Author Archives: Ann Adachi-Tasch

Consensus isn’t what collaboration is about

Consensus isn’t what collaboration is about. This take-home-point by Tom Scheinfeld stuck with me, and I found myself saying it out loud to a group of people at work. This is an important point that bogged our web project down in the planning stages of The struggle of early stages–lack of consensus and leadership on what the website should be, it’s goals, its tone, it’s audience it’s measure of success, etc.–still is visible to a visitor who spends a little bit of time on it. The project lacked a visionary who knew and believed what the project should be.

Instead of gaining consensus of the group, Scheinfeld stated that if a positive outcome is accomplished, led by a few members of the group, that is what the collective will remember–their achievement as a group. But for this achievement to be accomplished, someone must asses the best possible outcome and make a decision. My question at that moment was, how do you, as a leader decide on something? How can you be confident that it will work? Maybe you don’t until you take the chance? Is the definition of a leader, someone who confidently takes chance on something?

Another probably obvious point that didn’t always seem clear to me, is that the measure of success should be based on whether people use it. Despite the institutional agenda, and ideologies and high standards that motivate projects, if there isn’t a practical utility value that serves people, it’s not successful. The number of people that the project considers a success, though, requires some thought. As project that caters to a specialized audience (particular topic in art history), it needs to determine what that limited number of audience is, that it should strive toward. There is pressure to serve a general audience, and have many visits per day, but the content of the site cannot appeal to a general audience. A specialized and devoted follower, who values the content of the site is needed, but the number of that audience is yet to be determined.

There were many golden advise that Scheinfeld left during his talk and discussion. Here are a few more that I will keep with me in the future wherever I end up working as a professional project manager:

  • value constraints (think about the 7-day turn around)
  • make time for social interaction (meta cognition)
  • assessing people’s skills. Determining the types of skills the group has, and the type of skills that need to be acquired.
  • think of set of critical questions; always ask what it’s missing, and think of the overall picture
  • list the criteria for the measure of success
  • divide a group to execute different things
  • watch out for unthoughtful moves. There is risk of losing members’ urgency, respect, trust, etc.
  • create process documentation. This could be part of the out-reach (tweeting out the progress or reporting on a blog)

An incredibly valuable session, the text by Sharon M. Leon also provided practical tips on project management. I would be curious to hear about the workshop that evening, which I couldn’t make. Classmates: let me know if any of you made it to the workshop and please share with me your take-home-points!!


Knowledge is messy

The theoretical backbone to the Devonshire Manuscript project demonstrated by Raymond Siemens is the meditation on the process of knowledge creation and conveyance, specifically in relation to the social and power: who is creating the knowledge and legitimizing it? These questions invite us to consider the history of the institution. The separation of the “mad” and the “civilized” under the clinical institution in the eighteenth-century that Foucault pointed to, created the power division of the institution as the sole entity that holds truth and ability to cure, and those who were dependent on the institution.

The lectures by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Siemens, in addition to the past readings suggest a trend of the digital age that is exposing and balancing the power relation between the institution and the mass. As entities outside of traditional institutions (independent corporations, organizations, etc.) began to forge ways of distributing and effectively creating knowledge that drew from the network of the mass, traditional institutions are now faced with adapting to the new configuration, and in tern self-critically assess its history of knowledge creation, which, as Fitzpatrick and Siemens suggest through the origin of journal review, originates in a non-institutional, person-to-person review of text in the royal society.

As a member of an institution that holds influence in a global scale, I am encouraged to think about these power dynamics and how it relates to the institution’s current branding in the global arena. Creating partnerships that result in economic and/or cultural capital in regions, its strategies range from self proclaiming agenda to assess its presence as a cultural cannon, to direct goal for fundraising and building global membership. I am working on the former strategy, which, if done sensitively, perhaps could manifest in results that are sincere revision of the power dynamic problematized above. I am learning the mechanism of the digital that allows us to put a check in the traditional institutional structure, and bring forth a new type of knowledge making.

Shifts in thinking: DH definitions

Beginning of class: Digital Humanities is a field established within academic institutions that extend methods and practices for research, archive, pedagogy, etc. that takes place on a digital platform.

The functionalities of DH that interested me the most during the course of the class discussion was its possibility to add layers to text and academic discourse. In a grant report I was preparing, about MoMA’s own experimental platform,, I found myself discussing its aim to encourage networked learning, and allow multiple voices to be added to a single essay, or any presentations on the site. Though the design is not exactly effectively conveying these goals (needs improvement) but our main interest in building this site, I hope, will continue to grow and encourage a new way of writing/discussing art histories.

Another aspects of DH I found appealing was some project’s aim to provide accessibility to knowledge making and resources, and mode of work, which is collaboration. I recently realized that while it is very important to think about preservation and of vulnerable Japanese experimental film and video is urgent, providing access to researchers (say though an online platform) is the end-goal of the effort at large. By providing access, there may be new scholarship that emerge, which could lead to exhibitions, screenings, conferences, etc. The emergence of interest (currently there is not much research being done on Japanese early video), there could be opportunity for fund-raising for preservation of works. My thinking in the past couple weeks has been reversed: from preservation–> accessibility, to accessibility–>preservation.

Post-class definition: Digital Humanities is a current development in academia in which disciplines are extending their research methods, aided by new technology, to include among other characteristics, a collaborative mode of working, layered knowledge making, and opening accessibility to research data as well as systems of knowledge making.