Digital Humanities Training Opportunities and Challenges

Digital Lock

For the past two years, right around this time, I’ve compiled a post gathering the various Digital Humanities training opportunities that take place during the summer months (2015, 2016). This year, Katherine D. Harris beat me to it on her blog. One thing that that becomes clear, as Katherine notes, is that although there are many opportunities, many of them are either not geared towards beginners in digital humanities or are prohibitively expensive for most faculty:

So, we need something low cost, low skill barrier, survey-like, preferably in-person. To add to this, there are constraints on spending the travel funds before June 1, 2017. (Yes, I know, but we’re working to convince Dean to extend this deadline.) I don’t want Sr. Colleague to turn away from DH in frustration. This is a prime opportunity!

I’ve long admired Katherine’s writing about doing digital humanities in the classroom at a public, teaching-focused, regional state institution with limited funding (much like the situation I found myself in for many, many years). At such an institution, one is often basically doing digital humanities in ways that don’t look or sound like a lot of the most prominent DH projects, as well as in relative isolation from the larger literal and figurative “center.” I have written about how if it wasn’t for the generosity of a colleague who included me on a massive grant I wouldn’t have been able to ever attend DHSI, so the financial and institutional challenges are very real to me, and still very relevant.

Of course, there are those who have (and still do) proclaim that getting started in Digital Humanities has never been easier with all of the free and low-cost resources that are available out there (Scott B. Weingart has a great crowdsourced list of resources around learning to code for DH purposes.) But of course this doesn’t address the very real learning curve, particularly for the “Sr. colleague” Katherine is talking about. And, shockingly, not everyone can just teach themselves to code, on their own, from scratch, especially when they have no idea why or what language they need to know.

And is coding the best introduction to DH?

These debates and discussions are evergreen, but no less important. I collected a list of critical essays about these issues (focusing on learning to code, but also the bootstraps mentality that infuses the rhetoric and a lot of the rhetoric around DH). I wrote a long, long time ago about the inaccessibility to much of the work, opportunities, and funding, particularly for adjuncts. But, as Katherine asserts, THIS IS A PRIME OPPORTUNITY.

Making things even more complicated are those of us who are working at public institutions that are beginning to limit where one can travel to, not to mention the very real fear about international travel. And to, once again, ask those who are on the ground doing the work in the classroom and organizing and outreach on their campuses to do even more free, unrecognized labor is abhorrent; this is the carework of academia writ large that goes uncompensated and often is even punished.

This seems like an awfully long rant to say, if you are able to participate in one of the many opportunities that exist to learn about and how to do Digital Humanities, please go back to your campuses and your communities to help share and grow this newfound knowledge. And if you are already doing it, thank you.

What low-cost, low-barrier digital humanities opportunities have you attended or organized?

Image Digital by Ged Carroll licensed CC-BY 2.0

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