Digital Project Profiles: Project Vox

The Digital Project Profiles series features projects that have partnered or worked closely with Duke Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Services (DSS) department. These projects illustrate the kinds of research, pedagogical, and publishing questions that DSS addresses. For assistance with your own project, contact askdigital@duke.edu.

The Project

Project Vox, http://projectvox.library.duke.edu
2014 – ongoing
An open educational resource, created and run primarily by students and volunteers, that provides resources for incorporating early modern women philosophers into research and instruction.

In late spring 2014, a project team formed at Duke University to build a website that could support research and teaching about non-canonical women philosophers, and they launched the Project Vox website in March 2015. From the start, the team has included undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, librarians, and technical staff. The Project Vox website serves as the virtual hub for an international network of scholars to work together in expanding research and teaching beyond the traditional philosophical “canon” and beyond traditional narratives of modern philosophy’s history.

What motivated Project Vox?

Philosophy is a surprisingly static and homogenous discipline. For the past fifty years, the humanities have been dominated by women; yet in philosophy, women make up only one-third of advanced degree recipients. In terms of gender diversity, it aligns more closely with (and in some cases falls below) the historically male-dominated sciences. What could be the reason for this gender gap? Recent studies suggest that undergraduate philosophy courses set the stage for this divide, particularly when the majority of figures studied are male. While the latter half of the 20th century saw many humanities disciplines expand and reform their canons to include marginalized voices, the discipline of philosophy saw little change. The figures and texts that dominated philosophy in the early 20th century persisted into the 21st, despite research demonstrating that a number of early modern women actively engaged with and influenced philosophical discussions with their more famous peers. Ultimately, Project Vox seeks to change the field and the face of philosophy by providing information and materials necessary to incorporate women philosophers into undergraduate instruction.

What makes Project Vox an important case study for digital scholarship?

In addition to its intellectual aims, Project Vox is an important case study because of its successful open-access publication model and the workflows that support it.

Project Vox is an open-access publishing project, run by a predominantly student team, that provides participants with hands-on experience and education in digital publishing while also presenting users worldwide with resources for changing their philosophy research and instruction. As a project with long-term and lofty objectives, Project Vox pursues incremental impact toward its goals while minimizing the costs for sustaining that effort. To do that, the project has placed particular emphasis on outreach and assessment, systematically engaging with the project’s audiences to solicit feedback and encourage participation in the project. To increase the pace of publication and distribute work, the team has developed a collaborative approach to research; Project Vox is now in the process of codifying this workflow for sharing with international partners.

What has working on Project Vox taught us?  

For staff in the Digital Scholarship Services department, Project Vox has provided a wealth of insights into digital publishing and increased our own capacity for advising others wishing to pursue their own publishing projects (a short list of topics is provided below, along with places where you can find more information):

  • Making an open educational resource (OER) discoverable and citable (e.g., using WordPress plugins to display Dublin Core metadata for use in citation management software such as Zotero and Open Graph metadata for sharing on social media; creating a MARC record for the website, making it discoverable in the library catalog)
  • Low-cost, low-maintenance website hosting for academics (using Reclaim Hosting to run the WordPress platform for Project Vox)
  • Gathering alternative metrics for an open-access website (using, for example, the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions tool that’s licensed by Duke University Libraries, or Google Analytics data to monitor site traffic)
  • Research management for teams over time (using Duke-licensed tools like Box for sharing and organizing content)
  • Project management tools and approaches (e.g., use of MeisterTask for project management; Toolkits for provisioning resources to team members; sponsored accounts for providing outside reviewers with access to pre-publication entries)
  • Collaborative workflows for research and publishing (in particular, how to take what has been a predominantly solitary enterprise—humanistic research and writing—and make it a collective effort)

Following are a few lessons learned from the Project Vox team members:

Roy Auh, T’19

“I’ve learned new research techniques by working on a team and it’s been awesome to grow from a research assistant to a lead researcher. […] Now I know the trusted sources and my way around the library and the available databases.”

Jen Semler, T’19

“I now have a better understanding of the many factors (finding sources, translating texts, acquiring images, applying for funding, etc.) that go into a large-scale research project like this. I am often impressed with all the work this team has been able to do and how well the team has communicated.”

Mattia Begali, Romance Studies Lecturing Fellow

“I really had the chance to explore how a community of practice like the Project Vox team interacts and collaborates. Behind the scenes of Project Vox there is a complex digital habitat meant to sustain the workflow of the group. Before joining the team of this project, I was only partially aware of how complex and stratified this digital habitat is. Also, it was fascinating for me to see how the role of each member gets defined by highly specialized practices.”

Liz Crisenbery, PhD Candidate in Musicology

“Being involved with Project Vox and DSS has also pushed me to think about how my research intersects with the digital humanities. As a musicologist who studies opera, I’m keen to incorporate recorded performances into my dissertation; providing open access to the music I write about is very important to facilitate a better understanding of my work.”

Abigail Flanigan, 2016 MLS from the UNC-CH School of Information & Library Science

“In my time as an intern on Project Vox, I learned about these very specific topics—editorial processes for digital publications and altmetrics—but I also learned more broadly about what is takes to create and manage a digital project on this scale. From the legal (researching copyright owners for images) to the technical (building the site’s infrastructure) to the creative (designing the logo), it takes many people with many different skills to build a project like Project Vox.”

More information

If you’d like to be a part of the Project Vox team, there are a number of ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer
  • Participate in a Field Experience through Digital Scholarship Services
  • Earn course credit (spring 2019)
    • Bass Connections project, EHD 396 for undergraduates and EHD 796 for graduate students
    • Digital Publishing course, ISS 550S

To keep up with Project Vox on social media, please follow them on Facebook and Twitter. For questions about this and other digital scholarship projects or to get advice for your own, contact askdigital@duke.edu.

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