Collaborating with Collaboratives Like Title VI

I’m hoping we can discuss ways we are, will, and want to collaborate with Title VI programs. DH is marked by many exciting features including altac careers, integration of areas that are too often separated (research, teaching, service), opportunities for collaboration, opportunities to engage with other fields to due truly innovative and cross/trans-disciplinary work, connection to public scholarship, and cross-discipline and cross-department placement.  Title VI National Resource Centers offer all of these and have been doing so for decades. Also, Title VI Centers contain long-term institutional knowledge and best practices for this sort of work, which can inform concerns about institutional placement, alignment, and integration.

DH has many incredible opportunities for collaboration, but I’d specifically like to discuss how we do, can, and are interested in collaborating with Title VI Centers given both how much we have to offer and how much we could learn.  Additionally, in a recent article in InsideHigherEd, Lee Bissette wrote about DH seeming to be English-centric and stated: “I think, more generally, DH could do more to bridge linguistic divides” (article).  Title VI Centers are just one of the many places that DH could pursue for more collaboration, but each is a one that is many and thus where collaboration is especially bountiful with so many fields, areas, and perspectives represented.


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Session Proposal: The Un-gendering of the Artist in Today’s Social Networks

How are today’s artists navigating the social networks as un-gendered creative beings?  Does this un-gendered cyberspace approach serve as an opening to new artists being given exhibitions without the stigma of a gallery trying to fill its shows by weighting male and female work in the space?  Are artists experiencing more freedom in their work by not being tied to a gendered viewing (there was a time, for a simple example, when male artists made very large paintings and women were deemed less of an artist if they did not compete in the same scale)?

Not only do the social networks create an un-gendered persona but it also allows information to be shared more freely then it has in the past.  And this freedom is unconcerned with gender – if you can watch the how-to video, then you can probably complete the task – there is no “you can only accomplish this task if you are a female” kind of limitation imposed.  Hence, artists today are learning on a much more broad scale, and the work is becoming less discernible in terms of gender (both in terms of the work itself as well as the hand that created it).

What does this mean for the future of the practicing artist?  What will the qualifications be to determine worthiness of show exhibition?  In the scheme of all things art historical, there has always been a gendered viewing of art work,  the artist’s hand from which the work was created, and the spectator of the work.  Without this historical starting point, the contemporary art world will have to find a new stance from which to approach works of art, perhaps even a new vocabulary from which the next generation of artists and society might re-fashion the history of art and the artist.


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Session Proposal: Digital Preservation and Digital Humanities

One of the challenges that libraries is starting to grapple with is that of preservation for all this digital stuff that’s being constantly created and converted. It’s not enough to burn some files to a CD or DVD or put them on a server–backup is part of the story but not nearly all of it. Software formats and hardware setups change, server space diminishes, priorities and goals shift, and accidents happen.

Preservation for digital humanities applications is particularly challenging, in part because digital humanities take advantage of the latest software and technology. They are full of dynamic, multimedia content. We can’t know, for example, if the software running applications will be supported even five years down the road, much less ten or twenty. To boil down the point even further, what is the point of developing (some) digital humanities projects if they can’t be supported and sustained over time?

The library world is coming up with solutions to the challenge of digital preservation all the time. We have developed best practices on preservation-quality formats, founded consortia to share the duties of preservation, and come up with metadata standards to ensure long-term preservation of digital library resources. And like preservation, digital humanities computing is increasingly in the purview of libraries.

Let’s have a conversation about what happens after the launch of the coolest new digital humanities application. What are some general principles we can apply if we want to keep those programs around? Can we adapt emerging digital preservation principles to fit the unique challenges of digital humanities data?

If you’d like to do some background reading on digital preservation as it pertains to libraries, here are some cool links:

Library of Congress on digital preservation

Preservation-quality file formats

Critical elements of preserving digital collections

Digital Preservation Europe

Digital Preservation: A Time Bomb for Digital Libraries

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Session Proposal: Linked Open Data

This is a session that might go well with Richard Urban’s session on the Digital Public Library. I’m becoming more and more interested in the challenges and opportunities surrounding linked open data. For those of you who don’t know, LOD is a feature of the semantic web that allows different datasets to share resources. On a larger scale, LOD is a movement designed to revolutionize scholarship by producing big data that could lead to conclusions that are impossible with single datasets alone. I talk a little about the implications of LOD in my post “DH, Archival Silence, and Linked Open Data.” Tim Berners-Lee also discusses LOD as the future of the web, John Voss has a wonderful lecture on the use of LOD in museums and archives, and Eric Rochester has a great talk about LOD at Scholar’s Lab. Voss explains LOD’s power as allowing users to engage in advanced queries across institutions.

Besides projects like DBpedia, LOD is used in HistoryPin, Conflict History, Geonames, and Taxonconcept. The LOD-LAM group (linked open data for libraries and museums) mentions 4 benefits of LOD.

