Atlantic World Forum: Reimagining the Online Scholarly Roundtable, Reshaping the Global Digital Humanities, Reframing Circum-Atlantic Cultural Histories

Explore the website for the Atlantic World Forum Kickoff Symposium: Creating Digital Scholarly Dialogues About Atlantic World Cultural Histories.

Atlantic World Forum explores how digital technology can enhance the collaborative dimensions of the scholarly roundtable across national boundaries. Traditionally appearing in print as a set of essays in dialogue with each other on a shared topic, the roundtable is a good candidate for digital innovation. AWF harnesses the interactive and multimedia dimensions of the digital domain to foster international dialogues on circum-Atlantic cultural history among scholars from different countries. Partnering with a larger French-Brazilian-led project, we assemble a group of five to seven scholars from various countries for each forum, which focuses on a particular theme. One to two distinct forums are published per year. Topics range from music, food, cultural diplomacy, migrations, ports, literacy, sports, to, as with our opening roundtable, conceptual approaches to the Atlantic World itself, including comparisons of the rich range of literatures on the transatlantic, circum-Atlantic, cis-Atlantic, and trans-oceanic; on the diasporic; on the Black Atlantic; on the Lusophone, Hispanophone, Francophone, or Anglophone worlds; on imperialism, colonialism, postcolonialism, and acts of decolonizing; on material culture, symbolic exchange, linguistic approaches, and the history of capitalism; and on the Global South in relation to the Atlantic World.

Each roundtable culminates in a set of multimedia essays, based on original research, by the participating individual scholars. Along the way, the digital platform enables numerous opportunities for collaboration among the participating scholars and other invited commenters: the sharing of primary sources and empirical data, testing of interpretations, raising and clarifying of questions, drafting of essays, development of bibliographies, exchange of reviews of the existing scholarly literature, periodic video conference meetings, “micro-publications” of findings, post-publication comments and further exchanges, podcasts and videocasts to disseminate findings more robustly, and the designing of digital components (visualizations, mapping, network analysis, tagging, and text-mining of evidence and arguments) for the essays.

These are written and created in collaboration with students in history, the humanities, social sciences, and computer science through a seminar taught by project leader Michael J. Kramer, historian and Acting Director of the Digital Liberal Arts @ Middlebury College. Students learn about the history and historiography of the Atlantic World and then pursue hands-on projects in historical research, digital design, editing, and project management as an apprentice staff for the AWF.

As part of its scholarly contribution, the AWF presents both the final multimedia essays and the process of collaboration that led up to each forum, which includes publishable primary sources as well as exchanges among participants. Commentary continues online in response after publication as well.

Translation work on AWF takes place through a collaboration with the Globe Center for Multilingual Translation Services at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California as well as with other faculty and units of the Monterey-based institute. Additional face-to-face and digital collaborations occur through Middlebury’s network of Schools Abroad.

For scholars, teachers, and the broader public, AWF offers primary sources on one platform with secondary sources. Documents, texts, images, artifacts can be used together with a sense of the cutting-edge historiographic and interpretive debates about them.

The project’s digital scholarly collaborative framework and model can potentially be transferred to other topics beyond Atlantic World history.

Overall, Atlantic World Forum offers new insights into Atlantic World history by creating a new mode of intercultural scholarly communication and publication that models what the global digital humanities might be and do. Grounded in cultural history, the project encourages robust interdisciplinary participation not only by historians, but also by literary scholars, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, cultural theorists, cultural critics, and other experts with an interest in Atlantic World history, broadly conceived. The project builds on the best practices of historical and critical inquiry, enhancing them with digital capacities to create new connections as well as new forms of research, dialogue, and writing. From the earliest research and drafting stages of each roundtable through publication and subsequent commentary, a community of international, intercultural scholarship emerges on the very topic of international, intercultural circulation through an ongoing call-and-response dynamic made possible by digital technology and presented on one curated website.