DHSI 2014: On Building


I was one of some 600 people who gathered at the University of Victoria last week to participate in this year’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI). A couple years ago, Natalie wrote a great post about DHSI that is still timely. I won’t repeat what she’s said. Rather, I want to reflect on the many ways that the Digital Humanities is all about building. I’m not interested in making an argument that Stephen Ramsey himself has backed away from since he made his controversial and provocative claim at the 2011 MLA. Or at least I’m not only interested in making that argument.

In a very real way, the digital humanities are sometimes about building–actually constructing an artifact whether through coding or 3d-printing or even 3doodling (the 3Doodler is a freehand 3d pen that my class got to play with thanks to our instructor Jaqueline Wernimont). Many, many things were built last week, including a MAME cocktail Missile Command run with a Raspberry Pi and a massive twitter archive of over 10000 tweets hashtagged with #DHSI2014 (Thanks to Ernesto Priego for compiling!). There was even #MakeU, a DH camp for kids, put together by Eurekamp and the good folks behind DH Maker Bus, which taught participants to make their own lightsabers!

But there was another kind of building going on last week that was equally important: relationship building. One of the hallmarks of DHSI is the way it brings together people from all over the world with the common interest of the digital humanities. But while we share a common interest, we also come from different backgrounds, levels of experience, priorities, values, and goals. These differences can lead to provocative and interesting conversations, and DHSI has added various additional sessions to foster these exchanges. Participants could present (and/or attend) colloquia, unconference sessions, and the newest addition, Birds of A Feather sessions, which featured two “provocateurs” and a twitter stream so active that #dhsiBoF trended internationally (and attracted the spambots!). Building relationships was even a theme in the closing keynote of the week, “The (Digital) Library of Babel, delivered by Alex Gil, who exhorts us to “be excellent dancers to one another”:

To reach the promised land, we must not fall into facile Us vs. Thems, especially those of us who are wrestling with the tough questions of race, gender and other charged differences. I see many tents, and tents within tents, big ones and small ones, and clearings too; I walk among many of them and so can you. Let us count beyond twos and threes as we do so, and always err on the side of grace.

 The week also generated several blog posts. What follows is not an exhaustive list but rather a selection of  posts that represent the variety of topics and discussions over the course of the week. I’m cheating with this first post from the Editing Modernism page, because it features links to a host of posts written by the Editing Modernism fellows. Roger Whitson wrote “DHSI 2014 Day 1, Or Why We Need the MLA Report.” Chuck Ryback posted “Reflections on Teaching in the Shiny Future.” In “Inspirational Cocktail Party,” Nigel Lepianka wrote about his experience in the Advanced TEI course. Anna E. Kijas reflected on her experience in the Topic Modeling class (with links to more posts). Katie Faull took the course for Deans and Dept. Chairs and wrote about it here. Finally, If you are interesting in doing some building of your own, you might check out this post, “How to get your own digital humanities project off the ground,” by Paige Morgan.

If you don’t want to wait until next June for DHSI 2015, there are several other opportunities in the interim:

How about you? Were you at this year’s DHSI? What are your thoughts? Do you have any links to #DHSI2014-related material? Please share in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Eirik Newth]

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