Gallery Fair

Gallery Fair

Overview

The gallery fair was a 2 hour block of time for conference attendees to learn more about Domains from different contexts. There were 10 total booths with representatives of various projects, initiatives, schools, and ideas, all connected in some way to “Domain of One’s Own.”

I appreciated this format, although it did take me a little while to get into it. Once I did though, I found the one-on-one time extremely informative and interesting. I had several in-depth conversations and came away with a lot of new ideas for what we could do at Middlebury with MiddCreate.*

I didn’t realize it until later, but many booth participants were also the speakers for the upcoming sessions. (Duh!) As the conference went on, that helped me decide which sessions to go to.

Below, I’d like to summarize some of my experiences and take-aways from the booths at the Gallery Fair.** I’m listing them in the order in which I attended, and giving some of them my own titles.

#5: DS106 Radio

I said hi, and moved on. I didn’t have any music requests.

#6: The Jonathans’ Book

Jonathan Rees (Twitter: @jhrees | Website: moreorlessbunk.net) and Jonathan Poritz (Twitter: @poritzj | Website: poritz.net/jonathan)

They co-wrote a book called, “Education Is Not an App: The future of university teaching in the Internet age.” I didn’t talk to them too much here, but they were both at dinner with me that evening, so we got to chat more then. I got a handout from them about the book, with a list of “Jonathans’ Laws.” The first one is: “Every real student deserves individual attention from, and interaction with, a real teacher.”

#7 & #8

My memory is faulty on these ones. The booths were run by Ed Nagelhout (Twitter: @EdNagelhout1) & Keegan Long-Wheeler (Twitter: @KeeganSLWWebsite: http://keeganslw.com/), respectively. I remember that there were a lot of people crowded around, so I think I looked over a few shoulders, fiddled with a few of their handouts, said hi, and went past them, intending to come back later.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get back around to them, but I did get to hang out with Keegan after the conference was over, and I was really glad I did. We brainstormed some ideas for how Domains schools can collaborate, based around the “Webfest,” a DoOO bootcamp that he had done at the University of Oklahoma. For example, maybe we can have a collaborative online summit, with guest speakers from many different schools, either being interviewed about Domains at their school, or teaching Domains users how to get the most out of their domain, in conjunction with localized on-the-ground workshops to teach users how to utilize their schools’ version of Domains. I’m really excited about this possibility!

#9 Connecting Communities with DoOO

I talked for awhile with Jim Luke (Twitter: @econproph | Website: econproph.com) of Lansing Community College (LCC). He is behind the DoOO initiative there, called “Open Learn Lab.” He just completed the pilot of the project, where they were trying to figure out if DoOO (which had been done mostly at major universities thus far) could be adapted to a community college environment, and if so, what might the possible benefits be for students and the school. The report is here. I read the entire thing after the conference and found it very interesting and informative.

Jim brought boxed sets of legos to his booth to help demonstrate his findings that pre-made templates could be used to help streamline the adaptation of a domain for a specific purpose. As it says in his report (linked above):

Initially Jim promoted open learning ideas to faculty in several CTE workshops. Then Jim would meet individually with faculty, often with the question ‘what do you wish you could do to help learning in the class?’ At the same time, Jim was himself researching and learning about open learning from the other universities and leaders in the field. Then, Jim immersed himself in the WordPress community to learn how to build the kinds of innovative sites faculty described they wanted by combining various plugins and configurations. Finally, Jim would help manually create those initial sites and help faculty get started. In essence, the Reclaim hosting server and WordPress software provided a giant box of Legos that Jim, working with faculty, fashioned into tools to use in class.

As LCC continues on with DoOO, Jim is trying to find ways to build his students’ connections to neighboring large universities through Open Learn Lab to help them transition into a full university. I’d like to keep in touch with him and trade ideas, because I think his ideas can be adapted for Middlebury. We are a large institution with many parts that often function as separate entities. We also want to build connections between the different pieces, and think that MiddCreate could be a conduit to help us do so.

#10: What is Galileo’s World?

I walked up to this booth and saw the following prompt, “What is Galileo’s World?” That made it easy to know how to start a conversation. I turned to Brent Purkaple (Twitter: @brentpurkaple | Website: http://brentpurkaple.com/), and asked, “What is Galileo’s World?”

We got into a conversation about—you guessed it—Galileo’s World, which was a series of exhibits, events, and programs spread across 7 locations connected to Galileo. They illustrated connections between science, art, literature, music, religion, philosophy, politics, and culture. The exhibition was in celebration of OU’s 125th anniversary. The full exhibit has ended, but over 300 works have been fully digitized and are available for viewing online, on a DoOO site.

