T-13 hours: Building Community Online

With less than a day to go before our annual CSDH-SCHN conference, I thought it might be good to post a short piece on what we hope comes out of this virtual event and some things that participants can do in order to help things flow smoothly. 

But first, and most importantly, we wish to acknowledge that many people will be experiencing sadness, anxiety, and even trauma over the tragic events that are taking place in the United States and here in Canada. This week was meant to be spent in person, at a conference whose theme was to be Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism. CSDH has addressed our shift to an online conference and the resulting need to change the theme. Still, we recognize that a statement is never enough and pledge to continue to strive for a more diverse DH in Canada, and beyond, that takes seriously the need for anti-racist and intersectional work within and beyond the academy. Participants will be encouraged, through slides before each conference session, to donate to bail funds in the United States or front-line organizations in Canada when and as they are able. Black Lives Matter.

As you will know from the emails and previous posts about Building Community Online, we are not trying to replicate an in-person conference. We are, instead, providing virtual space for a community that is scattered across Canada and beyond to come together and share their work, thoughts, and ideas. I (Kim Martin, CSDH Secretary and PC Chair for 2020) became a part of the CSDH-SCHN community during graduate school and the people here shaped my research and teaching in many ways. Graduate student, post-doc, and early career researchers are vital to our annual conference (they make up over half of this year’s speakers!) and are the main reason we decided to hold an online conference. This is their time to shine: to share their thoughts, to learn from each other, and to get to know those of us who have been around awhile (it still feels odd to consider myself in that category, but here we are).

So what can we all do to make this work, for them and for each other? A few tips:

  1. Come prepared. All of the papers/posters/videos that have been uploaded to Humanities Commons are linked to the schedule. Please read these in advance of each session and come ready to listen and engage. 
  2. Be patient. This is our first time doing this and there will undoubtedly be some glitches. We will work around them and communicate clearly as we are able. 
  3. Be generous. Ensure that grad students, post-docs, and early career researchers are given equal time to speak and be heard. If time runs short, use places like Twitter or the Humanities Commons discussion board to further engage with their research. 
  4. Build community. Many of us have joined Humanities Commons as part of the conference process. Take a look at each other’s work. Follow each other’s profiles! 
  5. Hangout. We don’t have hallways to meet in this year but we’ve tried to create opportunities for idea exchange. Join a hangout before or after the conference and chat. Grab a lunch Tuesday or Thursday and listen to what grad students need/want to know. Connect with someone online that you can reconnect with in person. (Perhaps next year, in Edmonton?)

Finally, with all that is going on in the world, we are thankful that you are taking the time to join us. You are all what makes CSDH-SCHN the exciting, engaging, and energetic community that it is. Here’s to a great week together!