  1. Driving users to your online content (e.g., by improved search engine optimization).
  2. Enabling new scholarship that can only be done with open data.
  3. Allowing for the creation of new services for discovery.
  4. Stimulating collaboration in the library, archives, and museums world and beyond.

Of course, most of this is still very abstract and people working with LOD really don’t know how it could benefit us in the future. I am fascinated by the idea that LOD rethinks the web as not a collection of texts, but as a collection of data – and the way this can change scholarship, teaching, and archiving. But I’m also just throwing the idea of LOD out there to see what my fellow THATCampers can come up with. 🙂

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Session Proposal: Converting the DH Agnostic

My institution has a newly-established Digital Scholarship Lab that falls under the umbrella of Digital Scholarship and Special Collections. Since this is such a new endeavor (three months old), the concept and “brand” of digital scholarship (and specifically digital humanities) is still forming in the minds of library faculty and staff as well as teaching faculty and graduate students at our university. My colleague, Donna Lanclos, and I are interested in exploring a few questions:
-How can we, as digital humanists, gain buy-in from colleagues and faculty who may not see the value in digital scholarship (or who may be hostile to the whole idea)?
-What are some methods, talking points, elevator talks, etc. we can use as digital humanists and digital scholars?
-How can we gently introduce technophobic folks to the world of digital scholarship and digital humanities?
These are just a few starting points — I would love to hear how you have engaged new and varied constituencies in digital humanities and discuss new ideas and possibilites.

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Who Owns This Stuff?

In a talk delivered at the NINES Summer Institute last year, Bethany Nowviskie asserts that, within a discipline where collaborative work is the norm, “healthier scholarship will result from generous and full acknowledgment of the contributions of collaborators.” Even more recently, in her response to Miriam Posner’s “Some Things to Think About Before You Exhort Everyone to Code,” Nowviskie makes a case for giving more attention to “the professional and intellectual development of the people already steeped in humanities computing technology and for whom this work is a primary focus and responsibility,” in order to facilitate “correlat[ion] of their local work with the bigger trends, technical and intellectual, in humanities scholarship.” Given that, as Nowviskie notes, “a gap exists, in critical vocabulary and in the norms of discourse between these groups (even including developers with deep backgrounds in humanistic research),” how do we ensure that all participants in a project enjoy an opportunity to derive professional benefits from the collaboration, including rights to access, publish about, and build upon the resulting code and artifacts? In this session, I propose we use the “Collaborators’ Bill of Rights” as a starting point for discussion. How might we instantiate these recommendations in our own projects? What other practices or policies might we add to the list? Given the ad hoc process through which digital humanities working groups and projects are sometimes formed, how do we integrate a conversation about giving credit where it is due and rights of ownership (including, but in no way limited to copyright) as an essential first stage? Can we begin drafting sensible, user-friendly model policy for which we can advocate within our disciplines and institutions to help ensure adequate recognition of collaborators’ rights?

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Rebooting Graduate Training

I am hoping we can discuss creative approaches to graduate training within given disciplines as well as across them. In the humanities, there has been a groundswell of interest in reforming graduate education, revising masters and PhD expectations (most notably the dissertation), and integrating with other departments and programs within the university. These discussions link to, and in some ways anticipate, the increasingly conspicuous attention to alternate academic (#altac) careers. In what ways can we imagine, promote, and support new forms of graduate training at our own institutions or even across them? How can we construct programs or degrees that formalize what has been, at least in the digital humanities, the cherished narrative of the tinkering autodidact, learning ad hoc and hybridizing on her own time? This discussion might draw from current experiments in humanities graduate training (e.g. the Praxis Program in the UVa Scholars’ Lab; the Stanford Lit Lab) and further imagine fruitful collaborations with libraries. What are the skills grads need to know now? And what traditional forms of graduate training should endure, as their values become more apparent by contrast? How will these configurations adapt (or not) to online and distance education, to collaborative possibilities across institutions? And how do we develop the infrastructure to support student and institutional innovations?

(Link to session’s notes / Google Doc.)

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Session Proposal: Skills and Tools for Digital Archives

A question that’s been explored before before, but one that remains current — especially with the appearance of several new open-source for digital records: What do archivists need to work with digital records? Of course, having a saw, hammer, and nails doesn’t mean that you know how to build something. The trick is to figure out how to use these tools wisely, to get a sense of crafts* and best practices.

Join in a conversation about tools you use and the skills essential to use those tools. Learn about other participants’ favorites. If interested, the group can continue the conversation as an online community to explore these ideas in depth. Participants should be prepared to talk about how they work, the tools they use, and what knowledge and skills they think are essential (whether they have them or not) to succeed in the digital era.

>Examples of tools include the Duke Data Accessioner, the Curator’s Workbench, and Archivematica. (Not to mention other tools that have been around for a while, such as Archon, Archivist’s Toolkit, not to mention Dspace. It’s just as important to have a safe place to “play.” VirtualBox allows you to host a fully functioning Ubuntu Linux computer, and many of these tools run best in a Linux environment. These applications will be available for demonstration during the session.

