Core Facility Spotlight: The Collaborative Digital Research Space
If you’re a researcher at UTM, you’ve probably encountered CDRS a time or two over the past few years, whether you attended Media Camp, sat in on an Op-Ed workshop, or simply wanted to learn more about a particular digital tool. The Collaborative Digital Research Space (CDRS) was established in the Maanjiwe nendamowinan (MN) building in the fall of 2019. CDRS—pronounced ‘cedars’ as a nod to the surrounding forest—was formed by the six departments located in the building: Historical Studies, English & Drama, Political Science, Language Studies, Philosophy, and Sociology. Key leadership in the formation of CDRS came from then Chair of English and Drama, now Principal Alexandra Gillespie, Professor Elspeth Brown, now Associate VP Research, and then Chair of Sociology Anna Korteweg.
If the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to slow the progress of the newly established space, Dr. Elizabeth Parke, the Senior Research Associate who runs CDRS, saw the quick shift to virtual as a chance for wider collaborations and for CDRS to offer more inclusive online opportunities. Now in its third year, CDRS continues to bustle with virtual—soon to be hybrid—events, and key collaborations across the tri-campus have paved the way for transdisciplinary workshops, keynotes, seminars, and symposia.
CDRS is guided by a Steering Committee which includes Committee Chair, Anna Korteweg (SOC); Derek Dennis (LS); and Anna Thomas (E&D); and an Advisory Board drawn from the six MN departments, the UTM Library, and the Office of the Vice Principal, Research (OVPR).
It’s a truly unique space on the UTM campus, filled with colourful furniture, movable whiteboards, large-screen TVs, and a kitchenette. Organized to foster collaborative research that supports digital scholarship and knowledge creation, CDRS offers everything from 1:1 consultations and hosting guest speakers, to co-writing sessions, film screenings, coding workshops, and more. Have a request? The sky really is the limit.
“There’s no other space like CDRS at U of T,” Parke says matter-of-factly. “The aim is to meet the evolving needs of HUM/SS researchers. In practice, this can look like seminar meetings or Zoom calls with international partners, or it can look like filming interviews for oral history projects.”
“And having the support of the OVPR, Chairs, and Directors at UTM? It’s invaluable.”
It’s an impressive shop she’s running. Lively, warm, and passionate about her work, Parke is a scholar of contemporary Chinese art and visual culture, who has held postdoctoral fellowships both at U of T and McGill University. Her digital humanities work focuses on the use of Augmented Reality and archival photographs to recontextualize performance works in Beijing in the ’80s and ’90s in situ. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Parke facilitates, designs, and implements CDRS supports, but if you ask her, it’s the people she works with who help bring the programs to life. She collaborates with principal investigators, librarians, research teams, and other ISIs from across U of T—think the Black Research Network (BRN) and the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI)—to bring research to wider scholarly communities.
Based primarily out of the OVPR, Parke is also a key part of the CDHI executive team—an initiative that enables trans-disciplinary collaborations that emphasize questions of power, social justice, and critical theory in digital humanities research. She’s helped establish programming such as the Digital Drop-ins, where researchers can pop-in weekly for themed sessions hosted with experts across the tri-campus; and training support for The Carpentries, a certification program for training people how to teach novice learners new digital skills. (You can learn more about her experience with The Carpentries here.)
Productive CDRS collaborations have included getting filming permissions for history professor Kevin Coleman’s Visualizing the Americas project; organizing the Podcasting as Scholarly Publishing event with the Centre for Research & Innovation Support (CRIS); and co-hosting talks with the UTM Library about the new Syd Bolton Collection. Parke was also co-lead on this year’s Media Camp 2022 organizing committee.
And along with plenty of interdivisional and inter-departmental collaborations, CDRS boasts two marquee series: the Research Spotlight series and the Research Workshop series. These work in tandem, but each has its own unique learning objectives: spotlights are short research-focused talks on a shared theme, while workshops are based around a tool or an approach and are practical in focus.
“Last fall, we had a Research Workshop on Creative Knowledge Mobilization,” says Parke, “where the practical ins and outs of this type of work was covered by three presenters. And this spring, we had a Research Spotlight on Podcasting, where researchers explored how podcasting is part of their knowledge mobilization and dissemination practices.”
“The two series come at research from both the practical—where’s the equipment and how do I get access? And the more conceptual—what are research questions that can be answered by using these tools?”
Have an idea how you might use CDRS in your research? “We’re always looking for unique ways to use the space,” welcomes Parke. “We’re here to support UTM researchers—whether that’s hosting events or consulting, scoping projects, or creating communities of practice.”
If you have a collaboration in mind, or wish to present your research as part of upcoming CDRS programming, please visit the UTM Fall 2022 Research Programming webpage or email firstname.lastname@example.org.