Reflections on the Community Engagement Working Group Internship

By Xander Cosgrave,
Intern from the MPhil in Digital Humanities and Society at Trinity College Dublin

So it’s time to talk about my internship with DARIAH and the Community Engagement Working Group. Firstly I need to explain DARIAH, it’s a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or an ERIC that is focused on the support of research and learning in the digital humanities. The specific part I was working in is the Community Engagement branch, and the DARIAH Community Engagement working group internship was part of the programme for identifying research communities and their needs, one of the working principles of the working group, and was then of course tied into the professional development module for the M.Phil in Digital Humanities and Society that I study in TCD.

It was structured with a mix of the following, with a focus on being flexible as new questions arose through research.

  • Regular Engagement Meetings
  • Collaborative research
  • Self-Directed Learning

These were all for the purpose of supporting the working group to help their overall goals of finding academic research groups to engage with on behalf of DARIAH, and of course for professional growth. Some of my deliverables as part of my internship included:

  • Blog posts on the DARIAH Community Engagement Blog
  • Sourcing other academics to engage with the Blog
  • Finding novel and new research communities to engage with
  • Helping define how academic communities are engaged with.

Broadly, this meant finding some novel material of my own creation that was hopefully worthy of the DARIAH Blog, but also finding other academics in my own circles that could help create content that was engaging for the DARIAH blog readership, meaning I had to sort through my network for academics in certain, digitally linked, fields.

I don’t actually have an MPhil yet, but this is one of my blog posts for the Dariah Working group Page, that originally appeared on this blog in 2018.
Although I looked at numerous academic communities, one of the more useful resources was the JISC mailing lists, as they are one of the larger sections of the community, though this was not the only point of engagement we picked up on. It was perhaps one of the more prominent research networks that we could find and access.

Broadly though, one of the issues with the sorting of what research communities we wanted to engage with was that we had a limited scope for what we could engage with, trying to focus on European based academic communities, and those that did not already have a strong online presence already, while this is of course sensible for the sake of DARIAH, as it’s a European organisation, it did mean we couldn’t look at some of the more interesting and novel ideas about research communities, like the COI Multi Author Blog that’s based outside of Europe, though it has a worldwide contributor base. More than this, the understanding of how people thought of their research communities, and the potential overlap this could have with other academic disciplines and indeed private industry came up as an important point. This is notable because there is overlap in research work in things like Law or Political Research, and we had intended to follow this up by engaging with the Law Faculty in TCD, though we weren’t able to get interviews completed before the end of the internship.

On the other side of this, the internship had several points of academic and professional development as it tied into the MPhil.

  • Updates on the MPhil academic blog
  • A series of presentations for my academic supervisor
  • A full white paper showing the work that had been done for DARIAH
  • Developing New Online Research and Interview Skills
  • Working as part of an academic research group

All of this work culminated in supporting the poster presentation, in which I not only wrote a small portion of the poster content that was tracking how I engaged with the internship, but other work including defining how academic communities interact or view themselves, which we did by sending out surveys, and organising interviews. (On a separate note, the skills I gained for interview and ethnographic research are also incredibly pertinent to the future plans I have for my thesis)

It’s important to note here that this process is still ongoing, so though we are starting to see interesting trends in the responses that will form some of the key parts of the final poster and report. The Poster is going to be presented first at some of the DARIAH conferences, but also leads into workshops that the Community Engagement group is planning on building to help academics engage with digital tools, or to help academics in the Digital Humanities engage with their more analog counterparts.

This all has led to the development of some useful skills, as I said above, but also an appreciation for the important work that research infrastructures support, and why we need to use them to make the best academic work possible. This can be for collaborative academic work, editing, and of course, the development of new communities of inquiry, but they all point to the same direction of a more interconnected academic community. I’m incredibly happy with the work I’ve done, and what the Community Engagement group intends to continue doing, as it is an important part of developing sustained engagement for digital humanities, and developing supports for other academic communities. This was not an easy internship, but the workload was well balanced, and I probably made things more difficult at times by just falling into rabbit holes of research, that were more than needed to be done. Certainly, my time management skills have improved by dint of the fact that I needed to be able to create and present useful things every week at meetings, but beyond that my name will be on a poster, and the work I’ve done is something I can happily stand by.