Digital Humanities New Scholars Seminar – Day 2

On Day 2 of the New Scholars Seminar on June 29-30, 2015, before the Global Digital Humanities Conference, we had a panel discussion and then breakout small-group sessions with several prominent DHers: Melissa Terras, Willard McCarty, Charles van den Heuvel, and Jeffrey Schnapp. I was in Melissa Terras’ group, and she gave us real, practical advice on careers and doing DH projects. It’s so refreshing to hear straight talk from academics and genuine offers of assistance for those of us just starting out.

The New Scholars Seminar really helped us get to know each other before the DH conference so we already had a little network of people we felt comfortable with. This seminar was a pilot program and I hope that CHCI continues sponsoring events like this for new DHers; I found it highly beneficial.

Some issues we discussed on Day 2:

Benefits of DH

  • Experimental nature is a strength. It’s not necessarily about digital but looking at analog in new ways.
  • Expertise is constantly being re-negotiated as field changes.
  • Computing is another tool to use, another bow in our arsenal, to do what humans aren’t good at (processing large amounts of data).
  • Culture is changing so that now people are forced to reflect on the digital and defend why they aren’t using it.

 DH in Relation to the Humanities

  • There are virtues to disciplines and values and tradition, but they can also be imprisoning.
  • DH is disruptive to humanities because they aren’t as welcoming as sciences (but this defensiveness doesn’t pay off). Example: bioinformatics.
  • Infrastructure for DH projects is probably already there, but set up for Computer Science people. Ask for server space, kits, and library services (key allies).
  • When getting approval for projects, consider when talking to senior management, rather than getting approval for detail and digital methods, get approval for overall goal and flexibility for lower staff to innovate.
  • Also consider in grant applications, instead of asking for funding, ask for access to software developers.

Meeting and Sharing

  • Would a coding meet-up at university level be helpful?
  • Monthly research groups from different disciplines can be helpful in developing out-of-the-box ideas.
  • Research groups can present work and ideas online to get feedback and public attention and support.
  • DH Summer Institute in Canada is very popular and brings together people researching together to give feedback.
  • Think hybrids over silo-style work.

 Discussing Failure

  • Expressing uncertainty is a humbling experience.
  • Shoestring budgets and lack of support are common.
  • Position yourself outside the institutional grid if possible to get more flexibility.
  • Discovery and accidents are part of the journey (more of science mentality).
  • Have seminars not just on successes of DH projects but also on problems, struggles, and vulnerability.


  • DH Quarterly is online so has wide readership.
  • Have articles in both DH and traditional humanities areas.
  • Look at where other people in your field are being published.
  • Be wary of dodgy, predatory Open Access journals.

Identity and Unseen Labor

  • Father Roberto Busa’s females employed in computing now forgotten after the Computer Boys Takeover. Oral history is a way of capturing their stories.
  • Transition from job to profession meant men took over.
  • A lot of subordination and erasure of identity for nameless, faceless layout editors and digital tech. people who don’t get credit.
  • Make sure your name is on what you do (especially in collaborative projects) because making your work visible is important for building your portfolio.