Ada Lovelace Day, 15 October 2013

This blog post is to recognize great work by colleagues as part of Ada Lovelace Day:

“Ada Lovelace Day was founded by Suw Charman-Anderson and aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.”  (Cite:

It’s always great to celebrate great work by colleagues for research, teaching, and service. It’s especially nice to do so with public and digital scholarship, teaching, and service that can be shared widely. However, this is not an easy task with so many wonderful and inspiring colleagues. I decided to pick a project, mention folks most closely connected, accept that I’m going to miss people, and hope that writing by others will correct and complement my incomplete writing. My method for picking a project to write about was guided by the Ada Lovelace Day FAQ, which explains that the goal is to define STEM inclusively:

“We like to leave the interpretation of these words up to you, but we encourage everyone to be inclusive and to spread their nets wide. We’re not just looking at ninja coders and hardcore engineers, but women who contribute to their field. For example, some academics don’t code and don’t do science, but they think very hard about the way in which science and tech affect us and they have a deep understanding that the average mortal would be hard pressed to match. Although they aren’t making stuff, they still count. Same for journalists and consultants and designers and UX people and lab assistants and people who make tech that allows others to do science (now there’s a double-whammy!). (Cite:

I agree with defining inclusively because innovation, breakthroughs, and generally awesome work require that multiple areas of expertise be brought to bear on a situation. The following is an excerpt from a story in UF’s Explore Research magazine that helps explain the value of connections across sciences, arts, engineering, humanities, etc.:

Scientists, engineers and artists from all over campus are organizing themselves into a committee called SEA Change that aims to break down some of the barriers that separate artists from scientists in academia.

“Most scientists who practice some form of art will tell you that it makes us better at our craft,” says Angela Lindner, an associate professor of environmental engineering sciences at UF. “I’m not a neuroscientist, but there is plenty of research that suggests scientific genius and artistic talent are closely linked.”

Lindner leads the SEA Change committee at UF and is active in a national organization called the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities. The two groups share a common mindset that science and engineering cannot thrive separate from the arts.

“The University of Florida is leading in this initiative,” Lindner says. “We aren’t just philosophizing about the benefits of providing opportunities for scientists and artists to collaborate — we are actually doing it.”
For example, Lindner and her SEA Change colleagues are currently working on a plan to allow engineering students to minor in art subjects. The idea is to recreate an academic environment where a new generation of DaVincis and Galileos can emerge. Lindner says that, in many ways, engineers have been stripped of important training and inspiration that comes with an arts education. “We want that back,” she says. (Cite)

With STEM defined inclusively, I selected a DOCC (Distributed Online Collaborative Course) as the project to write about. The DOCC is Panama Silver, Asian Gold: Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean which was created and is being taught by faculty at Amherst College, University of Florida, and University of Miami this fall (2013). Rhonda Cobham-Sander (Amherst College), Leah Rosenberg (University of Florida), and Donette Francis (University of Miami) are the faculty who are each teaching a version of the class locally and who designed the course as a whole.  The course includes guest-affiliate librarian faculty and other experts at each institution who are also supporting all of the technology and broader research work and impacts with Missy Roser at Amherst College; Dhanashree Thorat, Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, Judith Roberts, and Laurie Taylor (me) at the University of Florida; Beatrice Skokan and Vanessa Rodriguez at the University of Miami; and colleagues with the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) including Brooke Wooldridge (dLOC Director, based at Florida International University); and others.
From one version of the course description:

