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“All together now...” Mobilising the (digital) humanities in the Information Age

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A student-focussed discussion of the impact of the information revolution on the research humanities with some examples from my own work, including SSHRC and GRAND-DH-funded material. Present at the University of Basel October 13, 2014.

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“All together now...” Mobilising the (digital) humanities in the Information Age

  1. 1. “All together now...” Mobilising the (digital) humanities in the Information Age Daniel Paul O'Donnell @danielPaulOD Daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca University of Lethbridge #grand_dh
  2. 2. The future of the humanities has never looked brighter
  3. 3. ● More relevant than ever before ● Larger audiences than ever before ● More and better data than ever before ● Greater access than ever before ● More venues for dissemination than ever before ● More diverse community of researchers and students than ever before
  4. 4. “Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative
  5. 5. ● “There is unquantifiable intellectual reward from the exploration of scholarly problems and the expansion of every discipline—yes, even the literary ones, and even if that means doing bat-shit analysis like using the rule of “false elimination” to determine that Josef K. is simultaneously guilty and not guilty in The Trial.” Schuman, Rebecca. 2013. “Thesis Hatement.” Slate, April 5. ● Unfortunately, and because of the haste under which they were produced, the first Horizon 2020 Work Programmes have taken up the new approach only in a very uneven way. In some, the integration of SSH is nominally mentioned, though not really substantiated; in a few, substantial steps are made in the right direction; while others again have been drafted in the plain old way.... This... only adds to the fear that had already emerged among representatives of the Social Sciences and Humanities since the first presentations of Horizon 2020 in 2011 that the “integrative approach” would actually mean that their particular fields of research would be diminished; and that beneath the nice talk of “integration”, dedicated programmes for the Social Sciences and Humanities would be expulsed. Mayer, Katja, Thomas Konig, and Helga Nowotny. 2013. HORIZONS FOR SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES. Vilnus: Mykolas Romeris University. ● “When we look at the public reputation of the humanities; when we compare the dilapidated Humanities Cottage on campus with the new $225-million Millennium Science Complex...; when we look at the academic job market for humanists, we can't avoid the conclusion that the value of the work we do, and the way we theorize value, simply isn't valued by very many people.” Bérubé, Michael. 2013. “The Humanities, Unraveled.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 18.
  6. 6. So why the disjunct? Our success is coming outside the traditional avenues
  7. 7. So why the disjunct? Our success is coming outside the traditional avenues
  8. 8. ● Non-traditional audiences ● Non-traditional venues ● Non-traditional technology ● Non-traditional checks and balances ● Non-traditional collaborations
  9. 9. The Digital Humanities
  10. 10. An Open Access, Open Source, social web is an internet that presents Humanists of all stripes with remarkable opportunities: to engage with far larger audiences, to work with a far wider variety of cultural and historical material, and to develop forms of communication and publication that are far better suited to the type of research and teaching we have always done.
  11. 11. We are living in the information age, for Pete’s sake. If humanists can’t make what we do central in an information age, we never can. Davidson, Cathy N. 2011. “Strangers on a Train.” Academe, October.
  12. 12. But in order reap these opportunities, we need to retool
  13. 13. ● Change the way we train our students ● Change the way (and with whom) we collaborate ● Change the way we work and how we communicate
  14. 14. ● Scary stuff, because the changes have been so fast and (in some ways) so fundamental – Easier to quote than to paraphrase – Easier to count use than citations – Easier to reach the public than our scholarly peers ● All changes that have happened within the career arc of most researchers – Most changes are < 20 years old – Many of the most significant about 10 (first Web 2.0 conference)
  15. 15. ● This is not simply about technology – There is no magic DH bullet that changes Humanists into Digital Humanities – There is no “Killer app” for the humanities, only important technologies (Unicode, XML, etc.) ● It is also very much about community – Change in sense of what is allowed and is important – New research methodologies: “Standing on the Shoulders of Trolls” – Building confidence among practitioners who may have defined themselves in opposition to technology – But not surrendering what is important about us: critical reflection on human values and principles
  16. 16. Some models.
  17. 17. The Lethbridge Journal Incubator ● Attempt to discover new resources for ensuring the sustainability of Scholarly publishing ● Does this by discovering hidden value in the processes by which scholarly dissemination occurs ● Funds Open Access (community good) by training humanities students in extensible digital skills
  18. 18. Two business models
  19. 19. Trains while funding Open Access
  20. 20. Visionary Cross Project ● High quality scholarly material (far better than anything previously known) ● Focus on Giving Back to the Community – Working with local parish – Early focus on teaching and public tools
  21. 21. Visionary Cross Project ● High quality scholarly material (far better than anything previously known) ● Focus on Giving Back to the Community – Working with local parish – Early focus on teaching and public tools
  22. 22. Global Outlook::Digital Humanities
  23. 23. Global Outlook::Digital Humanities ● New Communities and Collaborations introduce new ideas – Minimal computing – Multilingualism (“Whisperers”) – Paradisciplinary collaboration ● i.e. Anglo-Saxonist interviewing for a professorship in Basel but not as a medievalist
  24. 24. New Pedagogies ● Flipped classrooms ● MOOCs ● Unessays (bit.ly/Unessay) ● Entrepreneur/Incubator spaces
  25. 25. Conclusions ● Technological change is affecting the humanities in fundamental ways – Methodology – What we study – Relationship to the public – How we are organised ● But this is not threatening – It is a moment our strengths have been waiting for ● We must change--not so much to survive as to thrive – But speed of change means we need to support our faculty even as we retrain our students ● Much more than a question of individual technologies!
  26. 26. Thank you daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca

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