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DH 2014 – Roundup and Reflections

It has been about two weeks since the end of Digital Humanities 2014. Taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, the conference was a wonderful gathering of senior faculty, graduate students, #altac professionals, and the usual type of folks you find at a digital humanities conference or workshop. As my first DH (I missed Nebraska last year because of a scheduling conflict), I was suitably impressed at the range of topics on display, the projects that people were showcasing, and of course the keynotes.

Despite recently moving to London to take up an Early Stage Researcher position to explore digital social editing and the scholarly edition, I found myself (as always) drawn to panels and papers basically professional in their nature. In other words, rather than more esoteric topics. Regardless, here are some of my favourite presentations and sessions from the conference:

Digital learning in an undergraduate context: promoting long term student-faculty (and community) collaboration in the Susquehanna Valley, PA

Digital Activism: Canon Expansion and Textual Recovery in the Undergraduate Classroom

Topotime: Representing historical temporality

Developing a Physical Interactive Space for Innovative Digital Humanities Exhibition

Making Digital Humanities Work

Digital Pedagogy is about Breaking Stuff

Looking backwards, it is interesting to me that the most compelling work presented at DH centred on undergraduate digital humanities work, the role of the lab (both physical and organizational) in digital scholarship, and perhaps visualization. Maybe feeling my way towards a role other than independent researcher? Or trying to figure out integrating research and teaching into academic practice? Who knows.

It’s also worth remarking on two of the keynotes.

Ray Siemens (video here) was recognized with the Zampolli prize for the creation of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, a program which has thrived through the years and in 2014 saw over 600 individuals come together in Victoria, British Columbia. Ray’s talk emphasized the importance of community formation, self-determination, generosity of spirit, and the disciplinary practices that mark boundaries and welcome outsiders to digital humanism. His talk is most worth watching for an overview of how DHSI fits in with larger instructional initiatives in digital scholarship and a history of the summer institute–and where it is going. At the end, Ray announced the donation of his Zampolli Prize award monies to the DHSI for the funding of a number of tuition scholarships for anyone who registers. Matched by other funds, these scholarships will allow likely allow a number of people to attend that would otherwise have been unable.

The talk can be seen here, or at the DH 2014 site:

Second, the Bethany Nowviskie was chosen as the community keynote, and although she was unable to attend in person, Melissa Terras ably read the prepared text (it doesn’t hurt that Melissa sounds a lot like Amy Pond from Doctor Who). In true Nowviskie style, I think, the lecture was expansive, relevant, thought-provoking, and beautifully presented in text and image. Titled “Digital Humanities in the Anthropocene,” the talk focused on the possibilities of technology and the humanities writ large on the slate of history. This excerpt from the full, posted text, sums up her main concerns:

What is a digital humanities practice that grapples constantly with little extinctions and can look clear-eyed on a Big One? Is it socially conscious and activist in tone? Does it reflect the managerial and problem-solving character of our 21st-century institutions? Is it about preservation, conservation, and recovery—or about understanding ephemerality and embracing change? Does our work help us to appreciate, memorialize, and mourn the things we’ve lost? Does it alter, for us and for our audiences, our global frameworks and our sense of scale? Is it about teaching ourselves to live differently? Or, as a soldier of a desert war wrote in last autumn’s New York Times, is our central task the task of learning how to die—not (as he put it) how to die “as individuals, but as a civilization,” in the Anthropocene?

 It was a simply phenomenal provocation towards a rationale of why we do what we do, and what are our overall cultural impacts and responsibilities as digital humanists? I’ve returned to this talk several times in my mind over the last few weeks as I try to clarify my own identity as an academic, as a digital humanists, as an editor.

The entire talk can be seen here, or at the DH 2014 site.


Finally, I presented on some visualization research that continues my work with Gephi and the 16th century comedy Ralph Roister Doister. The abstract can be read here, and the poster is available for viewing below (via Google Document Viewer) or at the link provided. [EDIT: Because of automated bot attacks, I have had to remove the high-quality PDF from this site. The JPEG file is still available, and I’d be happy to share the PDF with anyone who gets in contact with me.] Folks in the poster session really seemed to respond to the ways I attempted to integrate DH visualization techniques with critical insights from a disciplinary background. I hope to extend on this work soon in published form.

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