Digital scholarship develops links across Atlanta metro region

From the preservation of Cobb County’s NAACP records to the cityscape’s influence on the weather, Atlanta Studies, an online journal based at Emory University, tackles a broad range of issues through public scholarship that’s directly relevant across the metro region.

The journal, an open access, multimedia, web-based publication of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), shares articles and blog posts that contribute to public understanding and debate about the Atlanta region’s news and events, trends and history, challenges and opportunities.

“We believe a city is no better than its scholarship,” the site sets forth in its invitation for public submissions of articles and blog posts.

ECDS promotes scholarly collaboration among institutions and individuals through the journal and its sister initiative, the annual Atlanta Studies Symposium, as an innovative way to advance Emory’s mission “to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity,” as well as the emerging university priority to pursue deeper engagement with the Atlanta metropolitan region.

“The journal and the symposium are seeing dramatic growth,” says ECDS Co-Director Wayne Morse. “There’s been great energy around the collaborations and an enthusiastic reception among researchers and activists of Atlanta.” These initiatives build on Emory’s academic strengths to extend awareness of its Atlanta-related archival resources and expertise more widely, notes ECDS Co-Director Allen Tullos.

Produced by an editorial team of ECDS staff members and graduate students, Atlanta Studies brings together expertise from across the region and beyond. Editorial board members represent Clark Atlanta, Emory, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, the Atlanta History Center, and the New Georgia Encyclopedia; the advisory board adds in representatives from Atlanta magazine, Atlanta University Center, Auburn Avenue Research Library, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania.

“We provide a deeper and more rigorous take on what’s happening in the city today and its historical context than the Atlanta mediascape generally offers, and our stories are picked up by other media outlets,” says Atlanta Studies Managing Editor Jesse Karlsberg, who is a senior digital scholarship strategist with ECDS.

The combination of longer-form articles, which are reviewed by editorial board members, and more frequent blog posts, reviewed by editorial board and staff members, appears to be working. The site’s unique page views increased by a third from 2015 to 2016, and it’s on track to double 2016 viewership by the end of 2017, according to ECDS special projects liaison Adam Newman, an Emory PhD candidate.

“The idea is to make Atlanta tangible for people,” says Clark Atlanta sociologist Barbara Harris Combs, who, in her role on the journal’s editorial board, emphasizes the importance of engaging writing that’s readily accessible outside the academy. “We’re creating a history of the contemporary moment.”

The journal is part of the Atlanta Studies Network, an interdisciplinary group of researchers, students, and instructors across the region’s institutions that also hosts the annual public symposium.

Emory hosted the first symposium in 2013 with nine sessions and a keynote address topic that still resonates today: “Mobilities and Mobilizations in the City That’s Too Busy.” The 2017 symposium, with the topic “Rethinking Equity in Atlanta,” had twice as many sessions and attracted participants from government-related institutions such as the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, as well as universities and nonprofit agencies, according to Newman.

“We can drill deep together, coming from different angles while looking at the same thing,” says editorial board member Marni Davis, who earned her PhD at Emory and now teaches history at Georgia State. “It’s an enriching way of doing scholarship.”

After traveling to the Georgia State, Georgia Tech, and Atlanta University Center campuses, the symposium returns to Emory in spring 2018.


This story appears in the Fall 2017 issue of the Emory Libraries Magazine (PDF). The Emory Libraries and ECDS partner together within Libraries and Information Technology Services (LITS) at Emory University.

Photo courtesy: Copyright The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.