summer of digital humanities

It is high summer and there is digital humanities in the air. This week the Digital Humanities Conference – DH 2010 – takes place in London. When I visited King’s College yesterday there was a fair deal of energy and many pre-activities going on. This past weekend there was a Centernet meeting in London – greatly covered by Geoffrey Rockwell (Center Net 2010 post) and through twitter.

Great question/comment from Matthew Kirschenbaum (I assume it was Matthew’s own, or he is relaying a question from someone else):

mkirschenbaum Q: Has Twitter done more as DH cyberinfrastructure than any dedicated effort to date?

Talking about cyberinfrastructure: If you have not seen it, I recommend Geoffrey Rockwell’s “As Transparent as Infrastructure: On the research of cyberinfrastructure in the humanities” (In Online Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come, RUP). Rockwell provides a reflective and important piece on humanities infrastructure.

So, not only digital humanities proper is attracting a great deal of interest, but also cyberinfrastructure/humanities infrastructure. Another example is Christine Borgman’s recent DHQ article “The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities”. I hope my own piece on “From optical fiber to conceptual cyberinfrastructure” will be published fairly soon. If anyone is interested, I can send you a draft copy (contact me via email).

Another recent piece that feeds into the digital humanities summer frenzy is the manifesto that was produced at ThatCamp Paris. It seems to have been an inspiring unconference. Interestingly there is a foregrounding of method and technology (much like traditional ‘humanities computing’) in the manifesto, also in the sense of bringing together:

that there are many communities deriving from shared interests in practices, tools, and various interdisciplinary goals – encoding textual sources, geographic information systems, lexicometry, digitization of cultural, scientific and technical heritage, web cartography, datamining, 3D, oral archives, digital arts and hypermedia literatures, etc. – and that these communities are converging to form the field of digital humanities.

And right now ThatCamp London is going on. Maybe we should try to organize a ThatCamp in Umeå? I think the lab would be a good space for it.

I had the pleasure of meeting John Unsworth for the first time yesterday – although briefly. This morning I found his recent “The State of Digital Humanities, 2010” (Digital Humanities Summer Institute). A very interesting and initiated piece I think discussing the digital humanities, ongoing negotiations of territory, and the way ahead. Important material for my kind of STS like work on the digital humanities, and interestingly (maybe not surprisingly though), many of the quotes John uses (although I appreciate him drawing my attention to Palefire’s comment on a blog entry regarding new media/digital humanities), I refer to in my fourth digital humanities article (“Envisioning the digital humanities”, hopefully finished in a couple of weeks).

Although I will not be able to attend the actual Digital Humanities physically this year, I will ‘attend’ as much as possible remotely. It seems that the territory of digital humanities is shifting, and the digital humanities conference is an important part of this territory (although not the only one). Over the last couple of weeks, I have also done some thinking in relation to what institutional affiliation ‘means’, which is a particularly interesting issue when the territory is changing. For instance, what would it mean (if anything) if CenterNet were to be an integral part of the ADHO (Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations)?

Digital humanities centers have been discussed much lately, and an interesting question is what kinds of digital humanities they articulate and enact, and what kind of higher education institutions (if any) they are most compatible with. Someone (Matthew Kirschenbaum I think) asked in the centernet meeting if the cyclic life of many centers is something that we are comfortable with. What level of stability do we need? Do we need centers at all? What difference does it make if a center becomes (and calls itself) a department? I would argue that there is value to being different. Of course, historically, digital humanities centers have had a tendency to be dismantled or disappear. It is probably more easily done than with a department and a strong sense of discipline (to me dh is more a field/hub than a discipline). What risks (if any) are associated with becoming a department like others? If ‘differentness’ is a good thing, can it be maintained in a departmental setting? Probably I would think, but it would take a bit of work, and I would see a risk with obviously competing with other departments rather than functioning as a hub and facilitator (again, this boils down to your view of digital humanities).

What is the connection between new media studies (and various other related fields) and digital humanities? I think there is a great deal of potential at this intersection (and there seems to be a growing interest from young digital media studies scholars into the digital humanities). This does not necessarily trying to make new media studies into digital humanities or vice versa (interestingly, I wonder whether the former would be more likely than the latter?), but exploring common interests, thinking about strategic alignment and how best-quality research, education and development can be achieved. In my landscape of digital humanities article (soon to be published) I attempt to think about different modes of engagement between the humanities and the digital, and I think this is one way of not disregarding differences (which I think is one of the apparent risks here), while tracing overlaps and common interests.

This entry was posted in digital humanities. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.