Atlantic World Forum

collaborative scholarly digital explorations of topics in atlantic world history.

Atlantic World Forum First Symposium, Middlebury College, Fall 2018.

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.

Students can participate in the making of a global digital humanities project focused on scholarly dialogue and collaboration by working with project leader Michael J. Kramer, Assistant Professor, Department of History, SUNY Brockport (former director of the Digital Liberal Arts @ Middlebury College and co-founder of the Northwestern University Digital Humanities Laboratory). They learn about the history and historiography of the Atlantic World and pursue hands-on projects in historical research, digital design, editing, and project management as interns/research assistants.

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 as well as at Middlebury’s annual June Digital Humanities Workshop program in Vermont.

For scholars, teachers, and the broader public, AWF prepares lesson plans and libraries of accessible primary sources to accompany the interpretive essays produced for the roundtable annually. Students working with Dr. Kramer curate this material so that educators and their students can access documents, texts, images, artifacts in combination with the roundtable’s cutting-edge historiographic and interpretive publications.

The project’s digital scholarly collaborative framework of a digital roundtable, and its publishing model of global scholarly participation and student involvement, can potentially be transferred to other topics beyond Atlantic World history in the future.

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.