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September 30, 2016 - 08:08

In the first cluster of the 2016-2017 year, we have asked scholars to contribute their vision for the coming decade: to consider how their fields of study must prepare for—or address—the shifting landscapes of intellectual property.

As we have moved forward in the digital humanities, the concepts and applications of ownership have become more complicated by virtue of new technologies, new platforms, new social and political movements and realities, and new questions regarding the nature of Intellectual Property (IP) itself.  In considering IP, it is often easy to revert to defining it purely according to legal standards and terminology; however, several responses for this cluster will also strive to contextualize IP through rhetorical, ethical, social, and personal lenses.

We invite all our visitors to join the conversation on this topic through commenting and sharing this survey question via social media and academic networks.  Our hope is that these Field Guide surveys might engender broader discussions and connect scholars to like-minded or interested individuals to help expand the scope and knowledge of the field – with your help.  To keep up with our daily postings, beginning October 3rd, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

August 6, 2016 - 00:53

Thanks, Deb

The core question occupying my mind at the moment is this:

If the universities are keen to get as much funding as possible, then why aren't more universities doing crowdfunding? My data indicates that about a third of the universities in Australia haven't done any crowdfunding at all. Of those that have, only four or five have had five projects or more. The rest have had one or two projects. I assume (but I don't know) that these are people who are doing it off their own bat, without support from their university. Only two universities in Australia seem to have taken a structured approach - Deakin and University of Western Australia.

My working hypothesis is that the rarefied upper echelons of the university (anyone on the executive pay scale) want any legal research funding that the organisation can get, but there is a disjunction between them and the people who run Centres and Labs and shape the agenda of the research as it is actually done. They don't like crowdfunding because it doesn't bring them any prestige. As one said to two (young, female) PhD students who had set up a crowdfunding campaign, "You are bringing the lab into disrepute".

You see this greed for prestige in the way that Australian academics talk about 'Category 1 grants'. What they really mean is ARC and NHMRC grants. There are over seventy funding bodies on the Category 1 list - most academics can only name two. When the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) listed their grants on the Category 1 list it was fun to say, "You mean like OLT", when people talked about 'Category 1'. It turned out that wasn't what they meant at all.

The problem with this myopia is that it restricts people's world view. Grant funding is an ecosystem (red of tooth and claw), with a range of different types of funding for different activities. Arts funding; philanthropic funding; international funding; industry funding; internal funding - they all do different things.

I like the idea of the 'long tail of research'. Crowdfunding provides several different ways to fund long tail research:


  • It funds small projects.
    The smallest request you can put to the ARC is $50,000. Lots of projects don't need that much, so they aren't eligible.
  • It funds Honours and Masters projects.
    It can be enormously hard to get scholarships for Honours and Masters students - crowdfunding does that really well.
  • It can fund a shortfall.
    Sometimes other funding agencies don't give you quite enough. Crowdfunding can fill the gap.
  • It can fund activities that other agencies won't fund.
    Want to make a 'coffee table' book of your beautiful data? Want to make an artwork with a chemist's glowing algae? Crowdfunding.
  • It can fund projects that cut across the academic mainstream.
    Peer-reviewed research is somewhat conservative. If you are working at right-angles to the mainstream, crowdfunding might help.
  • It can fund replication and negative results (but it can't get them published).
    Replication is vital for good science. Negative results can be as important as positive results (in a positivist paradigm). You can convince the public to fund such work, but may not be able to convince your scientific peers.
  • It can fund exploratory work.
    Crowdfunding is great for seed funding particular where it is promising but exploratory. That is, high risk of failure, but great rewards if successful.
  • It can fund extension work.
    Sometimes you get to the end of your funding before you get to the end of your research - crowdfunding can fill that gap.
  • It can fund people who don't have a track record.
    Because the value of the work is judged differently, a track record of prior work isn't as important for crowdfunding.
  • It can fund straight data collection and other baseline activities that most funding agencies won't touch.
    The Australian Research Council won't fund data collection, in and of itself. It doesn't fund taxonomy work (on this basis) even though these activities are fundamental to research. If you are putting in place the building blocks for research, crowdfunding might help.
  • It can fund on-going activities, like journals.
    Most funding schemes are predicated on the idea that you do one project, and then you come back and do another one. If you build a loyal following, crowdfunding can work like an annual subscriber drive. Or, as with Patreon, as a small, steady income.


You mentioned '…tightening academic funding environment…'. Crowdfunding does work extraordinarily well as a 'Fuck You, Government' funding mechanism. That is, one way to galvanise the public to fund a project is to invite them to kick against the withdrawal of government funding. This is essentially what #TeamMopra did on Kickstarter. $93,374 pledged of $65,000 goal when the government cut their funding.

Another way that crowdfunding works is that it acts as a public voting system for projects. Some of the film and creative funding agencies have offered matching funding for crowdfunded projects. This is a great way to give the public more voice in government funding policy. By offering to match funds for some projects, the funding agency is providing a baseline quality assurance program for those projects. In theory, there is no reason that the ratio needs to be 1:1.

Crowdfunding projects are also providing matching funds for other projects. The 'Kicking it Forward' program on Kickstarter is a clever example of this. Any project that promises to 'Kick it Forward' is saying that they will put 5% of their finished product profits back into other projects. Simple. Effective. Generous.

That's enough for now.


