Praxis Program Charter
While each cohort of students will assemble their own charter that expresses their particular goals and values, we intend this document to serve as a foundation for all their work. This document represents a contract between our students and the Scholars’ Lab, an expression of our core values, pedagogy, and goals for the program. Cohort-specific charters written by the students themselves can be found on our charter archive. This charter draws upon the general lab charter and the Scholars’ Lab Charter for Student Programs.
We take a flexible approach to success in the Praxis Program. Failure is a virtue. Mistakes are the portals for discovery. Learning from failure is more important than succeeding uncritically. So long as they are reflecting and learning, we will be pleased with our students. All the same, we have certain parameters for our own success as stewards of the Praxis Program. Based on this document, by the end of the year, we hope our students will:
- become more familiar with a variety of digital humanities technologies and the intellectual stakes of working with them;
- become capable of pursuing their own research interests as they pertain to digital humanities;
- see digital humanities as a field and career path available to them regardless of their background;
- know where to go for help and to learn further;
- come to see themselves as experts in digital research with experiences worthy of sharing with others as scholars and teachers;
- and prepare themselves to pay it forward, early and often.
Professionalization and Outcomes
The program aims to put students out in the world acting as professional scholar-practitioners from day one. The outcomes for any given year might change, but we typically ask for some combination of the following activities from our students during the year as markers of this professionalization:
- Regular blog posts on the process
- Conference or journal submissions based on the cohort’s work
- Workshop presentations, locally or regionally
- Digital project
- Web presence for the cohort’s work
- Final presentation to a local audience
To collaborate well we must first re-examine ourselves, the work we do and how we do it. The Praxis Program, at its best, empowers students to explore new interests that they might have previously thought themselves unable to try. This is a space to stretch and fail, to grow and discover. We all bring something to the table, and our year together is an invitation to our students to see themselves differently.
Frustration is a Feature
This is difficult work, and we expect our students to be frustrated. We regularly engage in the work of processing the difficult emotions that come from trying to stretch and grow. We’re here to help, and we care.
We trust in students, in their ability to excel, to master material, and to make intellectual contributions early, often, and at a professional level when given the chance.
We teach the whole person and believe that the personal difficulties and successes of a student can not be separated from their professional development.
We all feel like imposters sometimes - if not today, probably tomorrow. In the Lab, we typically work with humanists who have a wide variety of technical and personal experiences, some more or less than others. We believe introduction to this work should be available based on interest-not background-and we are committed to helping students gain confidence both in their expertise and as learners. Our success is measured by our ability to bring along the person struggling the most, and if our approach to teaching is not working for you we will change it. We believe in our students and our colleagues, and we will work to create a supportive environment that helps them believe in themselves. We believe in you.
Hacking / Yacking / Stacking
Doing is inseparable from thinking. Technical decisions are intellectual ones. Conceptual decisions have technical ramifications. And all of our conversations and actions are informed by institutional structures that inform the work we do. Our students will critically engage in all three areas.
The ways we interact with each other matter, and the Praxis Program offers a space for us to think about how we move back and forth between the needs of a group and what we can bring to it. We measure success by the work we do to enable those around us, and we want our students to think in similar terms. This means engaging in hard conversations about the biases and privileges we all bring to the table. We actively work to become better interlocutors, collaborators, and allies, to re-examine how we interact with others differently and work to do so more productively.
Our students get their hands dirty. We do the work with you - not for you. Our ideal classroom is one in which the students are also teachers, of each other as well as of us.
This Is Not a Course
While we might meet around a table and talk, this is fundamentally not a seminar. The work that our students do will be different, and the way we go about that work will be different than in a normal class. Students might note these differences in particular:
- We value listening over talking.
- We care more about shaping something new than deconstructing something before us.
- Given the choice between giving and taking, we choose the former every time.
- We read. We talk. But we also do.
- Our work lives in public, beyond the walls of the classroom.
- Process is more important than product.
Careers and Imagined Futures
The Praxis Program is meant to expose students to a variety of careers within the academy, within libraries, and with digital humanities. Interstitial careers like those held by the Scholars’ Lab staff are viable options for many graduate students, but visibility is a first barrier to to taking initial steps in those directions. Beyond developing the skills necessary to head down one of these career paths, then, the Praxis Program is meant to put students in touch with staff whose career and professional trajectories can serve as examples. We actively offer advice to students who might be interested in such careers themselves.
The Scholars’ Lab is committed to advancing more equitable, ethical, and just pedagogical experiences. In this regard, we fully endorse the values expressed in the Collaborator’s Bill of Rights and, in particular, the Student Collaborator’s Bill of Rights. This means that we believe students should:
- be compensated appropriately for their work when possible;
- be engaged as true intellectual partners in the pedagogical experience;
- be credited publicly for their contributions to both the team and to the Scholars’ Lab;
- be recognized as the best experts on their own learning needs and experiences;
- and be empowered to share their own wisdom, expertise, and experiences with the Scholars’ Lab and broader digital humanities communities.
As stewards of the Praxis Program, the Scholars’ Lab takes responsibility for the pedagogical experience of all of its students. We are committed to providing a safe space in which our students can learn and grow. To this end, we will constantly re-evaluate the curriculum with an eye to building the best experience for the students. On a more interpersonal level: collaboration can be difficult, and sometimes things go wrong. In these cases the Scholars’ Lab will intervene, either privately or with the group at large. While we will keep an eye out for such a need, students are free to request such intervention at anytime. Such interventions might include but are not limited to: renegotiating roles, private discussions of behavior and team responsibilities, or removal from the team. In short, the Scholars’ Lab staff are here to facilitate good collaboration during your year. While Brandon and Shane might be your most immediate points of contact, many Scholars’ Lab staff would be happy to help with issues (technical or collaborative). Please reach out! Accordingly, Brandon or Shane might pull in other staff to help depending on the topic.
In addition, we will endeavour, within reason, to act as stewards of the digital projects produced by our students. Technologies change, however, and this might mean different things for different projects: minimal support in some cases, migration to new technologies or platforms in others, or, most likely, retiring projects whose technologies have grown unsupportable. In cases when a technology is no longer maintainable and it becomes necessary to retire a project, we will do our best to maintain an archival representation of the project that offers legible evidence of the scope, process, and intervention made by it.
What does all this mean on a day-to-day level? Well, it changes every year depending on how things have been going, the staff involved, and the particular cohort of students for that year. Check out the curriculum page and the projects page to learn more about any particular iteration of the program.