What Do We Want in a Research Platform of the Future? (Session 620 at MLA 2023)

Session 620: What do we want in a research platform of the future?

Instead of just critiquing major information technology (IT) platforms that higher-ed institutions commit to, panelists “lead with the solution.” They set forth visions, plans, and ethical, sustainable principles for the research IT of the future.

Saturday, 7 January 2023, 5:15 – 6:30 PM PST (Convention Program page)
Moscone West – 3002 (Level 3)
Hashtags: #mla23, #s620


  • “Introduction: Thinking at the ‘Enterprise Technology Systems’ Level,” Alan Liu, U of California, Santa Barbara


  • “The Tech Adoption Process,” Beth Seltzer (Stanford U.)
  • “Academy-Owned Humanities Publishing Platforms Working in Cross-Institutional Collaboration — MDPx,” Cheryl E. Ball (Executive Director of the Council of Learned Journals, and independent consultant in digital publishing). Note: Cheryl Ball will present in place of Matthew K. Gold, who is listed as the presenter in the convention program but will not be able to attend the covention.
  • “Some Steps toward Collectivist Platforms for Humanities Research Collaboration,” Samuel Baker (U. of Texas, Austin)

One of two sessions at #MLA2023 organized by the MLA’s Committee on Information Technology, this panel (#s620) addresses the research prtion of the issues set forth in the committees original call for papers:

Research and teaching are core missions of our higher-ed institutions. Yet when it comes to major information technology (IT) platforms and services—general-purpose document-creation and management platforms, learning management systems, proprietary databases, and data services—as well as more specialized tools for video conferencing (and remote instruction), surveying, mapping, design and visualization, etc.—researchers and teachers are accustomed to reacting to (or critiquing) directions set by others. They are latecomers to decisions that result in acquisitions of large enterprise systems that bundle research and teaching IT into business models originally intended for industry or other institutions with different student populations and needs. Administrative or support demands unrelated to higher-ed’s core functions and instead common to all institutions (communications, document creation, storage, management, payroll, timekeeping, security, etc.) thus come to determine IT investments that can be millions of dollars each year per institution.

What if, instead of merely reacting, educators led with their visions of long-term directions for research and teaching IT platforms? What if they set forth clear goals for future IT environments whose material, operational, organizational, and labor infrastructures and functions align with core research and teaching missions, and did so in ways that are ethical and sustainable? What could having a plan, even if at first only impractical, give scholars as leverage in the shared-governance conversations they will need to have over the next decade with university administrators, IT industry representatives, staff, students, and others (including those from their ranks who work in relevant areas of engineering, education, or policy research)? We invite short papers for two panels that plan, speculate about, or suggest technologies or strategies  optimal for supporting our scholarship and instruction.

(See also Session 274, which addresses the teaching portion of these issues.)

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