Brent told me about the digitization process and helped me see that it’s more complicated than just scanning pages of a book and turning them a downloadable PDF. Imagine a book that doesn’t open flat. There’s a special camera that they can use to ensure the entire page is scanned without losing the text that is closest to the binding. Now think about some reasons for digitizing—so that the content is searchable and usable in different formats. Also consider that the cover, binding, and blank pages are necessary to preserve in some way, especially because new editions of a book always have slight differences that are important to note for scholarly research. I have never thought about the layers of complexity involved in digitizing historical books. Thanks to Brent, now I know a little.

Learn more about their booth at Domains, Galileo’s World, and OU Lynx, the “educational arm of the History of Science Collections of OU Libraries”.

Who is Brent?

Then I asked Brent about his personal connection to DoOO and OU Create. He told me that he has a personal site that he changes based on his current needs. As he says on his site,

“Many of the ideas expressed here represent a snapshot of my intellectual thoughts at a point in time. Consequently they are best understood as works in progress.”

He is a PhD student in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Oklahoma, preparing for generals exams and working on his dissertation, so his domain is, in his words, “probably pretty boring for most people.” Two main sections are his blog, which tracks his academic development, and his working bibliographies for his general exams, for people who might want to track his research progress.

I am interested in his site, not for the content itself, but for the idea of the content. Graduate students at MIIS are wondering what they can use their domain for. This is a new approach that I haven’t seen before, that some might be interested in. I’d be curious to know more about the different iterations of his site, how it has changed over time, how easy or hard it has been to keep up, and how he has been supported throughout the process.

It also reaffirms my concern over having an “examples” site for Domains, because sites change so often that after time passes, you can’t expect them to be what they were when you first added them as an example. A link to a live site might not reflect the page it came from. And screenshots don’t do justice to a site that relies on interaction to get the full experience.

So I’m left with a question, How do you best show examples of live sites that keep changing?

#1: The ’Zine

I almost skipped this booth. There was a ton of hardware laid out on the table, and I looked at it and thought, “What’s all that for? I don’t understand hardware. Bleh.” But I stayed because Tim Clarke (Twitter: @floatingtim | Website: http://yep.bergbuilds.domains/) reached over and handed me a homemade ’Zine, and I flipped through it as he finished talking to someone else about stuff that went way over my head.

He then looked over at me and smiled and asked, “Can I answer any questions for you?”

I sheepishly said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but…why are you here?”

He laughed and started to explain. One of the first things he showed me was a battery-powered modem that had been transformed into its own private wireless network. He gave many reasons why someone might want something like that—sharing files that you don’t want to go to “the cloud” first; to share a strand of the web in a place that doesn’t receive the full Internet; to connect “online” in a classroom with just the class, in a private and secure way.

We talked about a use for the Raspberry Pi as a place to archive digital data. You can do it in such a way that you can still access that data even after obsolescence-inducing upgrades to a particular software or operating system. Made sense to me! His premise was that there are many different ways to use the structure and options of Domains beyond building a WordPress site. You just need to buy some cheap hardware.

It was refreshing to see that someone else is thinking beyond WordPress. I wonder about non-WordPress possibilities for Domains all the time, but I don’t always know where to go, because nothing else is as familiar to me.

I enjoyed our conversation, and also enjoyed reading the ’Zine afterwards, even though I didn’t get one with the magic words, “You Won!” on the back page. (The winner received a goody bag of the hardware on his table.)

The most striking quote from the ’Zine was,

“Perhaps more importantly, for me, I have grown cognizant of my own self-censorship & the regularity with which I choose not to express myself.”

I highlighted that in the image above. It resonated because I’ve felt a similar tension in wanting to be public but feeling the need for censoring what I say and do online. Part of the struggle, I think, is we never know what’s going to happen in the future, so we don’t want to do something online now that might jeopardize us down the road. But if there’s something that can help us in the future and now is the time to get started doing it, it’s important to get over ourselves and get it out there.

#2: Markdown Syntax Open Textbook Project

I’ve heard of Markdown Syntax before. It’s a way of formatting text as you write in order to easily convert it to HTML later on. I haven’t used markdown much, but have unintentionally utilized it, for example when I typed an *asterisk and some text and accidentally created an unordered list. I’ve also made a few words bold or italic in markdown on our office instant messaging channel.

They say it’s easy to learn and get used to. Thus far, I haven’t had a compelling reason to learn this “simple programming language,” but maybe now I will. Because…

Markdown Syntax Quick Reference
Markdown Syntax Quick Reference (click to view larger)

At this booth, I talked to Jen Waller (Twitter: @jenniferwaller | Website: http://www.jenwaller.net/) about a project she has been a part of with Cody Taylor (Twitter: @okcody_ | Website: http://codytaylor.cc/). She told me that there are a lot of teachers at OU who have received grants to create Open Education Resource (OER) textbooks. The project has had great interest, but they needed a way to streamline the process of converting the final document to other formats.

