Blog Post

Collaborative Space/Internet Intimacy

One of my personal preoccupations is to identify spaces and interactions that are most generative for thinking. When I walk out of a particularly invigorating seminar, I’m often peeling away at the layers of academic and human interaction, attempting to get at the invisible core of successful ‘talk’. This interest morphed slightly, when I got involved with the digital humanities. My interest in digital citation practices and their potential for invoking an ‘academy of collaboration’ turned my thoughts to the internet.

Digital space and digital interaction is at the core of academic citation and ownership practices. As scholarship is digitized or created on digital platforms (like Prezi or Commentpress), it becomes important that a ‘space’ or a community is open to the idea of collaboration. By ‘openness’, I’m thinking not only of accepting and supporting collaboration, but embodying, through design and structure, egalitarian forms. The ideal website would share scholarship but would also get people talking about it and even pursuing their own or complementary projects. Collaborative thinking ideally, should have gains and arguably, products.

Many websites already do a lot to make sharing work easy. Public hyperlinking and commenting have been staples of the internet. What’s clear is that getting people to talk meaningfully about someone else’s work on the internet is the tough part. HASTAC is a website that perhaps does it better than most. It has a functioning reward system (for writing blog posts) and messaging and commenting tools that can facilitate group and pair collaboration. It successfully generates thought on a daily basis. My only concern is that the site is decidedly scholarly. What about the day-to-day potential for good ‘talk’? Personal experience tells me that conversations over lukewarm dining hall coffee, or bleary-eyed ones late at night are when people are open and when ideas are fresh. It is rare and extremely special when classroom discourse achieves such intimacy.

In followings posts I hope to tackle some questions that might help identify collaborative spaces and also make sense of what our scholarly and personal demands are of such generative sites.

1)      What does a utopian online collaborative landscape look like?

2)      Are we searching for intimacy with other scholars—a shared interest, a shared real-life connection?

3)      What does it take to get people to work on projects together (on and offline)?

4)      Do such sites exist already?

5)      Can these spaces bridge the gap between meaningful personal talk and powerful scholarly talk?




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