Networks, Communities, Mentorships, Friendships: An SSI Reflection

By Karis Shearer

L-R: Karis Shearer (UBCO, English & Cultural Studies) and Roma Kail (U Toronto, Victoria Library).

With one year of the SpokenWeb SSHRC Partnership under our belts, the Sound Institute at Simon Fraser University (May 28-29, 2019) felt like equal part reunion, equal part opportunity to meet many SpokenWeb collaborators in person for the first time. The timing was ideal: each partner institution had spent Year 1 processing our respective collections and participating in Task Force initiatives; this meant we had notes to compare, tips to share, and much to learn from each other.

The reunion part of the SSI began from the moment I landed at the Vancouver International Airport, where I crossed paths with U Calgary archivist Annie Murray. Soon, in a Canada Line station, we recognized spoken word poet and organizer Ian Ferrier, turning ourselves into a trio of SpokenWebbers on our way to Burnaby Mountain, but not before stopping to take a selfie to send to those who’d already arrived at SFU.

“We’re on our way!” L-R: Karis Shearer (UBCO), Annie Murray (U Calgary); Ian Ferrier (Wired on Words, Montreal).

Over the next two days, many of these reunions took place, allowing us to share updates on the progress of our research, creative works, and archival collections, as well as talk through new research directions and potential collaborations. For example, Felicity Tayler (U Ottawa e-Research Librarian) and Hannah McGregor (SFU Publishing) had recently been to the AMP Lab at UBCO to offer SpokenWeb workshops on Research Data Management (in collaboration with Marjorie Mitchell, UBCO Research Services Librarian) and Podcasting, respectively. It was nice to reconnect with them and see or hear about the next iteration of those workshops.

L-R: Marjorie Mitchell (UBCO Research Librarian); Karis Shearer (UBCO English & Cultural Studies); Felicity Tayler (U Ottawa e-Research Librarian)

But the SSI offered more than a strengthening of existing communities and friendships within the network. For me, one highlight of the Sound Institute was seeing many of the newest members and emerging scholars of the SpokenWeb community centred through the series of 5-minute student lightning talks that kicked off the entire Sound Institute and learning from the graduate and undergraduate researchers. Klara duPlessis (Concordia), for example, parsed the difference between the “curational” and the “curatorial” in her talk “An Exploration of Curatorial Agency in Vehicule Inc,” while Jakob Knutsen discussed “Digital Epistemologies and the Decolonial Archive.” Similarly, I got to see new cross-institutional connections, mentorships, and collaborations form amongst those who had never met before but shared common interests. Moreover, I also learned from our UBCO student RA team what stood out as important and interesting to them, what they felt were useful tips and ideas to bring home to our own collection and projects. These ideas have sparked directions in our summer research and over the next two weeks UBCO RAs will share some of those points of interest in blog posts reflecting on the SSI.

UBCO SpokenWeb team lunch conversation. L-R: Evan Berg (BFA), Myron Campbell (Instructor, Visual Art), Deserae Gogel (MA English).

Finally, the SSI also felt like a great tutorial in the kinds of structures that thoughtfully facilitate connections, knowledge production, and skills development. Our SpokenWeb Pedagogy Task Force ran an “Ethics and Student Labour” workshop in a format suggested my UVic colleague Jentery Sayers. It involved a series of breakout sessions and role-playing discussions through which groups (including students, professors, librarians, etc) had really rich discussions about best practices for mentorship, labour, and collaboration. From these conversations, the Pedagogy Task Force will be producing an “Onboarding Manual” for student RAs, as well as a set of best practices for student mentoring, supervision, and collaboration. Overall, the SSI very fruitful event that made visible so much of the interesting work that’s happened in Year 1 and left me feeling inspired and excited.¬† Thank you to the entire organizing committee and all the presenters!

SpokenWeb Sound Institute, May 28-29, 2019

Karis Shearer is an Associate Professor in the Department of UBCO English & Cultural Studies. She is the Director of the AMP Lab.