Digital Innovation Lab Officially Launched at UNC-Chapel Hill

This post is a bit late, but UNC-Chapel Hill officially launched their Digital Innovation Lab in October. The Digital Innovation Lab focuses:

on the collaborative production of digital public goods:  digital projects, products, tools, and applications that are

  1. of special social and cultural value,
  2. can be produced for free public use (or at a minimal marginal cost)
  3. are scalable,
  4. are reusable and repurposable, and/or
  5. serve multiple audiences/end-users.

The development of these digital public goods might arise from individual faculty research, teaching, or public engagement activities within the humanities and social sciences, or from projects, processes, and technologies developed in other areas of the university’s work and for other purposes.
The “Digital Lab” is innovative in its structure as well as its output.  It combines the project-focused organizational model of the laboratory with the social model of the network.  Unlike a traditional center or institute, the “Digital Lab” is a virtual unit without a dedicated physical trialing new tools for project administration, collaboration, curricular adaptation, and pedagogy. The DIL is designed to operate with minimal physical and human infrastructure costs and to be symbiotic in relation to institutional resources rather than resource-redundant.  Its project-based approach to digital humanities/social sciences means that it will constantly seek ways to leverage externally funded projects to the benefit of other aspects of its work: curriculum development, pedagogy, graduate-student training, etc.

This is an excellent model and one seen with library-center partnerships at other institutions. The need for sustainability, usability, extensibility, and overall institutional/mission alignment with an academic institution and academia as a whole is critical for digital scholarship to really return on its potential. Digital scholarship, and the digital humanities in particular, are exciting for their ability to support and extend traditional scholarship as well as to develop new ways of doing scholarship and new areas of inquiry. In order to be successful, digital scholarship must be able to exist and function as scholarship, and this requires support for access, preservation, and connection to all forms of scholarship. It’s exciting to see places like UNC-Chapel Hill making this possible, and exciting to be part of similar work in connection to the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC).