Providing resources and trai­ning in the practices and tools of the digital humanities

CoLang Charter

Co-Lang: Institute for Collaborative Language Research


Draft amended and accepted: June 26, 2012

Solicitation for comments:

At a group meeting at the 2010 InField at the University of Oregon, there was discussion about establishing a charter. This draft grows out of that meeting; it was further discussed at a meeting at the LSA/SSILA in January 2012 and then circulated to the group for some feedback. We are circulating it again at this point and would like to reach consensus on procedures for selecting locations for future institutes, as these are relevant now for 2014. If we can agree on this (at least as far as 2014 goes, we can always modify it if it doesn’t seem to work well), then the rest of the document can be discussed and adopted at the meeting this summer.

Please give feedback on any and all parts of this! We will be happy to incorporate it.

This document outlines the overall mission of the Institute, as well as the principles guiding the Institute and each of its major components. The first section, Goals and Principles, is a direct reflection of the discussion at the University of Oregon. The second part, Structure, is a first guess, based on what happened with InField thus far, of the type of organizational structure that might be appropriate.

Note on terminology:

‘Institute’ is used throughout this document to refer to Co-Lang/InField.
‘Workshops’ refer to the two-week session of short courses.
‘Practicum’ refers to the 4-week session that in 2008 and 2010 was called ‘Field Methods Training.’

I. Goals and Principles

1. Goals of the Institute

  • Provide training in how to document, maintain, revitalize, and renew languages;
  • Facilitate ethical collaborations between academic and community linguists;
  • Promote best practices for in situ language research and resource creation;
  • Further linguistic theory by supporting the creation and sharing of repurposeable linguistic resources;
  • Sustain language diversity, by promoting the creation of lasting resources on under-described languages and assisting community-based language activists in developing skills that will support their work;
  • Advocate locally and globally for support of languages.

2. Principles guiding the Institute

  • Collaborative learning, in which all are contributors with participants and instructors teaching and learning together;
  • Collaborative teaching, with multidisciplinary, indigenous, and non-indigenous expertise;
  • Collaborative research, with participation at every level by those community members whose languages are at stake;
  • Inclusivity, with international orientation and encouraging of participants from all backgrounds;
  • Accessibility, by removing barriers to language documentation and creating accessible resources;
  • Outreach, using networks to reach academic and community linguists to foster synergistic training events and the dissemination of the products of language documentation.
  • Advocacy, to support language initiatives and language minority communities around the world.

3. Goals for Institute Teaching: Workshops and the Practicum

Start or deepen understanding of holistic, collaborative language documentation processes and tools, including their linguistic, ethical, practical, and technical dimensions.

Apply the linguistic, ethical, practical, and technical skills gained in the Workshops in a guided apprenticeship with native-speaker consultants and an instructor.

II. Institute structure

1. Meeting time and length

The Institute meets every other summer in even-numbered years (in off-years from the Linguistic Society of America’s Summer Institute). The Institute consists of approximately two weeks of workshops followed by a practicum that is usually a month long.

2. Governance

a. Advisory Circle
There shall be an ongoing Advisory Circle for the Institute. The Advisory Circle ensures continuity of practice for the Institute, while at the same time recognizing the need for change. It provides stewardship of the Institute, ensures appropriate venues for future years, seeks long-term funding, and develops outreach, public awareness, and publicity. It provides guidance to the Local Organizing Committee on the structure of the Institute, special initiatives, choice of courses to be offered and instructors, and possible funding sources.

The Advisory Circle consists of a group of no fewer than 12 and no more than 15 members including:

  • At least three Institute organizers: the organizer(s) of the previous two Institutes, and the organizer(s) of the upcoming Institute,
  • At least four community linguists
  • At least two students
  • At least two international participants

It is likely that some individuals will fill multiple categories.

The first Advisory Circle is informally constituted, involving those who expressed an interest at the final meeting at the 2010 Institute. Those who have been involved in organization previously (i.e., Santa Barbara and/or Oregon as of winter 2012) will have their terms expire in 2012; those who have not been involved previously will have terms expiring in 2014.

Terms begin the August following an Institute. They are generally four years (involving organization of two Institutes.)

Determination and selection of members
In the August following each Institute, the outgoing Advisory Circle will determine the number of open slots for the coming term, and through discussion will determine whom to invite as new members. These should be people who (1) have participated in at least one Institute, (2) have demonstrated commitment to the ideals of the institute (inclusivity, collaboration, and the desire to work with others to help preserve the world’s linguistic diversity), and (3) are willing to work as productive members of the Advisory Circle. It is the Advisory Circle’s responsibility to ensure that invitations are extended in such a way to ensure a diversity of representatives (community linguists, academic linguists, students, and at least some range of geographic breadth).

After each new Advisory Circle is constituted, Advisory Circle members will select two Co-Conveners for the coming two-year term.

b. Local Organizing Committee
A given year’s Institute is organized and run by a Local Organizing Committee. The committee has the primary responsibility for that Institute. These responsibilities include major fundraising, advertising, all Institute administration including faculty and speaker contracts and payments, arranging IRB approval and dealing with issues of informed consent for the practicum (and elsewhere, if required), arranging venues, travel and visas, and accommodations for all participants, as well as volunteer staffing, airport transfers, social events, evaluation, and follow up reporting, and any other routine things as necessary. Programmatic decisions are made with guidance from the Advisory Committee. The local committee consists of a minimum of two members. One or more external members of the organizing committee might also be appointed, at the discretion of the local committee. In addition, the Local Organizing Committee might ask for others to take on particular organizing roles (e.g., talks, organization of evening and weekend activities, coordination of multi-instructor workshops).

c. Future Institute Selection
Within three months after each institute, the Advisory Circle will solicit expressions of interest in hosting the Institute four years hence (for example, solicit expressions of interest in 2012 for the 2016 Institute). These should take the form of a two-to-three page proposal that (1) presents the qualifications of the proposed Director(s); (2) outlines any Institute-particular themes or approaches; (3) presents possible fundraising strategies, and (4) states the likely available resources for personnel, housing, and classroom and technology support. Over the course of the following months, the Advisory Circle will then work with the proposers to develop a more detailed plan. The final selection should be made no later than January of the following calendar year (for example, no later than January 31st of 2013 for the 2016 Institute).

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