the original version of record, all of these choices can bring additional complications for the researchers. Luckily, Gimena and Jennifer have developed a translation toolkit: Panlingua.
This feels very much like a work in progress, and I’m already looking forward to learning more about it next year. I’m aware that, as Anglophone myself, I’m likely to be stating some very obvious facts for many EASE members, but given the implications of these questions, I can’t help feeling that EASE would be an ideal forum for exploring them more fully, and I would love to hear from you about this.

Written by: Fiona Murphy