MLA 2021 Session on “Towards Sustainability for Digital Archives and Projects” | SHARP

[This is the abstract for just one of seven presentations.]

Abstract:  Over the last decade, the digital humanities community has become increasingly concerned with the ongoing sustainability of digital projects. This anxiety stems in part from the realization that not all digital humanities projects have identical expectations of longevity. Several prominent works in the literature, such as Bethany Nowviskie and Dot Porter’s “Graceful Degradation Survey Findings: How Do We Manage Digital Humanities Projects through Times of Transition and Decline?” (2010) and Geoffrey Rockwell et al.’s “Burying Dead Projects: Depositing the Globalization Compendium” (2014), have been central to this intellectual exchange about the benefits of creating sustainability plans for projects that do not necessarily assume a default permanence, but that instead proactively consider each project’s most suitable longevity strategy.

 

With this realization has come a concomitant expectation: each digital humanities project must create its own customized sustainability plan, designed with its particular requirements in mind. And yet, few digital humanists have access to direct training on the process of creating and implementing professional-grade digital preservation and sustainability practices for their own work. To support the process of designing and implementing digital sustainability plans for this work, a team of scholars housed in the Visual Media Workshop at the University of Pittsburgh has created the Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap (STSR; http://sustainingdh.net). The STSR is a structured, process-oriented workshop, inspired by design thinking and collaborative learning approaches. This workshop, which may be implemented in a variety of institutional contexts, guides project stakeholders through the practice of creating effective, iterative, ongoing digital sustainability strategies that address the needs of both social and technological infrastructures. It is founded on the fundamental assumption that, for sustainability practices to be successful, project leaders must keep the changing, socially-contingent nature of both their project and their working environment(s) consistently in mind as they initiate, maintain, and support their own work. For this panel, we contextualize and describe the STSR, and provide reflections based on our experiences facilitating Sustaining DH: An NEH Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities.