Based on excerpts written by Cole Crawford and edited by Ann Marie Murphy
Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Cole Crawford broke new ground and accomplished plenty during his academic year tenure with University Outreach and Engagement under the supervision of Charles Robinson, special initiatives, University Outreach and Engagement and the College of Liberal Arts. He is the first GTA to work with University Outreach and Engagement.
“Charles Robinson tailored GTA responsibilities to take advantage of my existing digital skills while also providing me exposure to event management and public relations work,” Crawford revealed. “Because of the position’s flexibility and variable work requirements, I was even able to co-teach a digital humanities course in my home department (English, in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film) during winter term, which complemented my University Outreach and Engagement publicly engaged work.”
Crawford worked on two major projects: the Corvallis Maker Fair and Listen Up! Oregon Object Stories.
The Corvallis Maker Fair, produced by “The CO•” and now in its fourth year, is an event dedicated to bringing together makers from across campus, Corvallis, and Oregon to celebrate and share their methods for hands-on learning, while exploring and researching the way people learn in these environments. Activities ranged from virtual reality to robotics to origami. University Outreach and Engagement is one of several co-sponsors of the event.
Crawford served as the website and social media coordinator on “The CO•” leadership team, including collaborating with a team of FLUX design students to refresh “The CO•” logo and promotional materials. Recruiting exhibitors, working with the “SEA Through the Eyes on an Artist” partner event put on by the College of Education, gathering exhibitor and attendee feedback, and helping set up and run the actual event were also his responsibility. The event attracted over 60 exhibitors and an estimated 1,900 attendees over two days. See more photos from the event here.
“Being able to jump into planning such a major event was exciting,” Crawford said. “Especially because I strongly believe in makerspaces, publicly engaged research, and an ethos of tinkering and exploration. I loved seeing attendees ranging from children to grandparents interact with exhibitors, learn about the science that facilitates maker activities, and build and play with micro-projects.”
Crawford worked with Robinson and Liddy Detar, Ph.D., an instructor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), College of Liberal Arts, on Listen Up! Oregon Object Stories. Listen Up! is an accessible, creative, and intellectually engaged digital space which invites Oregonians to digitally represent personal objects through images, descriptions, or 3D scans; imbue those objects with meaning through story-telling in the form of text, video, or audio; and share their object stories across Oregon, starting with Oregon State University and its Extension network.
Listen Up! users can contribute object stories, respond to public events created by other users, and build collections of content which address specific topics or prompts. The project is inherently interdisciplinary and draws on digital humanities building practices, engaged teaching, and community partnerships to create public scholarship. Listen Up! is flexible, and can scale to accommodate individual contributions, classroom collections, and statewide events.
Originally deployed as a teaching exercise by Detar in her WGSS courses, Listen Up!, she transformed the classroom activity into a hybrid online project to collect a broader range of object stories. Users can contribute stories directly through the website, or work with the Listen Up! team at events.
Crawford created the project’s data model, which assures user privacy and agency; developed several iterations of the Listen Up! website; helped write a Learning Innovation Grant proposal and a successful submission to the 2017 Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference; planned and ran three in-person object story events at “The CO•,” the Valley Library’s Crafternoon event series, and Moreland Hall; and collected, transcribed, and edited forty multimodal object stories from these events.
Object story contributors have spoken on the metaphorical meaning of a sandlewood watch, the importance of hybridity through an implanted defibrillator, and the power of comfort objects to help overcome developmental disabilities. Crawford will present Listen Up! at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute Colloquium in June 2017.
“I highly recommend that graduate students take advantage of alternative GTA positions,” Crawford said. “Assistantships focused on research and teaching are the most common ways for students to support themselves during full-time graduate study, but for students like myself who are interested in alt-academic careers or roles outside higher education entirely, positions that incorporate service and administration work can be even more valuable. Finding the right GTA position can help students tailor their graduate education to their interests while honing numerous marketable skills and making a noticeable impact at OSU.”
Crawford is currently searching for a full-time position in digital humanities research support and program coordination, and his experience with the Division of Outreach and Engagement and College of Liberal Arts has prepared him well for the application and interview process.
Read Crawford’s MA thesis titled “Respect the Gap: From Big to Boutique Data through Laboring-Class Poets Online” here: ColeCrawford_RespectTheGap_DefenseCopy
“Cole’s thesis fits solidly in the tradition of digital humanities scholarship, but takes bold steps forward in exploring how narrative, history, and meaning are built within the relational networks of data sets (British labor poetry in this case), and how these networks can be better understood via approaches that blend rigorous data-mining with historical and literary nuance,” stated Robinson. “His use of the idea of ‘boutique’ data sets is a helpful way to stake the claim for the value of smaller and incomplete historical/literary data sets vs. the ‘big data’ notion so prevalent in discussion of data analysis/visualization/etc.”