Digital Slavists, Unite?

by Marijeta Bozovic


Marijeta Bozovic is an Assistant Professor of Russian & Eurasian Studies at Colgate University.

 

Dear colleagues and comrades,

This blog-post grows from a group discussion that began over Facebook, and includes input from Eliot Borenstein, Serguei Oushakine, Kevin Platt, Katie Holt, Bella Grigoryan, Maksim Hanukai, Rossen Djagalov, Jesse Labov, and Roman Utkin.

Not long ago, Eliot prophesied the doom of SEELANGS as hardly the most efficient forum for Slavists to reach each other digitally and to share work and ideas online. However, we have yet to come forward with, much less implement a viable alternative — or supplement. At the same time, many of us in the field find ourselves increasingly indebted to social media for our research, teaching, news-gathering, and other forms of work and play. So I write to you to ask, What new platform might work for us? And, shall we start?

Thus far we have discussed Twitter, Pinterest, academia.edu, but Facebook remains by far the most dynamic, open and multi-media platform — welcoming images, videos, links, literature, politics, poetry, as well as opportunities for rapid response and feedback.

Serguei — whose emails and Facebook posts have probably done more than anything else out there to help orient Slavists to the goings on of our field — suggests a Facebook group or a Facebook page. We might call it something like, “Slavists, Unite!” Unlike SEELANGS, as Kevin points out, Facebook allows you to tailor your feed to reflect sources that are useful and interesting to you. To take advantage of this, perhaps rather than launch a single page, we could create an interlinked set of groups, so that users could tailor their subscriptions to meet their own needs.

One possible solution is an umbrella Slavic Facebook page with several groups attached. We could start with the main page and a small number of linked groups (Russian Literature, Soviet Film, Russian Politics, South Slavic Culture, etc.) and then see how the community develops organically.

Bella and Katie suggest that we perhaps start with Facebook, as that way we would be able to reach the greatest number of Slavists online initially, and then see if we would prefer to move to an outside site of our own, once we have numbers and momentum. Eventually, we could format our own site in a way more suitable to our purposes, if we find that Facebook isn’t flexible enough.

One advantage of our own site would be specialized organization and design that Facebook can’t easily accommodate: some way to make it easier to read long posts; to tag and archive past posts and organize them around specific topics. Such a site could incorporate other blogs, as well as clear links to other sites that are already doing great work online.

Eliot suggests this very blog as a possible forum. Would that work? Is it a strength or weakness to have our forum for online exchange closely associated with one institution?

What do you think, colleagues? Digital Slavists, shall we unite, and start?

11 responses to “Digital Slavists, Unite?”

  1. I would love to see some sort of online community that can use a particular page or discussion area for the exchange of ideas. This could be a place where people make very specific research, teaching, or language queries, a place where people debate ideas, and a place where people brainstorm about conferences and public events.

  2. Natalia Ermolaev says:

    This is a great idea, Marijeta. I’ve been working with a few colleagues to get Digital Humanities roundtables & workshops together for ASEEES and ATSEEL. If you can attend, we could get together and brainstorm there. We’ll have humanists and technologists on hand who can get a platform like this started. The DH roundtable at ASEEES is:

    Saturday 1:30-3:15 pm.

  3. Quinn Dombrowski says:

    I love the idea, though I’m not sure about this blog (or anything that’s specifically a blog) being used as the nexus. I think you need something that has more flexibility, more ways of posting, more ways of interacting. I imagine some combination of DH Answers (http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/) and DHCommons (http://dhcommons.org; disclaimer: I developed that one) and the upcoming MLA Commons (http://www.mla.org/news_from_mla/news_topic&topic=671), plus a dash of the various sites that aggregate digital humanities syllabi, materials, etc. I’d be happy to take on the challenge of prototyping something that people can try out at ASEEES, and if it’s a hit, debut it on the spot (and if not, revise in time for AATSEEL)

  4. Margarita Nafpaktitis says:

    Could someone also maybe put together a list of slavists who tweet? Last ASEEES I couldn’t find anyone, and I know you all are out there! @nafpaktitism

    • Natalia Ermolaev says:

      i just re-entered the twitterverse (@nermolaev) and there’s @ttasovac from the belgrade centre for digital humanities.

  5. A list of tweeting Slavists (which sounds like something out of the 12 days of Christmas) is something that could easily be included on some sort of online portal.

  6. And to follow up on Quinn’s point: a blog per se couldn’t do all we want. But if people are interested, I’m happy to try to see what functionalities could be added to the Jordan Center site to meet the needs people have identified.

  7. Sasha Senderovich says:

    As someone who constantly posts pedagogy-related queries on my page on Facebook (and is generally very satisfied by the results), I would totally jump on the idea of a Facebook page, and help out with setting it up if necessary. Whenever I post a course-related or a research-related question, the feedback is often so incredible that I do wish there were a way to create that into a permanent digital community. Oh, and since you were asking about Twitter: I do tweet, though I haven’t done that since the time of protests in Moscow. A pun on my last name, @returnstosender

  8. ok, i just started Slavists Unite as a FB page. become a friend. and suggest groups, links, likes, etc. and let’s see where it takes us. excitedly, serguei.

  9. Ben Sawyer says:

    I like this idea a lot and am glad to see it get some steam behind it! I think if the ultimate decision is to start a blog, there are very real advantages to hosting it at one institution that already has an established digital humanities center. For example, I work on a blog that is hosted at Matrix at Michigan State (the same center that hosts h-net) and we can draw on their full-time staff to take care of issues such as editing our podcast, thus cutting down on the costs of running the blog.

  10. qsine says:

    Generally I ddo not read article on blogs, but I wixh to
    say that thiis write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me.
    Thank you, quite nice post.

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