by Rebecca Frost Davis
Digital methodologies and new media are transforming humanities teaching and scholarship, but current humanities faculty and professional staff face challenges in learning and applying these new approaches, collectively termed the “digital humanities” or DH for short. Newcomers can find a variety of professional development opportunities, including online seminars, unconferences with associated brief workshops, workshops at professional conferences, and 1-2 week institutes. When I surveyed existing training opportunities, I found two main types to be common—introductions and institutes.
There are a growing number of introductory training opportunities. While interest in digital humanities has grown, we are still facing the lack of DH self-identification issue I outlined in a previous post in this series—many scholars still don’t really know what DH is. One strategy for improving recognition is to share existing examples of digital scholarship and connect them to digital humanities. At NITLE, we took that approach with our two-year series, the Digital Scholarship Seminars. Recordings for each of those events are still available (look in the list of links under “Related Content” on the right side of each event page) and should still prove useful for those new to using digital methodologies. Topics covered include courses, learning, research and digital pedagogy for undergraduates, as well as community, infrastructure, training, grants, projects open to collaboration, a survey of digital scholarship at small liberal arts colleges, teaching in the online archive, and implications of data for humanists.
NITLE Seminars continue the tradition of the digital scholarship seminars for NITLE network members. Earlier this week we held a seminar on digital field scholarship that should appeal to the spatial humanities crowd, and upcoming DH topics will include DH & Women Studies, DH and Race, and the Neatline plugin that allows mapping and timelines in Omeka, a tool for online collections and exhibitions that is popular among digital humanists. Watch for publication of these and other new events on the NITLE Events page or sign up for the RSS feed.
Several of NITLE’s past and future seminars specifically reach out to faculty through their disciplines, although one key characteristic of DH is interdisciplinarity. Introductory events at the conferences of scholarly societies take a similar approach. In January 2013, DHCommons will once again offer a Getting Started in the Digital Humanities workshop at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association (MLA). This event is co-sponsored by centerNet, the Northeastern University Centers for Digital Humanities and Computational Social Science, and NITLE. Our speakers will include returning newbies to share how they’ve progressed since last year’s workshop, experienced digital humanists on how to plug into the community (e.g., through events, journals, organizations, online community, and other resources), and two rounds of workshop on these topics: ImagePlot, Intro to TEI, Building a DH Center/Program, Digital Archives/Omeka, Network Analysis, Digital Scholarly Analysis, Project Management, Seeking DH Funding/NEH-ODH, Getting undergrads involved in research projects, Geospatial Analysis, Hypercities, Basic Textual Analysis, and Many Eyes. This pre-conference event will be held 8:30am-12:30pm on the first day of the MLA Convention (Thursday, January 3rd, 2013) and will be hosted at Northeastern University. Find out more or register here: http://dhcommons.org/mla2013. Opportunities like this one are a good way for scholars to get a feel for the shape of DH so they can get an idea of how and where to apply digital methodologies in their own work. We also found that several of last year’s participants were department heads wanting to gain a better understanding of DH rather than integrate it into their own scholarship. Instead, they were looking to increase local engagement in DH, support colleagues doing digital work, and think strategically about the role of digital methodologies at their own institutions.
At the opposite end of the training spectrum there are institutes—opportunities for scholars to focus more intensively for a week or more on specific digital methods. These are for scholars beyond the intro stage—those who have an idea of what they want to do with DH and where it fits within their research. The Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) has been running for eleven years at the University of Victoria. Those on the east coast now have a closer option—the Digital Humanities Winter Institute (DHWI) at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), which will take place Monday January 7, 2013- Friday, January 11, 2013. (Today—August 31—is the last day for early registration!) This institute offers weeklong courses at three levels (core, intermediate, and advanced) on Project Development, Humanities Programming, Data Curation for Digital Humanists, Exploring Image Analyses, Teaching Through Multimedia, Large-Scale Text Analysis with R, Publishing and Using Linked Open Data, and Digital Editions. Both DHSI and DHWI are part of the DH Training Network, which also includes the Digital.Humanities@Oxford Summer School and the European Summer School in Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzeig.
Other institutes to watch for include the Institutes for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The latest round of awards was announced this summer and includes Humanities Heritage 3D Visualization: Theory and Practice, Folger Shakespeare Library Summer Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities: “Early Modern Digital Agendas”, Another Week | Another Tool – A Digital Humanities Barnraising, Digital Humanities Data Curation, and Institute for High Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship (HiPSTAS). Watch the news feed for the Office of Digital Humanities for updates on dates and application materials.
As all these opportunities show, training at all levels is a key concern for the digital humanities community. A recent agenda-setting experiment by the Association for Computers and the Humanities includes two mentions of training among the top five issues of interest for the association:
4. to devise guidelines for training undergraduates and graduates in digital humanities
5. to develop models for distributed digital humanities training, recognizing that local communities are small and not all can afford to travel
The DH Training Network also emerged from the community to link existing institutes and launch new ones to fill gaps in location and timing.
These two types of training—introductions and institutes—exist in a larger ecosystem of DH training. Webinars, podcasts, blogs and other social media help the community stay current with the latest developments and provide an opportunity for newcomers to learn about the digital humanities community and its interests. Many newcomers, however, feel overwhelmed by the flood of digital humanities content online and cannot take advantage of face-to-face opportunities due to travel costs (in terms of both money and time) or personal and professional commitments. More opportunities in the middle are needed to bridge the gap and help the introduced move into the institutes.