Here's to 2019! The Manifold Team sends good wishes to all as we head into the shortest day of the year and turn toward 2020. I've asked each team member to share a good memory from the year, a Manifold gift (be it moment with someone in the community, a favorite feature, a resolution). We're happy to be working together and with all of you.
I’m excited that two of the “iterative,” work-in-progress book projects we launched in 2017 on the Manifold platform — Whitney Trettien’s Cut/Copy/Paste and Darren Wershler, Lori Emerson, and Jussi Parikka’s The Lab Book — are now on the verge of being completed projects, to be launched on the platform and in print this coming year.
I’m going to take the liberty of sharing two great moments: first, the moment we launched the Debates in the Digital Humanities series on Manifold. The original DDH site, launched in 2013, was the early prototype for Manifold, so it was great to move the whole series onto the fully featured platform, and it was all the more impactful because the series has grown so much, allowing us -- through the goodwill of our fantastic publisher, the University of Minnesota Press -- to release all volumes in the series on an open-access basis. I love having the work shared so widely and openly, and I’m grateful to the Press for allowing that to happen, to Cast Iron Coding for moving ALL of the comments over, and to the CUNY Graduate Center for funding that work. I’m also so excited to see the CUNY instance of Manifold take off, and one of my favorite moments of the year came when Justin Rogers-Cooper and Krystyna Michael launched Hubert Harrison’s The Negro and the Nation, an out-of-print text newly available thanks to their work. Justin sent one of the most detailed thank-you messages I’ve ever seen to Krysia and Jojo for their work on the project; it was amazing to see how much time and effort they had put into helping CUNY faculty get their projects up and running, and also excellent to see that work fully acknowledged and appreciated. We’re looking forward to continuing that work in the new year!
The expanding community of publishers and authors is what is most exciting for me about Manifold; as we end 2019 we have more than 30 groups with installations! Our community is publishing journals, conference-related publications, and open educational resources and textbooks--far more uses than we had originally envisioned in 2015 when we started making Manifold. We all look forward to helping more publishers get started with Manifold in 2020 and seeing the creativity and new ideas that they will bring to our community.
I had the opportunity to travel all over the map this past year, visiting in-person will each of our pilots. I'm grateful to them all for their generosity of spirit and time, for their warm welcomes, engaging conversation, and the amazing dining experiences they cultivated. But if I had to choose just one instance that defines my year, I'd say it was this past October when I was visiting with Dr. Rossetta Ross at Spelman College in Atlanta. We had finished a rather long training session, and Dr. Ross looked at me with intensity and remarked that she didn't realize everything Manifold could do when she applied for the pilot, that this changed everything for her, allowing her to do things for her colleagues and her students that she wouldn't otherwise be able to do. What a moment and what a feeling of accomplishment that imbued. Thank you, Dr. Ross, and thank you to all the other pilots who continue to help team Manifold make the platform a meaningful and useful means of engaging with and enhancing scholarship.
One of the highlights of 2019 for me was the release of the open-access edition of Cynthia and Julie Willett’s Uproarious, a feminist study of comedy and subversion. I remember getting excited about the Manifold edition for the first time in one of our new projects meetings, and later I worked with the great folks at Emory University to secure funding through the TOMEprogram. So it really felt good to tweet out the announcement of the release in December! Of course the Manifold Twitter had way too many highlights to list; maybe just follow us?
One moment that stands out for me was when, back in February, author Robin Sloan highlighted the Manifold edition of Grant Wythoff’s book on Hugo Gernsback in his email newsletter. I’m a big fan of Sloan’s newsletter and I love the way it bounces between internet curiosities, digital media, economics, cultural trends, and thoughts about what the future holds for the business of writing and publishing. Describing the Gernsback book, Sloan wrote “When it comes to these academic web publishing platforms, I am always a great fan of the vision but often a reluctant reader of the text; the platforms tend towards heaviness and clunkiness. Manifold is neither, and maybe more importantly, it’s a great match for this book, which is naturally random-access.” That bit of feedback has stuck with me because it hit on so many of the things that are challenging and engaging about this project. With Manifold, we’ve tried to build a platform that fundamentally gets out of the way of the reading experience while also bringing a little bit of design, a little personality to the encounter between the reader and the text. I love the feeling of holding a fine book in my hands. Can we get to something like that feeling on a screen? What would that look like, if we could?I really value the act of reading, which I often think of as a kind of discourse or friendship in which my mind gets tangled up in a sometimes ethical, sometimes rhetorical engagement with other minds. What can a reading and publishing platform add to that engagement? Reading’s pretty great and, after all, the physical book is about as perfect an object as humanity has come up with. The act of reading on a computer starts out from such a degraded place that it’s no small task figuring out how to add something to that experience.So, It’s a great feeling, hearing from a reader, especially one whom I admire, that the platform helped him engage the material in a way that felt exploratory and freeing rather than limiting, that it got out of his way and maybe brought a little joy into the act of engaging another mind. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of a project that gives me a chance to be involved in ongoing conversations about how knowledge is produced, how it’s disseminated, and how it’s consumed. To that end, I’ve loved meeting Manifold publishers, authors, and readers in person over the last year, and I am so looking forward to seeing many of you again in 2020!
Along with releasing some exciting new features this year, the highlight of 2019 for me was the tremendous progress we made in improving Manifold’s user accessibility. Working closely with the great folks at the UW Accessible Technology Services (ATS), we tackled a long list of barriers that disabled users may have previously encountered while using Manifold. This was a coordinated effort that involved ATS auditing the frontend and backend of the application, Lael updating Manifold’s design to meet WCAG AA visual requirements, and Cast Iron implementing fixes for many of the flagged issues. Thanks goes to Matt and Terence as well for coordinating the whole spirited effort. Embracing the diversity of our users’ abilities is a critical part of developing for the Web. I’m excited in 2020 to continue making Manifold an open platform for all.
For me, Manifold has brought great adventure this year: I’ve visited 13 CUNY campuses to interview OER representatives in libraries and centers for teaching and learning. Yet the distances I’ve gone via the MTA are nothing compared to the distances I’ve seen project creation grow in the hands of motivated teachers. A 2019 Manifold highlight I won’t forget was watching a colleague in my English program, Micheal Rumore, get his course reader together and up in a single evening. I spent a half hour training him and by the next morning, he’d compiled his English 302 course reader. I also got to visit Justin Rogers-Cooper’s master’s seminar to introduce their course edition of Hubert Harrison’s The Negro and the Nation, which was also the first project I worked on with the brilliant Krysia Michael. It’s always a joy watching someone get their first manifest validated. Most recently, I had the fortune to watch Inés Vañó García pull together her undergraduates’ work on The Spanish Speaking Community. She went from no knowledge of markdown to completing a project full of embedded media elements in the course of a week. I’m so impressed by how these busy teachers stepped out of their comfort zones, the greatest distance we ever travel, to benefit their classes. I can't wait to watch as more and more people teach with Manifold.
One of the most wonderful parts of 2019 for me has been getting to work on Manifold and to help faculty at CUNY learn about the platform and develop teaching projects. I worked with more than 115 faculty and staff members across CUNY campuses and presented at the Association of Computers in the Humanities as well as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, Canada. I also got to accompany Terence on his Pilot visit to the University of Washington. I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for Manifold!