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'Social Paper': Digital Humanities Grant To Aid Development of Collaborative Writing Platform

Two doctoral students at the City University of New York Graduate Center have received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a platform that enables "social writing" among students. Erin Glass and Jennifer Stoops, both "GC Digital Fellows," will work with CUNY's Academic Commons to build their project, named "Social Paper," on the Commons in a Box platform.

In fact, the two practiced social writing in order to develop the proposal that generated their $29,965 digital humanities start-up grant in the first place. This type of grant is "relatively small" and intended to support "the planning stages of innovative projects that promise to benefit the humanities."

The project Glass and Stoops came up with will facilitate the ability for graduate students to share in the development of seminar papers.

The idea is encompassed in the process Glass described in a blog entry she wrote in February, in which she and Stoops collaborated on the grant proposal using Google Docs. "Sometimes that meant sitting cheek to cheek in front of the same computer where, without much thought about the process, we tossed ideas — and keyboard control — back and forth like a hot potato." Other times, she said, "We worked separately and exchanged drafts for revision or feedback" or "sat in the same room but at different computers, working simultaneously on the very same paragraph, but without saying a word aloud."

When the draft of the grant was finished, they shared the documents "with peers and faculty whose changes and comments were immediately reflected in a single online draft, enabling our reviewers to build off one another's comments and changes."

Matthew Gold, who heads up the Commons in a Box work, will serve as project director. He noted that Social Paper will further build on the Graduate Center's digital initiatives by "using interactive technology to reimagine the contours of graduate education, enabling rich collaborations between doctoral students, with the potential to scale the tool out to wider audiences, as well."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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