Presented at Project Management in the Humanities Virtual Conference

I presented “Digital Iran Project Management” as lightning TALK at the Project Management in the Humanities Virtual Conference at University of Victoria on June 9th, 2021. For this presentation, I particularly focused on my role as principal investigator and project manager for the collaborative team. As collaborators, we aimed to dive deeply into multimodality-text, image, sound analysis of video games, to examine the construction of narratives and counternarratives on Iranian culture and identity through the theoretical lens of affect, sound-media, and aesthetics. To accomplish these tasks, we used Twitch.TV live streaming platform for gamers, YouTube, WordPress, and Twitter, with a goal to create video essays to deconstruct game narratives. We discovered that video games are not only popular forms of entertainment for people across nations, gender, social class, and age, but they are also powerful means through which identities are constructed, contested, and even expressed. As such, games about Iran are based on particular perspectives on culture, whether made in the West or Iran, which correspond to nation-state initiatives and discourses of politics. We did not anticipate the many challenges that comes with such a technical/technologically focused project during COVID.

To come to these conclusions, we intended to meet to play video games and then create video essays to deconstruct meaning and learn from our own affective experiences while playing games. However, the advent of COVID-19, meeting together proved altogether impossible in the name of safety and health. What began as a video editing and multimodal essay project manifested as a Twitch.TV live streaming project and a WordPress website to house blogs and deliverables. This required a whole other subset of skills. As a result, I became an accidental manager, trainer, and emotional conduit for all things technical, and even had to teach gaming as a skill. At the same time, the planned methodology proved too rigid for the needs of all collaborators. To meet a kernel of our goals, managing the project transformed to video logging to explain how to use each program or software, and gaming live to show cultural and narrative aspects of each game.

To stream live on Twitch.TV, a platform for gamers, this required skills in Open Broadcasting System and connecting that to the Twitch.TV account. By doing this, collaborators could experience the game without having to play, and engage with broader communities. To create shortened versions of video essays, I learned how to use XMedia Recode to re-encode videos so that they could be uploaded in MP4, VLC Media player to extract sound, and free video editing software that comes with Windows to provide slow motion, text, and explanation. With these tools, we provided nuance during a particular moment in each video game. Blogging required watching YouTube videos on how to use themes, instead of building a WordPress site from the ground up. Through blogging, we were able to provide additional insights on video games beyond what was said in real time during Twitch. TV streaming.  

These experiences with technology and lack of skills led me to believe in the necessity of communication and scaffolding of tools, scope, methods, as well as technique prior to implementing a digital humanities project (Ermolaev et al. 2018). I realized that to produce this project successfully, the question of critical pedagogy was and continues to be ever pervasive throughout the production side and needs to be instituted in the beginning stages of a project (Stommel 2014). Through this experience, it is imperative to critically engage in discourse while evaluating and reevaluating old and new data, to produce tutorials for the less technically savvy, and in tandem, foster an ethical yet inclusive environment for and among collaborators (Reed 2014, 9). Depending on the project objectives, I believe it is important to plan this in advance as much as possible ahead of actual project implementation to go over basic skills, methods, how to play with software, and in this case, games. As well, this requires a level of accountability among collaborators. Their willingness to discuss their own potential hurdles and lack of skills are integral to accomplishing objectives. I recommend workshopping together, with colleagues, through skills labs before initial project implementation to cultivate such praxis.

Works Cited

Ermolaev, Natalia et al. “Project Management for the Digital Humanities.” DH 2018 (2018).

Reed, Ashley. “Managing an Established Digital Humanities Project: Principles and Practices

from the Twentieth Year of William Blake Archive.” Digital humanities Quarterly vol. 8 no. 3 (2014).

Stommel, Jesse. “Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2014).