So they taught the teachers how to create their textbooks using markdown (See this awesome interactive online tutorial!) and then Cody, a self-professed “not a programmer,” created a conversion tool to take the markdown text and convert it to HMTL, PDF, EPUB, and DOCX. The tool is open and available for anyone to use, and is located here: http://mdc.codytaylor.cc/. I think it’s impressive! I kinda want to covert something!

At their booth, they had a video showing the process. (Wish I had the link to embed here, but alas! You’ll have to imagine it. Or do it yourself and make your own screen recording.)

My take-aways were:

  • It would be good to learn Markdown
  • Remember this conversion tool next time a faculty member asks me how to convert their document to a book format
  • I could be a programmer!

#3: Protest Archives Course

At Muhlenberg College there is a class that hasn’t happened yet but has incredible potential and will utilize Domains in new and exciting ways I haven’t really seen yet.

I spoke mostly to Jordan Noyes (Twitter: @jordanmnoyes | Website: http://archivingephemerality.com/), but she was with Lora Taub-Pervizpour (Twitter: @ltaub | Website: http://lorataub.com/). In the fall of 2017, they will be teaching the class, Documentary, Archives and Activism. The focus will be to contribute to campus efforts to document the women’s march and build an archive and exhibit from the artifacts they collect.

The following are some details about the class, taken from their slides here: http://protest.archivingephemerality.com/.

They will use Shared Shelf Commons as an open repository for their collection of media, recordings, personal reflections, photos, and the like, with the hope that other schools and organizations might add to it or benefit from their contribution. They will then pull the collection into individuals’ domains through Omeka, an open source application available through Domains, in order to further customize this historic event for each individual.

I have no idea how that’s done in practice, but it sounds incredible, and I look forward to watching this class progress. I would love to see the final projects that everyone creates, and learn more about SS Commons as well.

#4: Splot

Splot?

It’s an appropriate term, coming from a guy who goes by “Cog Dog.” (Alan Levine, Twitter: @cogdog | Website: cog.dog)

Name aside, Splots (http://splot.ca/) are pretty much the coolest things ever, and solve a lot of problems I’ve seen with beginner and intermediate users of Domains, especially here at Middlebury (but I assume elsewhere as well.) They are WordPress themes that make it easy for users to contribute to a site without having to know anything about WordPress. The users never even have to see the dashboard.

There are several different types of splots, which you can check out at the link above, and all bring additional ideas in my head for how they might be used in practice.

One of them is called Tru Writer.

The idea is that you create the site using the theme and documentation found here on GitHub: https://github.com/cogdog/truwriter. Then anyone (a general term for either: literally anyone, or only the people you allow or approve) can write and submit a reflection/article/blog post/piece of writing to the site using a very simple form.

Here’s an example of the interface: http://splot.ca/writer/write 

This info came just a tad too late for a summer program I was assisting with for MIIS, but now that I have it in my back pocket, I’m going to experiment a little bit and offer it to others as a solution. Might even utilize it myself. Just need to come up with a compelling idea for people to contribute to! I love monthly challenges (NaNoWriMo, Letter-Writing Month, 30 Paintings in 30 Days), so I’m thinking there might be something there, if I decide to host a challenge instead of participating in others’.

Another cool SPLOT example is an audio contribution site, which would be awesome for a collaborative podcast: podcast123.trubox.ca. So many ideas!!! What would you do with a Splot?

#Bonus Booth:

I don’t know about you, but here at the end of this post, I’m a little tired, and that’s the same way I was feeling in person when I finally reached the last booth. Sorry, Booth #?. I couldn’t visit you. I think this was a UMW booth, but I can’ t be sure anymore. They weren’t on the program (at least in retrospect I don’t see them listed) and since I didn’t talk to anybody there, I’m not sure what I missed.

There were only about 10 minutes left of the gallery fair, so I practiced “good conference protocol” (something I just made up, but served me well in this case) and sat at a table to jot down a few notes about the gallery fair in order to remember what I had just learned. (Read this entire post for the detailed version of what I learned. See? Totally worked!)

Conclusion

I hope this Gallery Fair Round-up from Domains 2017 was informative and interesting for you to read. Please refer back to it if you ever need a refresher, want ideas for how you might approach or participate in a Gallery Fair in the future, or to follow up with me on my take-aways.

Thanks!

~ Evelyn


Notes:

*This is all in connection to my work at the Middlebury Institute.

**In creating this documentation, I learned a lot more about the people, initiatives, and projects mentioned here, as well as a lot more that weren't front and center. It was a time-intensive effort to put this all together. I went down several rabbit holes as I looked for more documentation and did additional research about the presenters who were there. But it was totally worth the effort. I now have a much more detailed knowledge about these different projects, as well as a better idea of what to pursue in my own work going forward. I'd recommend trying this approach to conference documentation, if you're interested in retaining your conference memories or building upon what you learned while you were there.