Designing DH: Reflections on 20 years of Digital Scholarship

Tara McPherson, PhD
Professor, Division of Cinema & Media Studies; Media Arts + Practice Division, University of Southern California

Recording available on YouTube


This talk considers two digital scholarship projects emerging from USC, the multimedia journal Vectors and the software platform Scalar. Reflecting on over twenty years of digital design, the presentation takes a hard look at the many challenges faced by each project including issues of authorship, collaboration, funding, access, preservation, and scalability. In doing so, McPherson offers lessons learned from the successes and failures of these endeavors for the future of digital scholarship in the academy. She draws from her recent monograph, Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference and Design (Harvard, 2018) and argues that, while challenging, it is still crucial that scholars, librarians, and designers enter the technological fray in order to expand the possibilities for our digital futures in a time of corporate consolidation.


Tara McPherson is the HMH Foundation Endowed Professor in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Director of the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, and Faculty Chair of Visions and Voices. She is author of two award-winning books, Feminist in a Software Lab(Harvard University Press 2018) and Reconstructing Dixie (Duke 2003), as well as co-editor of Hop on Pop (Duke 2003) and Transmedia Frictions(California 2014), and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (MIT 2008.) Her scholarship engages the cultural dimensions of media with a particular interest in digital media. Here, her research focuses on the digital humanities, early software histories, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship. Her current book project investigates the use of online platforms in the spread of hate and white supremacy. She was Founding Editor of the pioneering multimedia journal Vectors and a lead PI of the online platform, Scalar. She has received funding from the Mellon, Ford, Annenberg, and MacArthur Foundations, as well as from the NEH.


The IDRH Digital Storytelling Colloquium is a series of virtual events focused on the ethics, politics, and techniques of digital storytelling. Stretched over the length of the academic year, the events will feature exemplary projects from across the world and across the KU campus, model digital storytelling practices, and introduce participants to a range of digital storytelling tools. Some meetings will be webinar-style presentations; others will be Zoom-style collaborative meetings. Across all events, the vision of the colloquium is to build a community of inquiry and an incubator for ideas.  

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