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Demystifying the Methods of Digital Middle East Projects

Session VI-03, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Friday, December 2 at 4:00 pm

RoundTable Description
This roundtable seeks to examine changing practices of Middle East digital scholarship and methods, and provide a scholarly exchange on the process of producing digital, humanistic research on, in, and of the larger Middle East. It brings together participants at various stages in the making of digital projects, across humanities-based disciplines, and in different phases of their academic careers, including a graduate student, junior, and senior scholar. Its goal is to share ideas about various methods and approaches to digital scholarship and to engage in a broader discussion about the role of digital scholarship in academia, within and beyond area studies. Taken together, the roundtable hopes to open a space to address the following questions: Digital Projects: What is a digital project? What different kinds of digital projects exist within Middle Eastern Studies and beyond? What logics call for the translation or reconceptualization of the ‘traditional’ scholarly project (manuscript, journal article, etc.) into newer, interactive, and more accessible digital forms? Digital Methods: How do scholars gather, work with, and produce digital materials and archives? What digital platforms do scholars use for research and to build, represent, and synthesize parts of their work? What are the boundaries of “data” today? How are our modes of instruction, and methods of scholarship, changing as our digital entanglements only increase? Digital Scholarship: How do scholars make digital materials an integral part of knowledge production in academia, and at various stages of their careers? How do scholars reference and know what others are doing? What are some practices and approaches that exist by which digital scholarship is already incorporated, integrated and reviewed/measured in academia? And how could those be extended? In moving from a broader summary of the ‘state of the field’ to distinct personal experiences within this field, this roundtable endeavors to create a dialogue on how scholars with diverse research agendas, and at any stage in their career, can potentially benefit from a curiosity around and engagement with the digital humanities. Each participant will discuss a different phase of and methods related to digital projects they are currently undertaking (conceptualization, research, gathering materials, organization, building, production, citation, publishing, dissemination). Alongside, each participant will address challenges and opportunities in integrating digital scholarship within the academic environment. Taken together, the roundtable will address the following questions: Digital Projects: What is a digital project? What different kinds of digital projects exist within our field and beyond? What logics call for the translation or reconceptualization of the ‘traditional’ scholarly project (manuscript, journal article, etc.) into newer, interactive, and more accessible digital forms? Digital Methods: What are the methodological aspects that undergird digital projects? How do scholars gather, work with, and produce digital materials and archives? What digital platforms do scholars use for research and to build, represent, and synthesize parts of their work? Digital Scholarship: How do scholars make digital materials an integral part of knowledge production in academia, and at various stages of their careers? How do scholars reference and know what others are doing? What are some practices and approaches that exist by which digital scholarship is already incorporated, integrated and reviewed/measured in academia? And how could those be extended? In moving from a broader summary of the ‘state of the field’ to distinct personal experiences within this field, this roundtable endeavors to create a dialogue on how scholars with diverse research agendas and at any stage in their career can potentially benefit from a curiosity around and engagement with the digital humanities. The hope is to engender a more open conversation around such such digital practices, with an emphasis on sharing and amplifying knowledge of and accessibility to the tools and methods of the digital humanities for independent and institutionally affiliated scholars within Middle Eastern studies and affiliated fields.
Disciplines
Media Arts
Participants
Presentations
  • Addressing the challenges and opportunities specific to beginning and sustaining a digital Middle East project, my opening remarks will introduce the scope, objective, and questions of the roundtable. I will first contextualize what is meant by digital Middle East scholarship, consider the importance and growth of such projects, and elaborate on the breadth and depth of digital Middle East projects that exist or are currently in development. Second, using my own digital dissertation project on contemporary images and imagination of India in Egypt and the UAE as a launchpad for discussion, the presentation will focus on the unique liberties and constraints that come with conceptualizing the digital as a site of fieldwork and as method. How can one imagine, build, and activate a scholarly digital project in the graduate environment and beyond? Can an equivalent value be ascribed to both digital and ‘traditional’ academic output? Finally, I will address the various methodological issues that surface throughout the research, conceptualization, and production phases of building a digital project specific to area studies (in this case Middle East and South Asian studies). How does one store, save, categorize and organize multi-modal materials for the purpose of a digital project (videos, tweets, sound clips, images, websites, photographs, etc.), and how is that process complimentary or different from ‘traditional’ research? How does one navigate digital, multi-lingual, and non-English materials—here specifically Arabic, Hindi, and Urdu—in an effort to engage different interlocutors and publics?
  • Addressing a larger field of “methods” - my opening remarks will introduce a sampling of processes, tools, and methodologies which are becoming more visible in digital Middle Eastern scholarship. I hope to highlight changing practices that are, for nearly all scholars, altering how we do our research in an increasingly complex and connected digital world. Expanding digital access/tools/data/methods all represent the promise and peril of doing research at this moment. Central to my addition is how we think about the methods of our own personal research - but also how we teach and understand the changing norms of research to our undergraduate and graduate students. Central in this is a blurred and muddled set of methods in this increasingly interdisciplinary moment that span disciplines. Given this, how are we teaching about the Middle East and producing future engaged scholars as it relates to digital projects and methods? I will introduce a new collaboration, currently underway (Sight/Site/Cite), that hopes to highlight how we produce knowledge and reflect as an academic community to better engage in conversations of digital processes that animate our research. Many times these are invisible or behind-the-scenes, but more and more there are digital methods and tools centrally supporting our research - yet still little support, understanding, or acceptance of unorthodox methods. As such, this project hopes to expose and create a space for conversations about HOW and WHY scholars are navigating digital methods/tools in their research. This digital project, (Sight/Site/Cite), is to be launched in 2022/2023 and by talking through the framing and merits of it (as well as it’s integration into core teaching at NYU) I hope to be able to highlight not only many of the issues we individually face as research, but also how our own changing skills must be translated into our teaching and mentoring.
  • This presentation will speak to the relationship between ‘traditional’ academic work and digital projects and consider the role of digital projects in academic evaluations. It will focus, first, on questions such as: how does one go about ‘translating’ a (non-digital) academic project - such as a book, an article, a chapter - into a digital project; how can one build a digital project on one’s existing or ongoing academic work; what kinds of methods and tools can be considered and at which phases of research, production, and publication? Second, the presentation will address issues pertaining to academic evaluations, such as: what kind of review measures exist for digital projects; what modes of evaluation exist at various stages of one’s academic career (e.g. dissertation completion, employment, promotion, tenure) that take into account digital projects; what are some different modes of evaluation in humanities and humanistic social science fields, and how are or can these be incorporated into Middle East studies? Finally, this presentation will discuss a project seeking to build a hub for digital Middle East scholarship, and invite audience members to participate in the discussion about how to best incorporate and centralize a directory of digital Middle East scholarship.