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Review: Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III)

A review of Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III), a collection of reviews for digital memory projects written by graduate students, directed by Aránzazu Borrachero

Published onMar 25, 2024
Review: Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III)

Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III)

Project Director
Aránzazu Borrachero, CUNY Graduate Center

Volume Editors
Vol. 1: Brianna Caszatt
Vol. 2: Allison Elliott, Anthony Wheeler
Vol. 3: Patricia Belen, Majel Peters

To learn more about the teams, visit the websites for volumes I, II, and III.

Project URLs

Project Reviewer
Danielle Cooper, Ithaka S+R

Project Overview

Patricia Belen, Aránzazu Borrachero, Brianna Caszatt, Allison Elliott, Majel Peters, and Anthony Wheeler

Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III) is a series of review collections authored, edited, and curated by students in Digital Memories: Theory and Practice, a class offered by Aránzazu Borrachero in the M.A. in Digital Humanities at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).

This series provides graduate students opportunities to learn about different tools and platforms for constructing and preserving memories, explore ways to repurpose them for their own research, and understand when and how to properly critique these technologies. By publishing this collection of reviews and documenting the publication process, the reviewers and editors hope to engage the following audiences:

●      Professors who are looking for digital projects to highlight in their course syllabi;

●      Students and other people who want to learn how digital projects are created and how they can create their own digital projects;

●      Digital humanities and digital memories scholars looking for new digital projects and/or writing environmental scans for grant proposals; and

●      Professors who are interested in having their class write project reviews and/or create a publication in a digital platform.

The collections have been published in the open-source, open-access digital publishing platform Manifold each time the class has been offered. This platform allows the collection editors and reviewers to include, categorize, and display all the steps and resources involved in each volume publication, and to make all this rich content downloadable and available offline. Other Manifold features that reflect the editors’ perspectives are its compatibility with tablet and mobile devices, collaborative annotation capabilities, and a high-contrast reader and dark mode for users with visual impairments.

At the start of the semester, Borrachero provides students a list of digital memory projects for potential review. Students are invited to work in teams or individually, and they are encouraged to suggest other projects for review. They write their reviews in a shared Google Doc where all writers can read everyone’s reviews and the editors’ feedback.

The basic review template follows Miriam Posner’s tutorial “How Did They Make That?” on how to break down a project into its sources (data), processes (what was done to the data), and presentation (how the project reaches its audiences). Posner’s approach helps students hone their critical analysis skills and demystify project-building.

Each editor or editorial team has sought and found an idiosyncratic framework and vision for their volume. Brianna Caszatt (Volume I) tackled laying out the project foundation: technical needs and resources, editorial guide, project design and curation, first-time execution, editorial comments, and recommendations for future editors and writers. She added other categories to Posner’s template, including the tools used to build the projects and the languages they were available in. Caszatt left a phenomenally detailed technical infrastructure in place for next round of digital memory reviewers, which gave them space to think more deeply about the ideological tenets and sociopolitical implications of their work. 

With an interest in decolonization and abolition, Anthony Wheeler and Allison Elliott sought to foster a level of transparency between students–scholars and the public populations who they expect to engage. They employed what Angel David Nieves (2021) refers to as a “digital queer witnessing lens,” a messy praxis for deconstructing digital projects and constructing knowledge that lends more humanity to the digital by baring all aspects of the project for scrutiny. They asked that all reviewers submit a positionality statement to include in the collection. They sustained that the reviewers’ ontological and epistemological beliefs helped readers understand how the reviewers’ experiences may affect their reviews. Their work also highlighted the importance of practicing critical cataloging in resisting the flattening of nuanced, juxtaposed, and complex histories, identities, and voices.

Patricia Belen and Majel Peters produced Vol. III with a focus on the methodology of care rooted in feminist theory. In partnership with their classmates, they engaged in the practice of care at every stage of their process: selecting projects that encompass diverse perspectives and project styles, appraising evidence of care by project creators, and, in following with Wheeler and Elliott’s practice, ensuring transparency of their positionality, including the perspective from which they approached their work and the acknowledgement of the boundaries of their knowledge. Belen and Peters introduced a support document that provides review guidance on aspects of projects that can be queried for evidence of care.

The Digital Memories Reviews collection will continue with Volume IV in Spring 2024, but it might incorporate structural changes. The experience of submitting the first three volumes to Reviews in Digital Humanities has sparked ideas such as intensifying the student-centered approach (e.g., students could search for projects they would like to review rather than receive a modifiable instructor’s list) and encouraging academic publishing.

Project Review

Danielle Cooper

Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III) is an ongoing series of reviews by students in Digital Memories: Theory and Practice course at the CUNY Graduate Center taught by Aránzazu Borrachero. Each volume corresponds with an instance of the course, with the participating students contributing reviews of digital memory projects to the collection. Select students from the class also serve on an editorial team. In addition to providing reviews of specific digital memory projects, the series serves as a teaching aide for the series co-creators. As a result, it offers an example for educators interested in developing their students’ skills related to digital memory project reviewing and digital publishing more broadly.

An underlying humanistic claim of the Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III) is similar to that of the Reviews in Digital Humanities, which is that digital humanities projects can undergo systematic scholarly evaluation. The resulting reviews included in each volume serve as the evidence of that claim. The project utilizes Miriam Posner’s tutorial “How Did They Make That?” as its underlying review framework, with additional relevant guidance developed by each volume’s editorial team so that the series evolves iteratively over time. 

Manifold is the digital publishing platform that Digital Memory Project Reviews (Volumes I–III) is made available through. Given that the goal of the series is both to publish reviews of digital memory projects and teach students about digital publishing processes, Manifold is an appropriate choice of platform due to the low barrier of entry it provides to producing a quality, open access publication that is also highly reader friendly. The platform is also optimal for showcasing how the review series serves as classroom artifact and teaching tool due to its capacity for providing supplementary documentation. 

From a reader’s perspective, the series’ use of Manifold also provides affordances. Most notably, the creators leverage the flexible front page design to provide multiple thematic frameworks in lieu of a more traditional table of contents. This provides a nice balance between providing a variety of discovery points into the content while still advancing an editorial perspective. When looking across the volumes in the series thus far, this design choice was best implemented in the third volume because the frameworks are shared with hyperlinks to the full list of corresponding works, as opposed to the more static presentation in the earlier volumes.

Digital Memory Project Reviews serves an important function by contributing much-needed capacity to expand the number of digital humanities projects that receive reviews. This is particularly important because it has scoping that is unique to other review initiatives because of the focus on “digital memory.” As the series continues, it could be worthwhile for future editors to explore how to further maximize the discoverability of this growing number of project reviews, such as by creating a cross-volume index. There may also be opportunities to ensure that the reviews are discoverable and/or in dialogue with other similar review initiatives elsewhere so that a maximum number of project reviews are surfaceable and/or that multiple reviews of the same project are efficiently collated. By serving as an ongoing but ever evolving series, Digital Memory Project Reviews has the opportunity to continue to grow its impact as a venue for discovering and engaging with digital humanities projects.

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