Makerspace in Action: Paul Fyfe’s Work on Pedagogy and Transfer

Paul Fyfe’s pedagogy shows how physical spaces and physical objects can make the exploration of digital humanities concepts meaningful for students. This work demonstrates the impact that working in a makerspace can create. He describes a digital humanities course in which he taught book-binding to his students and followed up with the process of taking a book apart. After removing the spine, the pages were fed through a scanner as students worked through the process of OCR. Fyfe notes these experiences were eye-opening for students.

Following up with additional work in a makerspace, Fyfe asked students to create a prototype for a “reading machine”:

The prototype would be supported with a written rationale and a demonstration session in which groups gave Pecha Kucha-style lightning talks. I also required and collected project plans, self-gen-erated milestones, and reflections from individuals about the merits or shortcomings of their process. Librarians at the Makerspace offered a safety orientation session, backgrounds on critical making, and support for student groups as they developed their projects over multiple weeks.7

Fyfe claims that “many students recognized metacognition and the process cycle as transferrable outcomes of the course” in their responses to the class. Such work shows the potential for incorporating work in makerspaces into pedagogy. However, such outcomes also suggest strong benefits for researchers working in makerspace. As locations that are suited to experimentation and trying new ways of doing things, they have the potential to be advantageous to scholars in the brainstorming phases of research, even if the resulting project ends up needing its own dedicated private workspace.

The Time Needed for a Project

How much time does a digital humanities project need? There are several components any scholar must think about when considering that

Making Space and Time for Projects 79 question, and the first is that sometimes there are externally imposed deadlines, such as the end of a semester, the end of a fiscal year, or the end of a grant. In those cases, projects have to be planned carefully with adequate understanding of what goals can be accomplished within the time frame. Of particular note are those projects being completed by students who may be finishing a degree and moving on from the project and affiliated institution.

Whether or not a team has a firm deadline for the completion of a digital humanities project, they must consider how much time individual members can devote to the project in a given week or month. Some researchers can dedicate full time to the endeavor, which can help move things along more quickly. Others are working alongside a full load of other duties, such as teaching or administrative work, and must complete the project as their busy schedules allow. Additionally, support staff or students who may be responsible for maintaining a project might only be able to devote a limited number of dedicated hours per week or per month to the project.

Another issue to consider is the time it takes to start a project. There are many factors that can delay the work. One common delay is administrative. Securing funding, staff, and equipment can all take weeks, months, or years. These kinds of obstacles can be challenging, so it is important to apply early for the assistance you need, and possibly to think about how to start small while waiting on additional funding or staff. Another delay is the learning curve that emerges with some projects. If team members need to learn how to use software or hardware, it is important to account for that training time. Researchers needing to complete IRB approvals must factor those in as well. Finally, permissions can also take time to acquire. If you need to work with material under copyright, or for which you must secure permission to access, consider the turnaround time for that as well.

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