*Changed craftsmanship to craft out of respect for International Women’s Day (today) and to acknowledge the important issues raised in the session proposal: Is Coding Privileged Work?

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#alt-LIS OR The Question of the Hybrarian OR What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in the Library?

{Inspired by the recent JISC article “Does the Library have a role to play in the Digital Humanities?“}

librarian pin


I’m a librarian. Sort of. Well, not really. I mean, I work in a research library, I have the MLIS degree (union card) and its part of my job title. But, in the three real months that I’ve been officially employed I’ve not once assisted a patron, I am only truly familiar with the databases and research assistance at my library from my time as a student there, and I do NONE of the typical librarian day-to-day tasks – reference (virtual or face-to-face), departmental liaising, book/journal buying, vendor-negotiating, database culling, collection development, etc. Nada. And it looks like it could be that way for a while.

Which brings me around to the title of this post, which I blatantly borrowed(ripped off) from Bethany Nowviskie’s “#alt-ac,” a term many of us may be familiar with. In defining my involvement in the future of librarianship, I am constantly questioning the role of the library in the digital humanities, one I am interested in professionally, or broader on a ‘digital campus.’ We could go 100 different directions here, but I’ll recall a session I proposed at THATCamp CHNM last year – in light of McMastergate, the fact that the majority of fellowships in DH are post-docs who are placed in libraries, and that I am a hacktivist at heart: what is the role of the LIBRARIAN in the nitty gritty work of digital humanities, and more importantly, is the training matching the needs of the field? Further, when and how will the DH community begin to advocate for alt-LISers and offer fellowships or support to MLIS students in Scholarly Communications, Data Management, Digital Archives or other areas of import in which the community needs qualified individuals? What steps does Library Land need to take to fully join and develop these “collaborative partnerships” with the DHers? Or can it ever be, since library science education broadly trains ALL types of librarians?

To many in the history field and in libraries, it is unclear what the role of the library should be in digital humanities. This is not to imply that there is no role for libraries – only that this role has not yet been widely developed and adopted effectively. Libraries remain very much in transition when it comes to expanding models for supporting research on campus. – RSS4S History Project Interim Report

A colleague of mine often half jokes that librarianship as a whole suffers from an inferiority complex. I’m trying actively to avoid that in my work, and hope this doesn’t come off that way. I’m definitely not trying to stake out a turf war for the soul of the library. I suppose I am hoping to better define my own position as a pseudo-librarian in an evolving digital landscape of library services, and how that will fit with my interests in digital humanities. I’d also like to broach the topic for discussion, especially with our Emory DiSC Colleagues in town, as they seem to have worked out some productive ways of addressing the “Librarian in DH.”

Some readings to consult:

Ps. What work have I been doing, you ask? Open Access Public Policy advocacy, institutional repository management, Outreach and Education on open access, digital scholarship and author’s rights, and holding lots of meetings with lawyers concerning copyright, fair use and intellectual property. Nothing I was trained to do in library school. 😉

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Session Proposal: Studying Games at a Liberal Arts College

I’m interested in the ways that games, game studies, libraries, digital humanities, and liberal arts curriculum intersect, even though I’m not always completely sure how they intersect, especially from a pedagogical perspective.  I noticed the official, legal definition of “humanities” linked to on the THATCamp SE blog, and games is not explicitly listed among the disciplines humanistic scholars study, even though games definitely lead us to ask questions about language, history, ethics, etc.

I also realize that there is already a ton of great work in the THATcamp community on games going on (indeed, if this is truly my interest I may have signed up for the wrong THATcamp!).  Still, I would welcome some more discussions about games, humanities, liberal arts education, and libraries at this (un)conference for a few reasons.

First, my institution, the University of Montevallo, has a strong commitment to the liberal arts as a foundation for an education leading to “meaningful employment and responsible, informed citizenship.”  Second, one of our newest curricular expansions is the addition of a Game Studies minor.  There are many interdisciplinary conversations about games happening on our campus, and these include gaming and information literacy, or as I like to think of it more broadly, gaming and preparing for life in a participatory democracy.  In the past year, our library has hosted several gaming events at our library, which have been part of the ALA’s National Gaming Day @ your library events.

I was also compelled by a round-table panel this past summer at the New York Public Library called “Digital Humanities and the Future of Libraries.”  A video of the event is on the NYPL page.  Most applicable is Kari Kraus’s talk, which begins around the 18 minute mark.

Kraus claims that the figure of the gamer shadows nearly all groundbreaking digital preservation work that happens today.  I think the implications of this statement are worth discussing.

Some of the questions I have in mind are:

  • What role do libraries play in preserving games as a part of the cultural record, and how should libraries go about this?
  • What other models for preserving games as a tool to teach from a humanities perspective exist?
  • How can we preserve, annotate, and document games and game play to emphasize ways of knowing, learning, and participating in society?
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