The Challenges of Explaining in-process Digital Scholarship

I recently had the opportunity to present a short workshop on digital history “tools” for lack of a better term. The workshop took place during a 3-day retreat for environmental historians working in the Pacific Northwest. It was a wonderful gathering and a great chance to share both digital projects I am directly involved with as well as other efforts that I find inspiring. 

However, while presenting my work, I struggled to bridge the divide between explaining the “process” of creating a project and meeting the expectations of what a finished “product,” could and should be. My current digital scholarship revolves around mapping early manufacturing sites in the city of Seattle (c. 1900 – 1920). A graduate student colleague and I are using Omeka and Neatline as our primary platforms and are still figuring out all the capabilities they offer, especially in regards to what we can change / add (CSS etc). While I felt we had achieved a fair amount of progress, the effort still looked rough, especially comparison to other examples I showed of projects with far more funding / number of people involved.

I would love to start a dialogue on how we can better explain the process of digital work with those who are not engaged with it on a daily basis. I feel like sharing a written “work-in-progress” is understandable in my field, but digital “work-in-progress” is less so, especially since the visual aspects are immediately striking. So often, the emphasis seems to be on finished products rather than the iterative process of creation. 

Any thoughts / ideas are appreciated!