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Digital Humanities Summer Institute 2010

Here is my conference report from the Digital Humanities Summer Institute 2010. It is written on the fly so it is neither grammatical nor necessarily inclusive. When I get really excited I tend to stop writing.

Scaling Digital Humanities

How can we go from being a boutique style research projects to national scale projects. We are perceived as being good a projects, but need to think about programs and platforms. Some of the important recent projects are EMIC, TAPoR, and INKE.

Michael Eberle-Sinatra: SDH/SEMI and Capacity

Michael talked about the role of SDH/SEMI in developing capacity. We have issues figuring out our numbers and encouraging members to support the association. Lynne Siemens followed by talking about

Geoffrey Rockwell: Institutions

I talked about institutions and how they can scale. See my short essay on scaling institutions.

Susan Brown: Support

Susan talked about the challenges of supporting DH at smaller institutions which depend on an apprenticeship model, but don't have formal means of support. If she teaches a DH course then who teaches Victorian literature?

There was an interesting discussion about the importance of students and programs. Can we develop a national and virtual college?

Stéfan Sinclair: Developing Students

Stéfan talked about how to develop students. He mentioned that it is hard to sustain the current level given the lack of students with the right preparation. If we want to scale up we need to develop students capable of participating. We need to think about how to teach programming effectively.

Stan Ruecker: Gateway Proposal

Stan talked about a draft proposal to develop a gateway that could demonstrate the use of the network for humanities research.

Bill Bowen: ITER

ITER is a not-for-profit organization to support teaching and research about the middle ages and renaissance. Some aspects of ITER:

  • It is incorportated
  • It has partners
  • They raise money through library subscriptions
  • They then fund things
  • They publish digital projects not easily supported by others
  • They have sessions at conferences
  • Publish book series
  • Capacity for long-term survival

A shift from seeing the academic society as the leader to letting individuals lead. Can we create social associations.

Jon Bath: Making Virtual Projects Real

Jon talked about activities at U of Saskatchewan.

James Smith: Expert-Calibrated Peer Trust // Towards Preservation of Algorithmic Cultural Objects

James talked about the Radiant CMS for small groups. Radiant is built on Ruby!

John Unsworth: The State of Digital Humanities

John gave the first keynote of the DHSI. He started with one of the viral videos of Hitler's Downfall on the Digital Humanities and Creative Commons. This video is from the perspective of the digital humanities imagining that they are battling an aging, entrenched, hostile, traditional administration. If there is a rear-guard action it is not from the top, but from the ranks. We need to be careful of a "bunker mentality". We need to be careful to not become the Stalin that replaces Hitler. John quoted Ian Bogost about the problems of the humanities to the effect that the humanities needs to reinvented. John also quoted a Mellon director to the effect that digital projects are getting something like 20% of funding. In short the humanities are seeing a dramatic drop in hiring and the only area getting funding is the digital humanities. We are becoming the bad guys.

John then quoted some discussions about the difference between new media studies and digital humanities. Is there a difference? Is it the difference between those who critique new media and those who make it? Or, is it the difference between those interested in reinventing the humanities and those using computing for the old humanities.

John talked about whether the "digital" in the "digital humanities" is just modifying the humanities or deeply changing the very concept of what it means to be the humanities.

For John this is an issue about jobs. In a time with few jobs it seems that the digital humanities are the only area with stable jobs and that leads to issues. This creates a need for digital humanities credentials. Digital humanities seems to bypass teaching institutions. A discourse seems to be emerging. It seems that some are in and some are out. It seems driven by technology trends rather than the humanities.

Much of John's talk used blogs as a bell-weather. It exemplified the digital humanities by using new media (blogs and twitter) as text.

John ended by drawing on a quote from Willard McCarty to recognize that the new generation are doing neat things without paying a lot of attention to the "traditional" digital humanities. The participatory generation is grabbing and using all sorts of technologies in interesting ways and they don't necessarily know about the digital humanities as a field. We need to make sure we don't get possessive and schizmatic - defining who is in and out.

Day 2

Kevin Kee: Expression of Digital Humanities in Multimedia

Kevin talked about serious history gaming. He sees himself on the end of experimenting with *expression* rather than *representation* or *analysis*. He asked a number of good questions while telling us about his lab, program and public/private generator, nGen.

How can tap into the research of people other than faculty? How can we involve undergraduates in research? How can we involve community members?
How can we contribute to curriculum at both undergraduate and graduate levels?
How to create viable public/private partnerships?

Alan Galey: The Materiality of Information

Alan talked about what he is doing at the University of Toronto iSchool (Faculty of Information). He teaches a course on The History of the Future of the Book and tries to get students to focus on different types of materiality of information. They look at editorial theory and textual criticism. He mentioned some different project perspectives on the materiality of information from the iSchool:

We discussed how we have to bring the iSchools and libraries together with the digital humanities.

Claire Warwick: UCL Centre for Digital Humanities

Claire talked about the new Centre for Digital Humanities at UCL. They have no space and few technical resources, but they have energy and people, which is the really important thing. Once you have a vision and you start talking to people you will find sources of support and technical resources.

Geoffrey Rockwell: Scaling Humanities

I presented on what I think are basic research computing needs in the humanities. This is what I think is needed to support research computing from the first ideas to archiving the project.

