Digital Community Engagement at a Regional University

Katherine Knowles, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Jessica DeSpain, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Jill Anderson, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

At a regional, masters-comprehensive university located in a county characteristic of the rust belt’s declining industries and falling populations, significant creativity is needed for a digital humanities center to develop innovative projects that engage a variety of communities while attempting to combat the digital divide. The panel will begin with a brief overview of the center’s projects and methods that foster collaboration and creation of local and international communities through digital humanities programming. Center faculty will then provide specific examples of community-focused initiatives.

One collaborative effort is Conversation Toward a Brighter Future 2.0, involving partnerships with a public humanities center and local schools, which aims to mitigate intergenerational conflict by studying concepts of aging alongside social and cultural narratives on these topics and by creating digital storytelling projects about personal and local experiences. The Digital Community Engagement Pathway directly recruits underserved students to take their education outside the walls of the classroom by partnering with community organizations to address major social problems through digital humanities methods. The Manang Languages and Nepal Earthquakes projects highlight the unique challenges of international community engagement and how technology obstacles can reshape the meaning of community collaboration.

When working with any community, we provide training and facilitate program activities in a way that gives participants agency and, by extension, greater ownership over projects they create. We will conclude by examining how these projects provide people opportunities to use digital humanities methods to ensure their voices are heard regarding issues that directly affect their communities.