Conference travel is always a bit stressful for me. Between dealing with travel concerns, presenting, and networking, I’ve never found it easy to relax and enjoy the experience of just being at a new place. Happily, that was not the case at the 2016 HASTAC Conference, which I attended thanks to the HASTAC Scholars program. While HASTAC 2016 took place at Arizona State University, it was easy to feel at home, as the connections to Michigan State were present everywhere I looked.
The first day of HASTAC is dedicated to the HASTAC Scholars unconference. This half-day event allows junior scholars to meet and discuss major issues, trends, and concerns in an informal setting. Having had to opportunity to help with the unconference at MSU in 2015, I was asked to return in 2016 to help lead this year’s meeting. Joining me were Allegra Smith, who earned her MA from MSU in 2015, and Mirabeth Braude, who did the same this year. Together, we led an international group of graduate students as we discussed issues ranging from the ethics of community based projects to how to manage privacy concerns when working with students on digital projects. Over three breakout sessions, we learned about how our fellow Scholars applied for grants, used technology in their classrooms, and worked to advocate for change in their universities.
That evening was the opening mixer, and again MSU was well represented. While I was able to meet students and professors from Belfast, New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, I also met people from MATRIX and H-Net, digital humanities groups at Michigan State. It was over these conversations where I learned that I didn’t need to travel to be exposed to new and innovated digital humanities work, as there is work being done on my own campus that I didn’t know about. I left that night with appointments to meet with both groups once we returned home.
The following day was the first full day of HASTAC 2016, and again MSU was well-represented. New WRAC professor Dr. Dawn Opel ran registration for the conference, and served as the first face that most people saw when they arrived on campus. She led a group of graduate and undergraduate students from Arizona State who helped keep the conference flowing smoothly. On the program for the day were a variety of talks and panels with MSU faculty and students, who covered a variety of subjects. Mirabeth led a lightning talk on student documentaries, Deborah Margolis, Aaron Collie, Robin Dean and Devin Higgins, from MSU Libraries, led a talk on archiving Holocaust photography, and I joined a panel on performing arts to talk about how we can bring lessons from arts projects into our teaching practices.
Friday again saw MSU take center stage, as Dr. Liza Potts, Director of the WIDE at MSU, gave the conference’s keynote talk. Her talk, which focused on MSU’s Experience Architecture major and the digital work taking place in the College of Arts and Letters. She spotlighted the work of graduate and undergraduate students at Michigan State, including Jack Hennes, Minh-Tam Nguyen, and Emily Dallaire, during her talk. The keynote was followed by another full day of talks, with more than a half dozen Michigan State students or faculty on the program.
That evening saw the end of my conference, though not the end of my HASTAC experience. After meeting Cody Mejeur, a PhD student in English at MSU, we discovered that we have overlapping research interests. Based on our conversation at this year’s HASTAC conference, we plan to collaborate across departments to develop a project for a future conference. Personally, I’m hoping that we have it ready in time for HASTAC 2017 in Orlando, so we can continue to keep our university well-represented at the conference.