May 4, 2016 - 09:38

I think my perspective has continued to evolve as I now use blogging as an integral component  in all my courses- both as substitute for weekly quizzes that keep students accountable to read, but also as an idea generator that we can continue to discuss in the classroom. On average in the same class of 35 students I commented on in the original blog, there is now maybe 1 or 2 per section that requires a little help in setting things up- otherwise students seem very at ease with the technology-  though I am amazed that many seem to compose their assignments on their phones as opposed to their computers!  This trend bothered me at first, but overall it does not seem to effect the quality of their work, and actually makes the platforms more accessible. I also love how the digital archive the students create throughout the semester facilitates their ability to reflect on the semester at the end of the course, as they now have a record of their thinking to return to and can see for themselves how the course has challenged and changed them.

March 22, 2016 - 16:47

Sherie. Its interesting to think about why so many of us don't consider reaching out more to community partners. I wonder too how such outreach would even be received when it comes to activist organizations. I also wonder about the complications in doing so, especially in working with groups in cultures different than our own. One of my former colleagues at UF, Maria Rogul, does really interesting work in which she works with local organizations to design graphics for their homemade artisan goods and advertisements. She works really hard to draw on their own cosmologies, histories, rituals, and aesthetic traditions to co-design graphics that are representative and meaning to them while simultaneously appealing to tourists and others. If digital humanists are going to partner up with local communities abroad, I think we have to follow this lead, especially in postcolonial cultures. It would be fascinating, and as you note, transformative to do such work. Any one have any project ideas?

March 19, 2016 - 18:22

0in">Dr. Gries, 

I think your work on iconographic tracking is fantastic. I am especially intrigued by the notion of how using this method helps us in the academy better understand digital social movements. I am also struck by your insistence that scholars do not have to become something else in order to become involved, but that we should unabashedly offer skills we have developed because of our experience in the academy. As you suggest, one such skill is creating methodologies that explore the tangible ways digital social movements affect change. I agree with your suggestion that such work is a vital contribution to such causes as it could help activists replicate success and eliminate blind spots. Furthermore, I think that such work is activist in and of itself. I also believe that embracing the tactile nature of methodologies like research-creation can help digital humanists become direct agents in activist movements. Like you, I think we have much to contribute, if we are committed to being collaborators with our community partner who are doing some very transformative work. 



March 19, 2016 - 11:35

thanks for your comments, Jess and Sherie. Our discussion of eudemonia, social justice, and blacklivesmatter circles around big questions: how do we live the good life? How can we serve others, ethically? These questions matter all through our lives, especially when we are choosing careers. We'll spend the majority of our adults lives working, so we should think carefully about how our work aligns with our values.

I teach classes about rhetoric, power, and citizenship, and I have been thinking in the past few years about the language of movements for a "living wage." I appreciate the living wage movement, and I also wonder, what if we raised the bar, and said what we really want for everyone who works hard is a thriving wage? Politically, it's probably more practical to stick with "living wage," because it draws attention to the fact that our lowest wage earners in the U.S. do not make enough to live, and "living wage" already has a history as a term. But a thriving wage, that's the better a goal. We should want each other to thrive.

March 18, 2016 - 12:53

I think the university's role within movements such as #blacklivesmatter and other social justice movements is really important. The backing or support of a movement as well as the silence to one speaks volumes and there are, of course, going to be different reaction to it. However things need to be done carefully as well, especially when there are so many different outcomes to them and repercussions there can be on scholars. 

The use of the term Eudemonia is a very improtant one, especially with the passion that is seen within these movements on social media and other platforms. However it can be attributed to 'real life' practices within social justice as well.

March 17, 2016 - 16:58

Dr. Achter,

I really like your observation about the academy letting others take the lead if we are to ethically create and circulate knowledge. In doing so, I believe we acknowledge the university's role in the production and protection of the problematic ideologies social movements challenge, and ultimately, seek to undo. As you also suggest, this fraught history has led underrepresented groups to distrust the academy, especially when it comes to scholars' involvement in social movements. However, I think re-purposing a rhetorical term like eudemenia as a means to create a relationship of collaboration as opposed to co-option between the academy and social activists is a good way to start healing the wounds of oppression and injustice the institution is guilty of inflicting. I am also curious to see how eudemenia could help scholars who do not represent the majority be more included into the academy; I think if we take some of our cues from social movements, the academy would become more welcoming of the broad public AND scholars who are not white, male, and heterosexual. 

March 4, 2016 - 17:07

I'm having a bit of trouble with your separation of paratext and paraspace. Specifically, there are two questions: why bother with creating paraspace apart from the paratext, and what is the "space" that paraspace is outside of, or above?

As I understand his work, Genette writes of palimpsests and paratexts to talk about the stuff surrounding the text, to extend the object to its surroundings. This allows him to talk about headers, footnotes, dust covers, prefaces, and all the other bits that surround the text. Genette's move allows us to go not only from work to text (following Barthes), but from text to something even larger still. A more recent version of this is, perhaps, Fred Turner's current work on the "Democratic Surround" in which we live not in front of a single screen, but are instead "surrounded" by media. To the text we add the paratext, but also the context.

So, to get back to my question, why "paraspace" and is it simply the "contexts" in which a text is created, consumed, rehashed, repeated, and recreated? And, if so, how is it different from "space" itself? What is space and what is paraspace?

March 4, 2016 - 16:44

Very true. The desire for access and to better translate leads many to join the industry, but I'd also point out the less romantic reasoning of money. Need to make a living, and fan translation does not really provide it. So much stems from economic imperatives: individual incomes and industry decisions alike.