Professor crowdfunding digital history fellowship

Prof. Shawn Graham is using Carleton’s Future Funder crowdsourcing tool to raise money for a special initiative.

A digital history research fellowship financed by a web-based crowdfunding campaign?

It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate venture for Shawn Graham, Carleton’s very own mad scientist of digital history.

The history professor – who won the Desire2Learn Innovation Award for Teaching and Learning in April – is known for innovating and breaking with tradition when it comes to teaching digital history at Carleton.

The George Garth Graham undergraduate digital history research fellowship – being funded by donations on Carleton’s Future Funder at – would allow for one student to work with faculty in the Department of History on everything from learning to build apps to digging for historical data.

Since students’ lives are often ruled by essays, exams and part-time jobs, Graham says the fellowship will offer a bit of “breathing space” in the form of real-world experience in the uncharted world of digital history.

“I know a lot of my students are working 20, 30, in some cases, 40 hours a week, on top of going to school,” Graham says.

To kickstart the crowdfunded campaign, Graham has donated $500 of his own cash.

As of Sept. 26, the campaign collected $1,545 – about 30 per cent – of its $5,000 goal.

Digital history plays a big role in your life, even if they’re not aware of it, Graham says. Whether you’re sharing information on Facebook or updating your Pinterest board, history is being made every day and you’re part of it.

But these mediums can skew the way we perceive the past, Graham adds.

“Your information gets pushed through the platform designer’s worldview, through their code, through what they imagine to be important,” he says. “(We want) students to be aware of that and push back against that.”

A Community Builder

Graham named the fellowship after his late grandfather, Garth Graham.

Though Garth, a farmer, didn’t have any formal education after Grade 8, he embodied the “essential ethos” of the digital humanities, Graham says.

That is, to say, he was a big thinker and never stopped learning.

“Grandpa had the most amazing shop in the basement. He had all sorts of crazy tools,” Graham remembers. “(He was always) making things and building things and trying to improve what you see around you.

“I’d like to think that if Grandpa got his hands on a 3-D printer he would have built a car with it.”

More importantly, his grandfather tried to make the world a better place.

“He was a community builder,” he says. “And that’s what I’m trying to do as well.”

FutureFunder is a new crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for people to donate money to Carleton causes ranging from teaching to research initiatives.

According to Ryan Davies, the university’s director of advancement communications, the tool opens up previously unexplored areas of support.

“It’s an easy and user-friendly way for people in your personal and professional networks to support what you do at Carleton,” Davies says.

“Using our own platform instead of other crowdfunding sites gives our community members an advantage. Through FutureFunder, donors to your projects get a tax receipt for their gift. Plus, there’s no fee to use it. Other platforms can’t offer those benefits.”

FutureFunder has already successfully helped fund initiatives as diverse as a scholarship named in the memory of Carleton graduate, library collections and travel funds.

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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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