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“All together now...”
Mobilising the (digital) humanities
in the Information Age
Daniel Paul O'Donnell
@danielPaulOD
danie...
The future of the humanities
has never looked brighter
The future of the humanities
has never looked brighter
● More relevant than ever before
● Larger audiences than ever befor...
“Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative
“Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative
● Underfunding
● No respect by governments and parents
● Out of step with...
“Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative
● “When we look at the public reputation of the humanities; when we
compa...
So why the disjunct?
So why the disjunct?
Our success is coming outside
the traditional avenues
So why the disjunct?
Our success is coming outside
the traditional avenues
● Non-traditional audiences
● Non-traditional v...
The Digital Humanities
The Digital Humanities
The Open Access, Open Source, social web
presents Humanists of all stripes with remarkable
opportun...
The Digital Humanities
The Open Access, Open Source, social web
presents Humanists of all stripes with remarkable
opportun...
We are living in the information age, for Pete’s
sake. If humanists can’t make what we do central
in an information age, w...
But in order reap these opportunities,
we need to retool
But in order reap these opportunities,
we need to retool
● Change the way we train our students
● Change the way (and with...
Imagine what it was like to be a middle-aged
natural historian in 1869
Ten years after the publication of Origin of Specie...
We are going through a similar
Darwinian Moment
● Technological change is affecting the
humanities in fundamental ways:
– ...
● Worth pausing to consider just how
fundamental these are:
– Easier to quote than to paraphrase
– Easier to count use tha...
● Important thing is that none of us were trained
for this
– Even if we are of the internet generation, our
supervisors we...
● There is no magic DH bullet that changes
Humanists into Digital Humanities
● There is no “Killer app” for the humanities...
You don't go from natural philosopher
to biologist overnight
● Change is also very much about community
● Building confide...
Some models.
The Lethbridge Journal Incubator
● Attempt to discover new resources for ensuring
the sustainability of Scholarly publishi...
Two business models
Trains while funding Open Access
Visionary Cross Project
● High quality scholarly material (far better than
anything previously known)
● Focus on Giving Ba...
Visionary Cross Project
● High quality scholarly material (far better than
anything previously known)
● Focus on Giving Ba...
Global Outlook::Digital Humanities
Global Outlook::Digital Humanities
● New Communities and Collaborations
introduce new ideas
– Minimal computing
– Multilin...
New Pedagogies
● Flipped classrooms
● MOOCs
● Unessays (bit.ly/Unessay)
● Entrepreneur/Incubator spaces
Conclusions
● Technological change is affecting the humanities in
fundamental ways
– Methodology
– What we study
– Relatio...
Thank you
daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca
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“All together now...” Mobilising the (digital) humanities in the Information Age

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A more developed version of my Basel talk.

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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 February 26, 2015 Brigham Young University
  2. 2. The future of the humanities has never looked brighter
  3. 3. The future of the humanities has never looked brighter ● 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. “Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative ● Underfunding ● No respect by governments and parents ● Out of step with a philistine/commercial age ● Less important than the natural sciences, engineering and editing ● Full of trivial, pointless work
  6. 6. “Brighter than ever” is not our normal narrative ● “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 Chronicle of Higher Education, February 18. ● 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. ● “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.
  7. 7. So why the disjunct?
  8. 8. So why the disjunct? Our success is coming outside the traditional avenues
  9. 9. So why the disjunct? Our success is coming outside the traditional avenues ● Non-traditional audiences ● Non-traditional venues ● Non-traditional technology ● Non-traditional checks and balances ● Non-traditional collaborations
  10. 10. The Digital Humanities
  11. 11. The Digital Humanities The Open Access, Open Source, social web presents Humanists of all stripes with remarkable opportunities:
  12. 12. The Digital Humanities The Open Access, Open Source, social web 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, ● to develop forms of communication and publication that are far better suited to the type of research and teaching we have always done.
  13. 13. 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.
  14. 14. But in order reap these opportunities, we need to retool
  15. 15. But in order reap these opportunities, we need to retool ● Change the way we train our students ● Change the way (and with whom) we collaborate ● Change the way we work and how we communicate
  16. 16. Imagine what it was like to be a middle-aged natural historian in 1869 Ten years after the publication of Origin of Species ● Study of what → Study of how ● Statistics added to observation ● Natural History → to Biology 2 This is scary stuff!
  17. 17. We are going through a similar Darwinian Moment ● Technological change is affecting the humanities in fundamental ways: – What we study – How we study it – Institutions we study it in ● This has all been happening within the career arc of a typical researcher – ± 20 years – Some of the more important (i.e. Social Web) < 10
  18. 18. ● Worth pausing to consider just how fundamental these are: – Easier to quote than to paraphrase – Easier to count use than citations – Easier to reach the public than our scholarly peers – Change in sense of what is allowed and is important – New research methodologies and challenges: “Standing on the Shoulders of Trolls” – New Institutional Context: Increasingly global field ● Digital technology is paradisciplinary—researchers have something to say to each other across research domains
  19. 19. ● Important thing is that none of us were trained for this – Even if we are of the internet generation, our supervisors weren't ● A break in the tradition of soft knowledge that extends back over generation – The new standards, tools, and opportunities are demanding we do things that are far outside our traditional domains ● Knowledge Mobilization, Public Humanities, Comments ● Use international English (means sacrificing linguistic facility)
  20. 20. ● 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.) ● What is required is a change in our research, teaching, and public culture – Working in and engaging with the public – Collaborating across specialisations and expertise – Computers are the least important part of this Addressing this is not simply about technology
  21. 21. You don't go from natural philosopher to biologist overnight ● Change is also very much about community ● 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 – DH can get our students jobs, but it isn't about getting our students jobs
  22. 22. Some models.
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. Two business models
  25. 25. Trains while funding Open Access
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. 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
  28. 28. Global Outlook::Digital Humanities
  29. 29. 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
  30. 30. New Pedagogies ● Flipped classrooms ● MOOCs ● Unessays (bit.ly/Unessay) ● Entrepreneur/Incubator spaces
  31. 31. 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!
  32. 32. Thank you daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca

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