  • Community of advice and support to help people imagine a project and write a proposal
  • Training materials
  • Social Labs with specialized workstations, not big labs
  • Acquisition utilities for scanning in evidence
  • Virtual Machines to support projects
  • Development support to oversee programming projects
  • Open Tools like analytical tools
  • Conferencing for groups to meet
  • Dissemination sandboxes

I think asked some big questions about how we scale

  • What is the vision?
  • How do we make the case?
  • Who should we work with?
  • Arts? CS? Information Science? Social Sciences?
  • What are some examples? GRAND?
  • What are the relevant programs? NCE?
  • What sort of organization is needed to develop a vision?
  • Who wants to take it further?

Bill Turkel: NICHE

Bill talked about the Network in Canadian History & Environment strategic cluster. One of the most successful techniques they have developed is a micro-lending approach of quickly giving small amounts of funding to people with cool ideas. A lot of what they are trying to do now is to use their web site to make social media available to the community.

Zailig Pollock: Editing Modernism in Canada

Zailig and Meagan Timney talked about the EMiC project. EMiC is a strategic cluster around Canadian modernist literature. They tried a social media web site and no one in the community used it. They are trying a different platform (WordPress instead of Drupal) and hoping it will work better.

Zailig talked about collaborations with other outfits like MITH (TILE) CWRC and TAPoR.

Susan Brown: CWRC

Susan talked about the newly CFI funded CWRC project.

Richard Cunningham: INKE

Richard talked about the SSHRC MCRI INKE project. We discussed the importance of involving management consultants early on and having a project manager.

Lynn Copeland: Libraries as Partners

Lynn talked about how libraries can be partners. They have

  • A number of libraries have funds for open publishing
  • Digitization facilities
  • Curate research data and electronic collections
  • Open Access policies
  • Institutional repositories
  • Virtual research communities (islandora)
  • Publishing platforms

Lynn talked about and where it is going. They are creating a network of trusted digital repositories.

Neil Fraistat: Centers as International Cyberinfrastructure

Neil talked about centerNet and its initiatives.

David Robey: Discussion of Infrastructure and Community Initiatives in Europe

David talked about the situation in the UK and minimal national infrastructure for research:

  • Visibility and Uptake - we need ways to help people find and use resources
  • Technology Watch - we need to track new technologies and help people connect with other projects
  • Optimization and Best Practices - we need to share best practices
  • Sustainability - we need to help projects achieve sustainability

He mentioned the Arts and Humanities Net that provides a virtual research environment in the UK. He ended by talking about the lessons from the UK disinvestment.

Stéfan Sinclair: Voyeur: Seeing What You Get (and Writing About It Too)

Stéfan gave the second institute lecture. He started by taking a step back and talked about the digital humanities mentioning the Day of DH definitions and the Chronicle story. "Resistance is futile."

Stéfan talked about the evolution of tools and the reinvention of tools. He wondered if the renewal of tools is due to different circumstances and changes in how we think about them. "The tools may be the best artifacts we have to understand the evolution of our field." Now we are asking about scale and mobility.

Voyeur is an environment for both doing micro reading and macro reading. Stéfan demonstrated the power of Voyeur.

Then Stéfan shifted to talking about which is about the research and writing process. Hermeneutica are hermeneutical things that can be woven into writing and be about writing and be a form of writing.

Day 3

On day 3 the scaling the digital humanities group I was part of had a brainstorming session on needs and models.

Susan Brown: What do scholars want? Of Collaboratories, Gender, and DH Evangelism

Her title evokes the question Freud asked "What do women want?" She wants to introduce instability into the notion of scholar and who "us" is. She used this to frame a discussion of two projects, Orlando (1995), and Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory CWRC (2010). She wants to talk about desires. Desires of scholars.

  • Orlando is a research project started in 1995
  • CWRC is an infrastructure project starting now 2010

It is hard to diferenciate research and infrastructure. DH sometimes doesn't look like scholarship. It worth thinking about the shift (or not) in how we conceive of humanities scholarship. There is a mainstreaming of DH in SSHRC. There seem to be lots of jobs. And yet, there seems to be little uptake. The LAIRAH project suggests that 30 - 35% of resources aren't used. Many tools are hard to use, hard to learn, and with different interfaces. If we are about method, modeling and knowledge representation then we need more introductory materials.

She talked about the Orlando project and how people use it in traditional ways and don't use the advanced features. How can it encourage use of the advanced tag searching, for example? The advanced features are what scholars want, but they don't know they want it.

CWRC is a new project that scales up from Orlando to broaden contributors. It aims to be a merger of the Wikipedia and scholarly protocols.

Susan talked about how CWRC is a collaboratory. HASTAC is an example collaboratory. She wants to create an online space that welcomes people to

On the one hand DH is extremely inviting to women and yet there is a preponderance of men in the field or senior men. The scaling project is an example where there were far fewer women at the table than men.

CWRC is a feminist project in drag. Orlando was an explicitly feminist project, but O Canada years later wasn't funded. It could be that by the 2000s there was less interest or support for feminist projects. That is why CWRC is in drag - women's research dressed up men's language of infrastructure. We must design systems for embodied actors that take into account delivery and interface. Feminism, class studies, and race studies have to be taken into account. CWRC wants to recruit people often left out from DH.

That brought her to the issue of evangelical. We have faith in the power of computing to transform scholarship, but we don't want to position scholars as a "dark continent" to be converted. How can we learn from scholars who don't necessarily know what they want without patronizing them. How can interfaces be built from the community.

Susan was interesting on grant speak and how we have to balance language for grant reviewers and for our colleagues.



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