As part of my course in Digital Public Humanities (DPH…or just DH), my semester ends with project that is meant to showcase my ability to use a digital tool to produce a piece of scholarship. Yet, what good would such a piece of scholarship be if it were meant only for the eyes of my instructor? It would negate the “public” part of this whole course. Thus, in this post, I am going to layout my plan to attract attention to my project through the use of social media. As my latest module work has demonstrated, social media can be quite the asset for Digital Humanities projects, but it is important to devise the approach you want to take, for each platform/outlet is its own beast.
In order for this to make sense, I need to briefly describe what my project will be. Using Voyant Tools, an item discussed in earlier blog posts for conducting textual analysis, I will be examining a corpus of documents comprised of treaties made between American Indian¹ Tribes and the United States. Though I will likely end up analyzing nearly all treaties, my primary objective is to conduct two separate analyses on a range of treaties from different time periods and geographical regions to compare the different potential trends in the texts.
The goal of doing this is to identify any such trends and see if they yield enough information to interpret U.S.-Tribal relations as expressed through the treaties of their respective times and/or geographical regions. This is meant to inform narratives and opinions about perceptions of sovereignty and nationhood of Tribes as understood by a dominant colonial power.
To begin my outreach efforts, it is important that an audience be selected in order to focus outreach efforts. Even more so if we want those efforts to be actualized. In this situation, I will be identifying three target audiences that I think my project would be of interest to.
The first audience will obviously be American Indians and those associated with Indigenous communities. As those who are affected by the treaties, we have a direct interest in work that seeks to understand colonial frameworks and validate the sovereign status of our Tribes.
The second audience will be college students–specifically Native American college students (Native American students because of similar reasons provided for my first target audience). Reaching out to students is important because this project can serve as an example of digital efforts that can be produced to enhance relevant research interests and potentially offer further insight into work they might already be engaged in.
And the third audience will be scholars and researchers of areas such as Native American and Indigenous histories and American History. As the ones who validate the kind of work this project seeks to accomplish in the academy that will then make its way to the public, reaching out to members of this audience will help to test my claims and promote the project.
I plan to utilize my blog as a platform to host my project and showcase my work done for it. This site will be the host of the content and other platforms will be meant to draw attention back here rather than presenting the project across several different spaces. In order to attract attention to my blog, I will share information and links to my project via several other platforms with the goal of reaching my target audiences.
The first will be Reddit. By finding appropriate communities to share my project with, such as Native American and scholarly subreddits, I can narrow my outreach efforts to localized places that involve two of my three audiences.
The second will be Facebook. This platform will allow me to reach out specifically to Native American and Indigenous academic programs in order to attract Native American college students.
When reaching out to Native American and scholarly subreddits, I plan to make it clear what my project is about and why I am coming to their communities with my work. Identifying the capabilities of the digital tool (Voyant Tools) and how it can be applied to elaborate on and process the text of important documents such as treaties will appeal to American Indian Peoples because it will not only be relevant to their own histories and realities, but it will also bring attention to the tools we have at our disposal to further contribute to this important work.
Highlighting how this interpretation might provide opportunities for further research will appeal to the academic community I will attempt to reach. Additionally, it could provide perspectives that are not otherwise considered in existing narratives.
What I primarily want to convey is the capability of the Voyant Tools and how this, along with other digital resources, can enhance the study of and bring new perspectives to Native American and Indigenous Studies, both for Native and non-Native audiences. Ultimately, I hope my project inspires others to take up these kinds of tools and use them to make their own analysis of materials that could yield secrets we cannot see or validate viewpoints we might already have.
In order to measure the success of this strategy, I will keep track of the interest I encounter on my posts to the relevant subreddits and posts made to Facebook. Both of these platforms have native functions that can be used to measure visibility, interaction, and interest to certain degrees. For example, Reddit utilizes a voting system that demonstrates interest in particular posts and allows for comments to be made on posts. Monitoring these two items can help determine the popularity of a post and in this case, interest shown in my project. Facebook tracks the “likes” and “shares” of a post, as well as allowing comments. Noting these items will help determine the popularity of my project outreach attempts on that platform.
Additionally, there are some tools available for my blog site, where the project will be hosted, that will allow me to keep track of success. For example, I can also note any comments made on my posts. And by installing Google Analytics to my WordPress blog, I can keep better track of visitors to my site and measure popularity that occurs on my blog.
Once I have measured these items, I can decide if the project outreach was a success and where I might want to allocate future time and resource to if I am looking to increase attention to my project.
1. I use the term “American Indian” because it is both a legally and politically correct term for the Indigenous Peoples that reside within what is now the United States. As someone of Nez Perce and Yakama descent, I grew up with the term “Indian” being used in my home and on the reservation where I grew up. Additionally, many of my contemporaries use this term. While there is some debate to be had about its appropriateness, I have taken the liberty of using it here because it is what I am familiar with and what I find to be acceptable (note: I do not speak for other Indigenous Peoples). I have also used the terms “Native American,” “Indigenous,” and “Native” interchangeably in this post.