lately i've been working on a grant proposal for a knowledge networking award. this morning, i turned it in. it's a solid proposal for a solid project.
in ten sentences:
the project: since 1995, i've been running the resource center for cyberculture studies, or RCCS. the heart of RCCS is a collection of nearly 500 book reviews and over 100 author responses. these days, RCCS is growing faster then ever - more books, more book reviews, more reviewers, more readers.
the problem: the problem is the platform. RCCS needs to be on an open source platform. all the bibliographic data needs to be browseable. RCCS readers need to be able to comment on the reviews. and RCCS readers need to be able to tag the reviews.
the solution: RCCS needs a new platform. it's gotta be open, it's gotta allow comments and tags, and it's gotta remain free.
together with tenure decisions and job hirings, going for grants is one of the most untransparent things in academia. the idea is to keep very secret about it - don't tell anyone about the grant, don't tell anyone you are applying for the grant, and certainly don't share your proposal with anyone. then, if you get the grant, things become hyper-transparent: you blahg all about it, all the time.
one day i'd like to blog the whole process of going for grants - from finding grants that fit your work and stretch your comfort zones to writing in prose that is understandable to submitting a final proposal with all the right signatures of approval. it would be a long blog post.
in the meantime, here's a few cut-and-pasted paragraphs from my project narrative fused with archeological evidence (via wayback machine) of RCCS's questionable past. a grant proposal mashup.
Opening Up RCCS
In 1995, as a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Maryland, I became convinced that the Internet was a legitimate object of academic study. I wanted to foster a community of likeminded scholars and teachers. To do that, I established the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, or RCCS, an online center for the study of what we then called the information superhighway or the World Wide Web. Back then, RCCS collected and archived two of the most important ingredients for a budding academic field: syllabi and conference announcements.
In 1997, I began to publish full-length book reviews on RCCS. The reviews run between 1500-2500 words and represent nearly every discipline –– from anthropology to African-American studies, from English to engineering, from law to linguistics.
Published monthly for the last ten years, there are now over 475 book reviews.
Over the years, RCCS has built up a large and diverse community of academics, artists, and activists. The majority of RCCS readers are faculty and students, including professors who use the book reviews to generate new syllabi and graduate students who use the book reviews for lit reviews and comp reading lists. The reviews also benefit authors, including one who recently wrote to me: "I am truly honored that our book has been featured on your website. As a long time fan of the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, I must confess that this positive review comes as a much appreciated gratification and a stimulus to keep investigating this fascinating area."
The problem with RCCS is its platform.
Currently, there is no option to browse the reviews by topic, keyword, author, date of book's publication, or publisher. RCCS does not support comments on the book reviews which could spark interesting conversations between readers, reviewers, and authors, thus extending the dialogue. RCCS does not support a user-generated system of tagging that could foster a rich folksonomy, deepening and widening opportunities for findability.
RCCS needs a new platform. It needs to be transferred to an open source content management system like Drupal or an open blogging platform like WordPress. All bibliographic material needs to be linked and therefore browseable. It needs to allow comments. And it needs to allow readers the ability to tag the reviews. In short, I am applying for a Knowledge Networking Award to open up RCCS.
it is difficult to predict grant outcomes. all you can do is put your best work forward and celebrate heartily after you click "submit."