Before this week, I’m not sure that I ever thought that dedicatedly about the intricacies of managing a project. Admittedly, I haven’t exactly been at the forefront of running a project since high school, let alone one of any significant size or depth. The readings of this past week really made me think about planning and the structures and methods of conducting a digital history project.
Like most historians, I’m not too adept at working in a group or as part of a team. The kind of research I’ve done in the past has been very much solo in nature, so I have never had to rely much on anybody but myself. I am free to apply my own (probably debilitatingly) high standards to myself and myself alone. However, as we have previously established as a class, digital history is much more collaborative as a field, and as such one must become more acquainted with different strategies and approaches to project management. The readings this week focused on such strategies and approaches, emphasizing DH’s need for a core tenet of collaboration. After reading these pieces, the keystone of successful collaboration in DH to me is to not only recognize your own limits within research as well as with computers, but to be ready to delegate and trust your other team members to handle their own work and their own skills. In the article, “A Hybrid Model for Managing DH Projects,” author Edin Tabak breaks down DH into its key components: “digital” and “history.” Tabak recognizes that very, very few historians are experts as the digital side of their discipline, just as those with digital experience are not necessarily trained in historical methods. Both of these types of people have very different ways of thinking and approaching problems, and so working on a team together can get complicated very quickly. Tabak proposes that there both these people need another—someone who can combine skills in “digital” and “history”—in order to act as the bridge or link between the components. From there, a team can utilize the best of both methods in order to create a cohesive and worthwhile project.
Of course, reading this makes me slightly dread group work. I haven’t had to rely on anyone else for any aspect of a project in a hot minute. I’m used to working at my own (minorly chaotic) pace and with my own eclectic thought process, and just the idea of having to translate that into group work makes me want to run for the hills.
(I used to be a control freak, too. I’m 99% I’ve outgrown that, though. Hopefully.)
However, as our group met for the first time and started hashing out ideas, I found myself growing more and more at ease. We managed to narrow down our topic enough to hit the “distant dream” marker on the project spectrum, and we generated enough questions to carry us into the week. I’m now realizing that working dedicatedly as a group could be more rewarding than it has in the past, maybe because this is an atmosphere in which all of our members are enthusiastic and more than willing to pull their weight. The piece of me that loves logistics is now delighting in the technical and intellectual challenge of working with other people to accomplish a significant project. Needless to say I am quietly excited to see where our project will go throughout the semester.