Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Call for Papers: Digital Humanities – The Shifting Contexts

I'm so pleased to be working with Megan Meredith-Lobay, who is the Scientific Analyst, Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at UBC together on an exciting project.   We are co-editors of a special edition of Digital Library Perspectives, a journal that explores new understandings and definitions of what is a digital library.   In this issue, we focus on the emerging field of digital humanities, the evolution of the term, and the ways it's being presented and practised by scholars and researchers, particularly examining it outside of the traditional parameters of what one usually considers DH.  So yes, we're looking at shaking up the boundaries a bit, and experimenting with new ideas and processes while we're at it.  But we need your help -- if you have something in the works, please do consider submitting it to this special issue, which will be first LIS academic journal devoting an entire issue to DH.  

Call for Papers: Digital Humanities – The Shifting Contexts 

This special edition of Digital Library Perspectives focuses on the topic of Digital Humanities, with emphasis on the shifting framework of scholars and practitioners who do not necessarily identify themselves digital humanists but use Digital Humanities tools and practices in their work. The Guest Editors of this issue include Dr. Megan Meredith-Lobay (University of British Columbia) and Allan Cho (University of British Columbia).

The co-editors invite contributions on the following, as well as other related topics:
  • Role of LIS in supporting non-traditional DH areas of scholarship, i.e. New Media Studies, Musicology, Archaeology, non-textual DH
  • Emerging areas of research, teaching, learning in the digital scholarship in the social sciences and humanities
  • Beyond “What is DH?” - exploring “Why DH?”
  • Non-traditional DH practice and practitioners: inclusion and exclusion
  • DH in non-western contexts
  • The intersections between DH and digital social science
  • Digital Humanities as Data Science
Important Dates:
  • Deadline for submission: December 2017
  • Notification of acceptance: April 2018
  • Deadline for final paper submission: June 2018
Submission Instructions:
  • Papers should be no more than 6000 words
  • Submissions to Digital Library Perspectives are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration for an account needs to be created first: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/dlp.

Friday, June 16, 2017

#DHSI 2017 - The Evolution of the Digital Humanities (DH)

It's been a while since I've attended my last Digital Humanities Summer Institute.   The colloquium and workshops have evolved since I first attended in 2008.   Back then, the DHSI was about learning the new tools available to us (text encoding initiative, digitization, transcription, etc.)  There was only a handful of courses.   At the time, DH could easily have been mistaken for Web 2.0 (or social software!)   In less than a decade, I've witnessed the emergence and evolution of a cohort of scholars and practitioners who have come back each year and have coalesced into a community of practice, with the DHSI as a stage for informing and encouraging new members to join the fray.

Of course, what I witnessed at DHSI 2017 is a critical mass of scholars and libraries of the need for DH support in the form of facilities and funding.   As a way to become more inclusive, some have instead preferred broader designations as digital scholarship as an embracing term that encompasses DH.  Some have also used data science that collate various faculty to an interdisciplinary lens.  Whether it be political or fiscal, before an institution can embrace DH, it needs to have a paradigmatic shift in mindset in institutional culture from one in which lone scholars conducting DH pedagogy or research can be fully supported with pooled resources.  I've seen not only the new tools, but also the gradual emergence of DH pedagogy and new DH methodologies.

One of the key themes I've heard and seen from the DHSI is the models that institutions need in carrying out DH work.   Institutions vary widely on how far along they are in establishing an institutional framework for DH.  Some have an institutional DH mandate with accompanying staff, but no centre or lab facilities; while others, have the centre and requisite facilities, but not necessarily a mission to coordinate a comprehensive DH plan.    Timing is everything because during the DHSI, Educause and the Centre for Networked Information (CNI) released a working paper Building Capacity for Digital Humanities: A Framework for Institutional Planning.  In my opinion, the authors address some of the fundamental issues with DH planning in higher education that is by far the most cogently articulated on paper.   So where to begin?  Let's start off with the organizational models first, which I find most interesting:

Centralized Model - This model focuses on meeting faculty and student needs by housing most or all DH services in a centralized unit.  In one collaborative space, practitioners can "rub elbows" and share insights easily, and this model is usually set up by a school, or program such as the library to support DH work.

Hub-and-Spoke Model - In this model, expertise, personnel, knowledge, and services are embedded in academic departments, units libraries, and other service points around campus, but coordinated through a central node.

Mesh Network Model - No one unit is dominant in this model.  Rather, each unit that offers DH services pools knowledge to create a linked network of units, groups, and practitioners who contribute their expertise to the overall pool.

Consortial Model - As the most recent model to have emerged onto the DH scene, this model leverages resources and interests across institutions to better support DH initiatives within each institution.  Such partnerships tend to arise organically as DH practitioners look beyond their own organizations to share ideas and knowledge while collaborating on projects.

As I'm writing this, I'm excited about the final day (yes, day #5) of the DHSI.   I'm going to be reflecting more about the stages of progression along the spectrum in which institutions belong to in creating infrastructures that can support and carry out DH work.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Locating Digital Humanities in India: the Emergence of DH in the Global South #digitalhumanities

Courtesy of Pad.ma project (http://pad.ma/)
In my research, I approached digital humanities from a cross-cultural perspective.  In my examination of the field of DH, I can't but help notice the immense scale of the project, the sheer difficulties of not only defining the parametres of what constitutes digital humanities among institution, but also the lofty challenges of defining it among countries.

In a very interesting research report by Puthiya Purayil Sneha, she concludes that locating DH in India as a futile project.   This is particular so, as conversations around the internet and digital technologies have been located within the domain of the developing information and communication technologies in India.   In the Global South, digital usually means rhetoric about the potential to address and even resolve social and economic problems - anything digital translates to “good” and “beneficial.

The ICT-fication, as Sneha put it, of education has been a major objective and challenge within the larger DH vision, specifically because of access, namely the quality of access and the lack of connectivity.  There is an emergence of independent, online archives, seen as a fallout of the hegemony of state-funded archives though, particularly early key projects such as Bichitra, Tagore’s works at Jadavpur University, and Pad.ma.

However, in terms of the logistics of technology, Indic scripts is a persistent problem for digital initiatives in India.  Though in Bengali work has been done to address this by a keyboard software called Avro which stores conjunct letters preserving their separate characteristics - general searching the “anglicized," funding for research and development, maintenance, and sustainability is difficult to obtain.

The research infrastructure has been primarily for the natural sciences - humanities often end up being inadequate, in terms of financial and intellectual investment.  For example, in the case of Bangalore, with so much infrastructure at its disposal, there has been minimal development in the humanities.   And other places like Kashmir, there is strict regulations of access to the Internet due to security concerns.  Consequently, the need to have an archive metadata tool that can work with different Indian languages at the moment is difficult, if not impossible.  So even with technology a concern, there are other key points in consideration:
  • Post-Colonial Considerations - The “incompleteness of the archives” is not well preserved by British administrators before independence.  Still a contentious among archivists and historians, the viability and usefulness of this incomplete history of India produces problems for academic research of the digital humanities in India.
  • Small Steps by the Academic Institutions - Indian Institute of Technology at Indore and Hyderabad have engaged in DH and cultural informatics - through modules in existing courses and seminars.  Small steps are being taken in this very early era of DH in India. 
  • Academic Cultural Resistance - Just as with Western scholars, there is resistance from humanities departments ranging from lack of expertise to concerns about too “technological”
Indian researcher Radhika Diwan is currently conducting research into the state of digital humanities in India, tracing the history and development of Indian DH and reviewing prominent DH projects and the analysis and data collected through the interviews with DH scholars.  So the future is bright, with prospects of more to come.