When I first began my tenure as the Immersive Scholarship graduate assistant at FSU’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship in August of 2022, I had no idea where this nebulous and exciting journey would take me. I came into this position as a second-year MA from the Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies program, a subsect of the Art History department. While initially outside of my comfort zone, this new role afforded me the flexibility to experiment and evolve; particularly by advancing and reshaping my burgeoning scholarship on the Caribbean. This growth took the form of a proposal submission to the University of Florida’s first Latin American and Caribbean Digital Humanities Symposium to which I was accepted and presented at on March 3rd, 2023.
My presentation followed the trajectory of my work with The Forgotten Canopy, a hybrid conference analyzing the contact points between imperialism, ephemeral architecture, and ecology in the Caribbean, South American, and transatlantic worlds. As a component of the conference, graduate students from both Florida State and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) collaborated to produce a digital guidebook that would accompany its ecological workshop. Our guidebook, hosted on open-source publishing platform Manifold, contained immersive components such as satellite mapping and a responsive map that allowed scavenger hunt participants to proactively chart the positions of plants in the botanical garden.
Our goal in using Manifold was twofold: not only would it allow for the integration of immersive technologies, but its structure also allowed us to experiment with open access and non-conventional forms of scholarly publication. Many other symposium participants shared in this sentiment— pulling on platforms such as SCALAR, Omeka S, and StoryMaps as a means of integrating digital storytelling into their research. This opportunity to engage with other like-minded researchers was incredibly enriching, even beyond the scope of digital publication. Much of my work on the Caribbean, particularly Cuba, has been informed by a need to extensively analyze the digital—to grapple with the implications of working in time-based media such as photography and film. This coincides with the research of Dr. Andrea A. Gaytán Cuesta, for example, who gave a phenomenal lecture entitled Creating a Digital Encyclopedia of Glitch Cinema in America. UF’s Associate Processing Archivist Martha Kapelewski also delivered a compelling lightning talk on Escribanos Cubanos Coloniales y sus Signos (Colonial Cuban Notaries and their Signs).
Overall, I feel very fortunate to have participated in such a wonderful and academically rich colloquium. As an entry level digital humanities professional, this symposium has reaffirmed my enthusiasm for the discipline and re-energized me as I approach graduation in May. With that milestone in mind, I am incredibly eager to begin searching for jobs that align with my research and that move the needle in terms of Caribbean digital scholarship. In the future, I hope to return to Cuba and work on a digital repository of cultural heritage on the island, but until then I am happy to work out of my home base in Miami. Either way, being part of the Immersive Scholarship team has been an immeasurable gift and I am excited to take the lessons I have learned here forward into the field.