Final Digital Scholarship Incubator Reflections: L. Kelly Fitzpatrick

This post is part of a series of final reflections from 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator participants.

L. Kelly Fitzpatrick: In digital scholarship, we use technology to support our work – from the creation and process to the systems that share and disseminate it. My proposed project for this incubator focused on how we can adapt Twine, an open source game engine, as a tool to support institutional repositories.

As an method to approach this question, two tangible end goals were identified at the start of the incubator. First, a working model of an author-side deposit workflow built in Twine based on an existing institutional deposit workflow to examine Twine’s viability as a tool. And second, supporting documentation for the project as a touchstone for future work.

The timeline for completing this was broken into four milestones. The first was dedicated to the drafting process early in the incubator; supported by tools including Google Drawing, paper, and jelly roll pens.

The second milestone would include building the model in Twine, and the third would include adding any custom HTML and CSS as needed. While initially planned as separate processes, these two steps ran concurrently. Outside of Twine as the project’s foundation, the second and third milestones included SublimeText and Google Fonts as tools to support this process.

The last of four milestones of the project aimed to manage project documentation, and make elements of that documentation publicly available for future work. While the last stretch of the project timeline did include time dedicated to outlining the information needed to reproduce this project, creating and managing documentation was present through the larger process of building this project. While all materials generated across the project timeline were not made publicly available, documentation including written guidelines, HTML, CSS and images were shared in a project GitHub repository.

In reflecting on project timelines, each step did not happen in isolated spaces, and self-imposed deadlines functioned more as a guide than law. In application, this process was most functional as method to stay mindful of time restraints and map tangible project milestones to gauge progress.

In reflecting on challenges encountered on this project, the first was defining scope for tasks across the project timeline. This manifested in identifying what the outcomes of the incubator would be, and what work could be addressed more fully at a later date. This obstacle pinpointed documentation as a key outcome so that the process and technical details behind the project could be used as a reference point in future work. This challenge would be revisited in the last stage of the project in defining the depth of documentation to both create and share.

The second obstacle was how to best translate the purpose of the project into a final product. For this project, I wanted to base the model on an active repository deposit workflow versus a theoretical workflow for two reasons – to explore Twine’s functionality against real world institutional practices – and on a practical level, because outside author deposit workflows are hidden behind university login. That said, a working prototype created to better parse Twine’s general viability as a tool isn’t best served with institutionally specific proper nouns or branding. To make this change, I made the decision to omit institutionally identifiable information so that the model could be more easily distributed and adapted for use by outside institutions. While this stage of the project presented a fork in the road around what the final product would look like, I believe that this option will best serve the original goal of the project and support future work in this area.

In wrapping up this incubator, I have a strong foundation to examine Twine as a tool to support author-side institutional repository deposit workflows at the next stage. In pulling together a working model of the concept and supporting documentation, the incubator created a dedicated space to facilitate this work. While the last session of the incubator will close the lid on this stage of the project, I plan to revisit this project to more fully explore how Twine can be adapted as a tool to make research sharing easier for authors and institutions.