Collaborating with the Fabric of Digital Life

Saturday, February 16, 2019 - 9:45am

Fabric website home page

By Danielle Stambler

During spring 2019, Ann Hill Duin, Jason Tham, and I are working closely with Dr. Isabel Pedersen of the University of Ontario and Sharon Caldwell, Decimal Lab research assistant and archivist, to explore the use of the Fabric of Digital Life in our University of Minnesota Writing Studies classes. Fabric is a research database and digital archive created by Dr. Pedersen and members of the Decimal Lab that collects and catalogues artifacts that track emerging personal technologies as they appear in the news, advertising, video games, film, art, events, patents, press releases, and more.

I think the collaboration with Fabric is exciting for many reasons, but from a pedagogical standpoint, I appreciate the multi-layered experience my students will be engaging in. Fabric gives students the opportunity to engage with an emerging technology (digital archive) while thinking about emerging technologies. Students will also gain practice with collaboration, as my whole class will work together to create a collection for Fabric. As a group, we will come up with a unifying theme for our collection and write an introduction to it. As individuals, then, we will each contribute at least one item to the collection, including development of catalogue and metadata information for each item.

Our Fabric assignments will give students experience with working at the item and meta level, as they think not just about how a particular artifact is interesting to them, but how it relates to other artifacts in our collection and Fabric as a whole, and how best to describe the item through identification of keywords, persuasive (rhetorical) intent, and classifications. These experiences should be fun, engaging, hands-on work for students in class, and should also hopefully be transferable to a variety of personal and professional activities related to records and database management. At the end of the semester, we plan to collect student feedback on the Fabric projects, which will help inform future use of Fabric in our classes.