What Does HASTAC Do for You? How do you use HASTAC?
As I’ve posted about recently, I’m doing a lot of thinking about the relationship between a website/blog, its bloggers, and bloggers who are graduate students right now. My research is going into my MLA13 presentation on digital serial scholarship as well as into revisions on the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus blog that I have been managing for a couple of years now. It occurred to me that this is a really important topic to post about, since it seeks to understand the “meta” view of the many important sub-discussions or kinds of participation we enjoy on HASTAC from a user’s perspective. In other words, I’m wondering about your personal relationship with HASTAC :)
There is no doubt that HASTAC does something different for each of us that participate in this incredible forum/community. The community and the forum are extremely large and enable us to participate here in different ways and to different ends. (This is one the best parts of HASTAC and its platform, in my opinion!)
I’m wondering: how do you make this huge network and platform work for you? What bits of the network do you interact with and how are they useful? How do you, personally, participate in HASTAC -- even if they are ways that are perhaps unconventional?
How I Use HASTAC - initial thoughts:
I appreciate HASTAC most for its diverse and large readership, its Scholars program (I was an official HASTAC Scholar last year and am still really doing the Scholar thing, though I did not reapply), and as a news/resources source. I receive HASTAC news most readily by following HASTAC and Cathy Davidson on Twitter but also from checking out the HASTAC homepage and featured content almost daily. I also feel a strong connection to HASTAC as a community with which to think about teaching, learning, and scholarly dialogue with technology -- whether I am thinking about the digital in relation to my own doctoral research or in relation to the undergraduate courses I am teaching. My HASTAC blog is a place where over the past 1.5 years I have shared updates and digests of the myriad projects that I work on that pertain to DH. Though I welcome/encourage/desire feedback on these posts, they were written primarily to share a project or a process -- not to poll the HASTAC community for a response to a particular question. Only recently, while thinking more and more about the relationship between graduate students and blogging forums, have I begun writing posts specifically to hear back from other HASTAC members. (In the process, I have learned that when you start a post with the intent of posing a question, rather than with the intent of just sharing a project, the post accrues more of a conversation.)
Why I value the HASTAC Community
I work in an English Department where DH work is not the norm (unless there are many under-the-radar projects I don't know about) -- our Department and our Romanticism professors and grad students are absolutely stellar and are also more traditional scholars. HASTAC provides me with a virtual DH home -- a central place where I can find scholars working on similar kinds of projects, tackling related questions, and I can connect with them just by reading about their work and/or responding to their posts. I am not an active participant in any HASTAC “groups” currently, but I can see myself being one and I love knowing that they are there. (Side note: knowing that these sub-communities are there and will probably continue to be there nods to HASTAC’s commitment to being present and maintaining its ever-changing community - not an easy task.) In addition to the virtual community, I have had the privilege of presenting at a HASTAC conference (at HASTAC V in Michigan). At the conference, my co-presenter, Lindsey Eckert, and I truly enjoyed going from panel to panel and learning about technology and projects that were innovative, sometimes buggy, but always though-provoking and inspiring us to find new modes of producing research and pursuing research questions using digital tools. The crowd felt far more professional, in terms of the ratio of professors or administrators to graduate students, yet our formal presentation (which we totally rocked) and informal conversations were met with warmth and interest at every turn. It reminded me how important face-to-face conversations and actually meeting one's virtual colleagues can be.
Background and related blog posts:
In March of this past year (roughly a year ago), HASTAC’s superadmin published a post that asks “What Does HASTAC Mean to You” -- a similar question but one that hinges more on a kind of evolving definition of this dynamic group/forum/platform. Michael Widner responded at length that HASTAC has helped him with 5 things: professionalization, exposure and audience for his voice, aggregating announcements and resources in one place, and providing a multifaceted blog/conversation forum. Ernesto Priego followed Widner, saying that “HASTAC embodies the meaning of ‘platform,’” and is also “an academic springboard and a collaborative, inspiring collective system for amplification and empowerment” that enables scholars to “become.” Elizabeth Cornell answered this post in a different manner, taking a stab at defining the “essence of HASTAC” as “an inclusive, open community forum, whose members include students, researchers, teachers, and other people interested in participating in discussions of issues related to the learning, teaching, social, political, technical, economic implications of the Web” (there’s more - read her full response). I found this discussion useful, but only tangentially so, since there were so few responses and since it really sought to pin down AN essence or overall meaning of HASTAC -- a forum that is, in my opinion, geniusly constructed in a multifaceted way such that it can enable different kinds of scholars with different writing/sharing styles in different disciplines to participate in a variety of ways.
Epilogue -- A frivolous frustration: the enigma of HASTAC user points
I’m a competitive type-A+ scholar, cheerful work-a-holic, and a performance athlete (I rock climb and enjoy trying to complete routes with more and more difficult grades; it keeps me sane). When I have a profile and my profile comes automatically paired with a points ranking, I notice it and it starts to matter to me. Enter the HASTAC user points rating. I have yet to be able to find the guide for what accrues how many points, and also how points are lost (I admit I have not spent tons of time searching, but I figured it should be easy to find. With my luck, it's probably right under my nose ...). This past fall, after I returned from Switzerland and when my Scholars status expired, I lost lots of points -- it was either that or that I had let time elapse since my last blog post or response? No idea. Also: as a blogger, I tend to write longer, more polished blog posts that take a lot of time -- as a result of my training, that’s just my inclination, and try as I might, I’m incapable of not over-patrolling a post for errors/typos/needed-revision. (Take this post for example -- I could have stopped a long time ago! And if I split this post into two posts, I’ll probably get more points.) My guess is that long posts earn the same amount as short posts, polished posts the same as unedited. I think I also gained some points for commenting. No points are earned if you are more of a Tweeter than a blogger -- Tweets are, of course, part of Twitter and therefore are probably too challenging for HASTAC to track. Anyway -- it’s a minor annoyance and a tangent to my original post, but I would really love to know how the whole point system works. And it would be lovely if a participant could opt out of the point system -- especially if that scholar is one who, like me, tends to work in ways (longer but fewer posts, lots of tweets) that don’t usually lend themselves toward points rewards.
But I digress -- back to my original questions: How do you make this huge network and platform work for you? What bits of the network do you interact with and how are they useful? How do you participate in HASTAC in ways that are perhaps unconventional?
Thanks for your responses! Happy continued winter break!