Two overlooked labor migrations have profoundly affected the emergence of modern Caribbean literature: the immigration of indentured laborers from India and China into the West Indies and the emigration and return of the Afro-Caribbean workers who built the Panama Canal. Both groups worked under difficult conditions for exploitative wages. However, both used their savings to bankroll their entry into the educated middle class, thereby fostering the conditions that produced the first generation of nationalist politicians, as well as the first generation of Caribbean writers to achieve international acclaim. In this course, students will learn how to use archival material related to these nineteenth- and twentieth-century migrations, including photos, court cases, newspaper reports, popular songs, and first person accounts of the migrants’ experiences, to enrich their understanding of Caribbean literature.
This course is a PILOT course for inter-collegiate collaborative learning and instruction in digital humanities. It will be taught as a graduate seminar in collaboration with Professor Leah Rosenberg at The University of Florida, Gainesville, and as an undergraduate seminar with Dr. Donette Francis at the University of Miami, and we will be assisted by librarians and IT staff at each institution. The course makes extensive use of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (, an open-access digital archive, whose technical hub is at UF. Students will have an opportunity to add their annotations to the finding aids in the dLOC collection. Some class discussions will be held via video conference, and some assignments will be researched collaboratively. We hope this initial experiment will sow the seed for future collaborative courses involving students at other institutions, in the United States and abroad. We are counting on the resources you help us develop to ground such future collaborations. Your level of commitment and participation will matter for students beyond this class. So be prepared to complete a significant amount of the work through independent research and cross-campus collaboration.

This course has immediate and lasting benefits in many areas, and it does so by making it possible for each person involved in the class to engage with and use technology in ways that make the benefits clear and attainable. For this Ada Lovelace Day, 15 October 2013, I nominate all involved with the Panama Silver, Asian Gold: Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean course, and I hope that any names I’ve left out will be added in other posts for the day, in comments, or elsewhere so that all involved can be recognized for their great work.

Please Note:
In addition to the folks mentioned, there are many others who are important to the shared work of the class. For instance, the course draws from and builds upon the work of many others – including the use of the term DOCC. When the course began, it was referred to as an experiment. When I excitedly explained the course to another colleague, Gabrielle Dean at Johns Hopkins University, she introduced me to the term DOCC (Distributed Online Collaborative Course):

A DOCC is a Distributed Online Collaborative Course.  It is a feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that has been widely used in distance learning education. A MOOC is pedagogically centralized and branded by a single institution. FemTechNet seeks to enhance the system using feminist principles and methods that support a decentralized, collaborative form of learning. The fundamental difference is that the DOCC recognizes and is built on the understanding that expertise is distributed throughout a network, among participants situated in diverse institutional contexts, within diverse material, geographic, and national settings, and who embody and perform diverse identities (as teachers, as students, as media-makers, as activists, as trainers, as members of various publics, for example). More specifically the DOCC is different in than it:

  • Recognizes and engages expertise DISTRIBUTED throughout a network
  • Approaches learning as a MIXED-MODE and BLENDED experience
  • Taught through COLLABORATIVE peer-to-peer processes
  •  Respects diversity, specificity, and the local across a network
  • Collaborative creation of HISTORICAL archive
  • Collaborative EXPERIMENT in use of online pedagogies


As an experiment, the Panama Silver, Asian Gold: Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean course has much more value when it can be easily communicated for comparison and analysis with other courses and experiments in related areas. This means that trying to recognize people for the course includes recognizing Gabrielle, other colleagues who shared the DOCC concept with others involved in the course, and all of the folks who have created and contributed to defining DOCCs as a concept.
Because the course involves the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), all involved with dLOC are also part of this, including dLOC Partner Institutions, dLOC’s Executive and Scholarly Boards, all those contributing to and using dLOC, and related partners. For instance, the UF Libraries are the Technical Host for dLOC, and the UF Libraries are partnered with UF’s Research Computing and the Office of Research on the UF Data Management/Curation Task Force, with the work of the Data Task Force to develop further supports for campus-wide data needs, which will also support dLOC and the future of the work done by the class and future versions of the class. Thus, all members of the Data Management/Curation Task Force are related folks who should be recognized.
The connections and listings go on and on because we’re in the age of Big Data, where work is more collaborative overall, building on the work of and in collaboration with other groups (as with dLOC, the Data Task Force, and Research Computing), and where field divisions are more blurred. In the age of Big Data, it’s difficult to recognize people individually because we all work with others who are part of our shared networks and communities. Knowing that any listing will be incomplete in not accounting for all of the many people involved, I’m writing to recognize great work on a particular project by specific people, attempting to point towards others, thinking about how to approach this process next year, and hoping that many others write and thus help to correct the omissions here.