Digital Forays in Middle Eastern Studies // 2020 - 2021
This year long series of workshops starts from a simple premise:
What does it look like to think, engage, and do research in this digital age?
This question cuts across the ways we consume culture, digest news, carry out politics, and craft ourselves. This series is a call for researchers to account for the ever increasingly digital world in which we live. In order to better activate our scholarship we must reimagine our methods, modes of collaboration, and how to participate in these quickly changing digital landscapes.
Many junior scholars are now working across a digital multimedia landscape and they are pushing the genres of storytelling, engagement, augmentation - thus changing the scales and shapes of their scholarship. Digital Forays in Middle Eastern Studies addresses threads from the Digital Humanities (DH), but also from an array of other ambiguous buzzwords: "Digital Scholarship," "Public Humanities," "Digital Publishing,” “Big Data.” At stake in changing methodologies are a range of interconnected issues that amount to seismic shifts in how we deepen, develop, and disseminate our research. Indeed, at present, the perils/promise of our digital age are exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the most basic scholarly activities of teaching and research into online-compatible modalities - and ongoing dissent and protest in the Middle East (and around the world) where digital devices become appendages of how we capture, circulate, and remake the world.
Digital Forays in Middle Eastern Studies is an invitation to explore these changes with scholars, journalists, archivists, and activists who have been engaged in unorthodox & cutting-edge work. In planning this series a colleague suggested a foray (defined as: “an initial attempt into a new activity or area”) as a way to account for the provisionality and process of working digitally. As such, these conversations will assemble panelists to shed light on ways we narrate our present, produce and gather information, and how we might better understand & utilize digital infrastructures around us.
Some guiding questions across the series:
What is “data” today? “Data’ from where, created by whom? How do we access, sift, sort, sample this information? How can one be critical of data, but also use it at the same time?
How to make sense of the different archives, databases, and digitization projects that emerge across the region every year? How do they allow for new means of collaboration, crowdsourcing, and community?
How might one begin to develop aspects of digital directions in research already underway?
How are we teaching the “Middle East” with changing technologies? To whom? With what resources? What is the future of area studies in a digital age?
In a changing professional landscape, how can we deepen the skills and scholarship of our students that will go on to carry out cutting edge PhD research, while also helping students broaden their imaginations beyond the university?
How are (how can) our students engage and produce work that blurs disciplines - but also scholarly/journalistic/artistic boundaries?
What type of new digital projects are Junior Scholars/Phd Candidates struggling to imagine and produce in which these digital components are integral components to their projects? (databases, interfaces/websites, and archives)
What are the future directions of “Middle Eastern Studies” in an increasing digital world?
Please also see DIGITAL FORAYS (www.digitalforays.com) - a platform of student group works that extend these events and illustrate how these events were integrated in our teaching!