Slack and dispersed community building #digitalhumanities

Today I came across an article in the LSE Impact Blog titled How the Digital Humanities are using Slack to support and build a geographically dispersed intellectual community.

We’re still figuring out how Slack can be useful: Can it allow different kinds of conversations than Twitter? Can we use it to teach and support people interested in DH who don’t have mentors geographically near them, or who aren’t inside academia? Like Twitter, Slack allows coexisting formal use (posting job opportunities, discussing theories) with informal socializing (which is really part of professional work, since it lays good foundations for future collaboration and problem-solving).

Dr. Amanda Visconti

It got me thinking about the digital preservation world and global communication channels. I’ve had great Twitter conversations that result in sometimes weird but fun things. I actively follow worldwide developments, events, and conferences online from afar here in Australia. I’m lucky this year to be attending iPres 2016 to present the University of Melbourne’s digital preservation strategy which means I’ll get to meet and talk with the international digital preservation community in person.

But what if there was a dedicated global online channel for digital preservation discussion, debate, and mentoring? A two-way discovery and sharing flow?

Dr. Visconti reports on interesting uses of the digital humanities Slack channel:

A user creating a channel around their specific research interests, and chatting in that channel as a sort of live-blog of the different approaches they’re trying and how they address issues as they arise (other Slack members can read or ask questions in the channel, too)
If an interesting discussion on Twitter starts to feel stifled or miscommunicated because of Twitter’s size constraints, moving the conversation to the DH Slack allows more freedom while also keeping the conversation semi-public (it’s more public than moving to an email conversation, but anyone wanting to follow the conversation does need to join the DH Slack first)
Mentoring and socializing: I’ve seen Slack members walk each other through fixing a coding bug or suggest lesson plans, and we use the #weeklies channel for weekly sharing around a fun theme (e.g. what’s a book that changed your way of thinking?)
A user sharing a digital humanities method tutorial, then offering to be available on the DH Slack for a certain evening to answer any questions about the tutorial (with the idea that people are encouraged to try working through the tutorial, knowing they will have help if they get stuck or have a question)

I’m wondering, does anything like this exist for the digital preservation community currently? And if it doesn’t, would it work? Would it flourish?

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