New Platforms

Facilitator: Pennee Bender

Provocateurs: Joe Bisz, Avi Santo, Ben Vershbow, and Tom Scheinfeldt

Martin Segal Theater

iPads, DynamicBooks, Wikis, Tweets, blogs – each new electronic platform brings new possibilities and challenges for scholarship and teaching. Keeping up with the new formats is only the first step: conceiving, researching, writing, and designing appropriate academic content to fully utilize the new platforms poses a far greater challenge, and having a voice in setting the agenda for new capabilities and features should perhaps be the real goal of academic engagement with new technologies. In this workshop we will discuss how scholars can be aware of and involved in the development of new digital platforms and tools as well as how they can utilize the new platforms for their own scholarship and teaching.

• What are the new platforms we should be paying particular attention to?

• How are universities and grant making entities assisting in making new technologies accessible to scholars and students?

• How can we support one another in adapting our scholarship to new formats and technologies?

• How can we insure that our research, scholarship, and pedagogical needs are part of new platform development?

  1. April 21st, 2010 at 18:10 | #1

    Thanks to all the panelists for demonstrating innovative platforms, and especially Tom Scheinfeldt for encouraging us to “hack the platform,” both technical and social (academic conferences, book publishing, etc). I’m currently weighing pros/cons of signing a contract to publish my next book on a brand-new platform by UNC Press, The Long Civil Rights Movement, and need to decide soon. Feedback from conference participants would be greatly appreciated — my email .
    See LCRM pilot platform and sample chapter here:
    Free access to features available thru December 2010 pilot phase for professors, librarians, and graduate students — email request to
    OR see unofficial screencast here:

  2. April 21st, 2010 at 16:10 | #2

    Thanks to Ben for pointing out Commentpress and I’m writing a book now and trying to find ways to get feedback on the development other than pencil and paper. I’ve approached my editor at McGraw-Hill to see whether or not I can put a wiki version of the text on the book’s companion site, but these two options are great alternative platforms that will encourage more feedback.

  3. Drew
    April 21st, 2010 at 03:51 | #3

    OK got it — JW player from Longtail. Advantages over Vimeo? Also, I see you’re using CommentPress for Shakespeare. Is there a host site like, or must we download?

  4. Drew
    April 21st, 2010 at 03:25 | #4

    Wondering if your “Repo Man” clip is playing from Vimeo, or some other source. Any copyright issues to deal with, or is ‘fair use’ in play here?

    @Avi Santo

  5. April 21st, 2010 at 01:15 | #5

    MediaCommons ( is a born digital scholarly hub imagined as a site where scholars will both engage in new forms of scholarly discourse and conceptualize both born digital projects and protocols for evaluating them. As such, we continue to seek out platforms that can facilitate robust networked conversations and can be customized by users for particular pedagogical and scholarly practices. Most recently, we have built a user profile system using Drupal and we are looking to develop a sophisticated search/recommendation engine that would allow scholars to find one another in the network based on synonymous research interests. We are also experimenting with platforms that will integrate scholarly process with product and foreground the development and review stages of scholarship as means of encouraging community discourse.

    Currently, the site is running an open review for an upcoming issue of Shakepeare Quarterly dedicated to “Shakespeare and New Media” ( Adapting CommentPress, a tool created by The Institute for the Future of the Book, reviewers are able to engage in granular assessment of submitted essays down to the paragraph level and authors are able to engage in critical conversations with their reviewers about their drafts. Meanwhile, In Media Res ( is dedicated to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal forms of online scholarship. Each day, a different scholar will curate a short videoclip/visual image slideshow accompanied by a 350-word impressionistic response. We use the title “curator” because, like a curator in a museum, contributors are repurposing a media object that already exists and providing context through your commentary, which frames the object in a particular way. The post is intended to both introduce the curator’s work to the larger community of scholars (as well as non-academics who frequent the site) and, hopefully, encourage feedback/discussion from that community. IMR is particularly useful as a classroom tool, providing bite-sized lesson plans and activities. We are currently seeking to build on Drupal’s customization capabilities coupled with the “suctioning” capabilities of iPhone apps in order to create user-generated “My IMR” pages that might be tweaked by instructors to suit classroom –specific topics and provide students with a private setting in which to comment and converse with one another. MediaCommons remains a project in progress and I am eager to hear other people’s thoughts on how to proceed and how we might adapt/build platforms that better serve scholarly needs.

  6. Pennee Bender
    April 20th, 2010 at 18:12 | #6

    Hello — As a media producer at the American Social History Project and a faculty member of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Program I have found myself struggling to constantly learn new platforms and to create engaging history content that utilizes all the multi-media, interactive features that have evolved on platforms over the past two decades: film, video, interactive laser-disk (a tiny blip on the technology time line), cd-roms, TK3, dvds, html, mysql/php databases, flash, moodle, wordpress . . . Although it is my job to keep learning and creating for new platforms, it often seems very hit or miss in terms of choosing the best technology and platform and equally as challenging to maintain projects or convert them to new platforms as previous platforms age out.

    If, as scholars and teachers, we want to make access to digital content and access to the creation of digital materials as available as print resources, we need to make the creation of digital projects more accessible and appealing to greater numbers of writers, teachers, and activists. There is an overwhelming need for more information, instruction, support, and on-going discussions among programmers, practitioners and users of new technology in the university. In the workshop I look forward to hearing about all the participants’ interest in and experience (good/bad/or otherwise) with new technologies in their research, writing, and teaching.

  7. April 20th, 2010 at 11:08 | #7

    Hello! This is Tom from the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason. I approach the issue of platforms from two directions, as a user and a builder. In the first place, CHNM is a heavy user of web content management platforms for our three dozen or so digital history projects. In the past our practice was to build one-off web applications for each of our websites, but more recently we have settled on three off-the-shelf, open source CMS’s—WordPress, Drupal, and Omeka—that we customize for particular project needs (I’d be happy to discuss further the various content, audience, scholarly, and pedagogical factors that play into our choice of one versus the others). Each platform has particular strengths to recommend it depending on a project’s specs, but because each is based on the same underlying technologies (MySQL and PHP), it’s relatively easy to develop for and maintain all three. I’m very interested in hearing from others about their platform choices and their experiences using them. In the second place, as co-director of the Omeka project, I am a platform developer. Omeka is a free and open source web publishing platform designed expressly for scholarship and cultural heritage, so I also have a very practical interest in learning more from the group about its challenges and needs when it comes to picking a platform.

    Looking forward to the discussion!

  8. April 19th, 2010 at 03:24 | #8

    Howdy everyone, this is Joe Bisz from the Borough of Manhattan CC. I’ve had successes and failures with getting tech at my campus. One spectacular failure was trying to get just *one* computer lab that could handle Second Life; although the college wished they could help, they blamed server traffic, etc. But they also sponsor countless tech days, have an excellent E-reserve system, and support my work in games and interactive pedagogy. The last two questions seem related to me and basically boil down to networking at conferences like this one. But I have also created a wiki that will slowly be used to house interactive or game-based exercises that CUNY members come up with, and my hope is that these item can therefore be more easily showcased and developed. I am surprised at the possible developing opportunities out there; for example, Pearson Publishing expressed interest in my creating a digital game exercise for their website as part of a “Online lab” they own for students.

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