FIREtalks: Two years in 300 seconds

Our From Stone to Screen team is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to present our research; ever-vigilant, we comb calls-for-papers and subscribe to list-serves, watching for announcements and waiting to hear back about the status of submitted abstracts. So, when UBC’s Koerner Library announced the topic of their most recent FIREtalk – “The Digital Universe” – we were ready. Well, sort of. The invitation to submit was brought to our attention at the end of October (aka midterm-season), and The Digital Universe FIREtalk session took place at the end of November (aka dreaded-exam-prep-and-deadline-for-everything-season). Still, our team does not readily pass up an opportunity to network and present the fruits of our labours…


Let me back up. What is a FIREtalk, exactly? According to their website, a FIREtalk (Facilitated Interdisciplinary Research Exchange) is: “a mix of brief presentations, activities, and discussion, FIREtalksLogo Colour Sloganall relating to a common theme. FIREtalks are a great opportunity to: share your research in a low-stakes environment; be inspired by research in other disciplines; and connect with graduate students who share your interests.”  The Digital Universe  specifically was looking for presentations by students which addressed the following: “How does digital media help you create, distribute, or preserve knowledge? Has available technology expanded, or limited, your academic or artistic work? Share how your research fits into the digital sphere.” Perfect. Couple this positive, interdisciplinary environment with one of our passions, the Digital Humanities, and we were hooked! We submitted a proposal for a presentation called From Stone to Screen: Squeezing into the World of Digital Humanities (we are seriously running out of punny squeeze-related titles…) and provided the following abstract:

How does a group of students with a love for archaeology but little to no technical expertise manage to establish a digitization project that has garnered international attention in the field of digital epigraphy? This presentation introduces From Stone to Screen, a multi-disciplinary, collaborative, open-access digitization project founded in 2012 by the graduate students of the department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies. This presentation will showcase the progress of this low-budget, small-scale project, including the artifact and squeeze collections that have been digitized to-date and our partnership with UBC Library’s Digital Initiatives, with the hope of inspiring others to get involved in the Digital Humanities.


Me, Squeezing into the World of Digital Humanities!

We were, as always, very excited for the opportunity to present at our home institution. The awesome folks over at FIREtalks sent us a presentation template and kindly reminded us that each presentation lasts no more than 5 minutes. Five. Minutes. That is exactly 300 seconds in which you must present the entire history, methodology, background, progress, and future goals of your given project. For a project like From Stone to Screen, which is approaching its third birthday in early 2015, where do you start? You only have 650 words (or, if you’re a fast-talker like me, closer to 700 words) to present not only the history of the From Stone to Screen project, but the history of the squeeze collection itself, which of course has its inception almost a century ago in the early work of Malcolm McGregor. Oh, and don’t forget, you have to explain what downloada squeeze actually is, and then provide historical contextualization of our epigraphic material, which comes from 5th century BCE Classical Athens – so, forget about 2 years in 300 seconds, we had to tackle 2500 years in 300 seconds! Needless to say, the FIREtalks team came prepared: they had an hourglass timer, an ipad timer, signs that a volunteer held up at every minute-mark, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

I absolutely love talking about this project, and all of the progress that we’ve made over the past years, but there was one slide in my presentation that really stood out for me. On this slide I chose to showcase all of the partnerships, collaborations, funding agencies, grants, and other opportunities we’ve received over the years. It was a very proud moment for me, and putting everything together made our efforts that much more real.

Fire Talk Presentation Template_digital_universeGardner

Who cares? We do! And so do you, because you’re reading this!

Over the course of two hours, we heard from UBC graduate students working on a variety of cutting-edge digital projects, including: Emi Sasagawa & Linda Givetash on the use of social media to raise awareness of First Nations issues and the #IdleNoMore movement; Pamela Black from UBC Okanagan who gave a Skype-presentation on computer programs using aggregators to analyze the language of online predators to increase awareness and prevent increased criminal activity; Kate Chandler who discussed the advantages of University-wide badge merit systems for student achievement; and Laura Teichert, whose research investigates the digital intuition of children growing up in hyper-technical environments. The broad spectrum of these research topics and the incredible projects being undertaken by UBC students was inspiring. From Stone to Screen closed out the presentations, and I fielded lots of questions and received very positive feedback on all our hard work. Overall, this was a fun afternoon and an amazing experience which allowed me to connect with other students working in ‘The Digital Universe’. And no, I did not run over my time-limit.

The best part? We were invited to participate in FIREcasts, a 5-minute (of course!) podcast series that will feature our project! Our FIREcast will be recorded early next week, and hopefully posted online for all to enjoy in early 2015. Stay tuned – we’ll see how many words I can squeeze into that!

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About Chelsea Gardner

A PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia, Chelsea works on several archaeological projects in Greece and is the Project Manager for From Stone to Screen. Chelsea loves travel and all things related to Classical Archaeology, even when it involves uploading metadata or encountering spiders in the field.

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