Meet Our Team: Amanda Montague, Postdoctoral Fellow

Meet Our Team: Amanda Montague, Postdoctoral Fellow

Amanda Montague is the Sherman Centre’s Postdoctoral Fellow. She brings her record as an award-winning teacher to McMaster’s undergraduate course “Creative, Collaborative, Critical: Approaches to Digital Scholarship,” which cultivates students’ digital humanities skills and provides the class with opportunities to collaborate with organizations beyond the “Ivory Tower.” Amanda also co-leads the Data Analysis Support Hub (DASH) strategic initiative, which brings workshops, video modules, and one-on-one support to members of the McMaster community working with data. Learn more about our endlessly capable Postdoctoral scholar in this quick Q&A:

SCDS: Take us through a day in the life of the Sherman Centre’s Postdoctoral Fellow.

AM: Every day is different, as I am constantly dividing my time between the various parts of my job. I support programming and services within the library and the Sherman Centre, with things like the DASH (Data Analysis Support Hub) program and through teaching and research consultations, or ongoing classroom collaborations where I visit other courses to provide instruction or support for digital storytelling projects (like digital exhibits with Omeka). And then I also teach my own undergraduate courses and, of course, continue to build my research portfolio in critical digital pedagogy.

A promotional poster advertising the Winter 2020 session of "Introduction to Digital Humanities." The poster reads "New course available: HUM 2DH3 - Introduction to Digital Humanities - Explore digital storytelling tools - Work with archival collections - Learn digital project management - Create community-engaged narratives. Register now for Winter 2020." An image shows two students working together on a computer.
A promotional image for Dr. Montague’s undergraduate course on Digital Humanities.

SCDS: How did you get interested in digital humanities? Where would you suggest emerging scholars and community members get started with DH?

AM: I think what drew me to DH during my PhD was the praxis-based or hands-on elements. It got me away from my desk (where I was trapped in an insular research process) and out collaborating with other practitioners and experimenting with digital tools. There was also a natural progression into DH based on my research interests and once I opened this door it really revitalized how I felt about my research and allowed me to approach my research questions in more experimental and experiential ways. I think the first step is to not be afraid to explore a digital tool or method, or to try a different approach in your research. You don’t have to be an expert to start. The process of figuring it out is part of the fun and how you build expertise in the first place. And if you can, try to find a network of people with similar interests. We are lucky to have the Graduate Residency program here at Sherman. I wish I had something like this when I was a grad student. These can be great places to find support or to get started. So, look for communities of practice around you and if you can’t find one, start your own!

SCDS: Your doctoral dissertation, Mobile Memories: Canadian Cultural Memory in the Digital Age, explored how locative technology (for example, site-based apps) impact the way people experience heritage sites and Canadian cities. Can you summarize the project’s key questions and takeaways? Why and how did you become interested in this topic? It’s a creative riff on your usual English literature project.

AM: My doctoral thesis project stemmed from developing an expertise in Canadian Cultural Memory Studies. I was always interested in exploring the relationship between memory and place and in thinking about how we can capture the dynamics of memory in the way people form attachments to place. This evolved into an interest in how digital space, and specifically locative media, could offer another mode of site-specific storytelling to foster these connections. So, this research project explored the potential for digital location-based storytelling in capturing diverse narratives of “being in place,” by revealing hidden histories or personal memories, or creating opportunities for counter-monuments through digital inscriptions. Not to mention all the cool ways locative media play with the layering of stories in time and space and the ongoing relationship between the body and physical/digital spaces. 

Screenshot from a short film about the Landline--a locative media event that Dr. Montague studies in her dissertation
Amanda studied the Landline project, an interactive art exhibit about place and connection, by Adrienne Wong and Dustin Harvey in her doctoral dissertation.

SCDS: Now that you’ve moved from doctoral candidate to post-doctoral researcher, what is your new research project?

AM: My current research, which has really been informed through my work at the Sherman Centre, explores collaborative learning environments and classroom-based partnership projects in the digital humanities. Specifically, I’m interested in how partnerships between instructors, librarians, information professionals, community practitioners, and students can promote learning environments of co-creation, care, and joy that shift the traditional hierarchical classroom dynamics to more equitable distributions of authority, where stakeholders become co-learners as well as co-teachers and collaborators.

SCDS: What’s something you wish more people knew about digital tools and digital scholarship? This could mean shouting out an underused resource, sharing a tip, venting about a common mistake, or something entirely different.

AM: There is no one right way to “do” digital scholarship. It encompasses a wide variety of tools, approaches, methods, and disciplinary frameworks. But we can always do more to keep the doors open, to expand our understanding of what “counts” as digital scholarship. We are always tasked with questioning our assumptions of the field in order to cultivate mentorship and training opportunities that are welcoming and inclusive, that support a variety of projects, research interests, and lived experiences under the wide spectrum of digital scholarship.

Try to find a network of people with similar interests. We are lucky to have the Graduate Residency program here at Sherman. I wish I had something like this when I was a grad student. These can be great places to find support or get started. So, look for communities of practices around you and if you can’t find one, start your own!

Amanda Montague on the importance of community-building in Digital Humanities scholarship

SCDS: Just for fun, what’s a dream project you’d take on if you had endless time and resources?

AM: I’ve always wanted to develop a Mobile Storytelling Lab that would, on the one hand, support community-driven storytelling by providing hands-on opportunities for community groups to access digital storytelling tools and resources and, on the other hand, build a critical praxis around approaches to digital storytelling in teaching and research, following frameworks of embodied pedagogy, placemaking (through feminist, queer, anti-ableist, and anti-colonial methodologies), and participatory design practices.

SCDS: Last but not least, I’m asking everyone something about their life beyond work. Tell us something interesting about yourself—anything you like.

AM: I don’t know if this is particularly interesting, but I’m obsessed with British detective shows, and in particular lady detectives—I can’t get enough! Maybe having my own lady detective agency is something I can aspire to in retirement!

Geraldine McEwan portraying Agatha Christie's iconic lady sleuth Miss Marple.
Geraldine McEwan portrays Agatha Christie’s super-sleuth Miss Marple in this promotional image from the Agatha Christie’s Marple TV show.

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