Digital Humanities New Scholars Seminar – Day 1

Attending the New Scholars Seminar put on by CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes) as an “unconference” on June 29-30, 2015, before the Global Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney, Australia, in July was a great experience for me as someone who had learned about DH only a few months prior. As fate would have it, I had already booked a flight to Australia for a conference in Brisbane and had decided to fly to Sydney first to check out the city. So I was already planning on being in Sydney then – just in time to switch to spending a week at conferences instead of sightseeing! (I did pack in some activities on the following weekend.)

On the first day of the New Scholars Seminar, we brainstormed ideas for sessions on topics we wanted to discuss, and I learned a lot and took many notes on Learning DH, Teaching DH, Ethics, and Straddling Disciplines. Drs. Geoffrey Rockwell and Rachel Hendery were very supportive leaders and facilitators and also enriched the sessions they sat in on.

Some issues we discussed:

Learning DH

  • How to translate lab-based learning into the humanities.
  • Problematic when what I want to teach is already 10 years out of date (could having an uncourse where students have more determination of content possibly address this?).
  • How to do a lit review of a new area:
    • Canonical projects overview.
    • Go to DH Answers to see if it has already been dealt with.
  • Coursera courses.
  • Software Carpentry workshops.
  • Trial and error messing with code.
  • Follow links in an academic paper to the data and tool to replicate it.
  • Pose problem to students and have them present a workshop on it (independent study).
  • Look outside the university:
    • Outside consultants like to be legitimized by being asking to come to university.
  • When is DH a method vs. a perspective?

Teaching DH

  • Often needs to involve a lab component.
  • Lends itself to team-teaching.
  • Sees technology as objects for study, as texts.
  • Questions:
    • What texts to assign?
    • How to assess?
      • Perhaps a proposal for a project.
      • Digital portfolio as employable skill presentation.
      • Instead of essays, have blogs and other online writing.
      • Use sandbox where things aren’t public and then get permission to make it live.
      • Evaluation of something to be posted online (Goodreads, Amazon book review).
      • Contribute to Wikipedia.
    • What are core skills students should learn?
      • Knowing what networks and the Internet are and how computers talk to each other.
      • Typing at least 45wpm.
      • Using word processor, spreadsheets, and presentation software.
      • Critical thinking.
    • Offer a research methods class.
    • Have practitioners guest-lecture on their specialty.
    • How to make it appealing to other majors (like Computer Science)
      • Helps them learn humanities skills, like the ability to hold competing ideas and multiple viewpoints at the same time, rather than thinking in black and white.
      • Visualizations show that the same data can be displayed in different ways.
      • Can help them get managerial positions and think outside the box.


  • If using public data for research is okay, what happens if it is later made private? (Example: Facebook post).
  • Most data is held by corporations with Terms of Use and without ethics.
    • Non-disclosure agreements.
    • Difference between state vs. private organizations owning and using data.
    • Obscurity of data centers and locations.
    • Laws differ between institutions/countries.
  • Anonymous vs. identifiable users or data (usernames, handles).
  • Questions of scholarly practice:
    • Is it okay to cite bloggers?
    • Using pirated software.
    • Exploiting online users to make money/gain from their data to publish research.
    • Doing research on Dark Web or illegal content.
    • How to archive your data, encryption or non-encryption:
      • Will researchers 15 years from now misinterpret the data if there is no context or readme file attached?
      • EU rules around Open Access and data sets.
    • How far behind are Ethics Approval Committees?
      • Standard format of survey questions doesn’t deal with asking questions online; for example, on a blog for people to respond. Could you post a disclaimer on the blog and have that count as consent?
      • GamerGate people have no qualms about posting addresses and phone numbers online, yet researchers have to go through all kinds of hurdles.
      • Onus is on the researchers because laws can’t keep up.
    • Interesting reading: and data from dating sites being leaked.

Straddling Disciplines

  • Pose DH as complementary instead of threat.
  • Use opportunities to liaison with Computer Science students.
  • Issues with collaboration:
    • Image persists of the lone, heroic scholar whose monograph is linked to tenure, promotion, etc.
    • You’ve hitched your success to others.
    • Open Access and publishing.
    • Two streams: traditional academic and digital.

Staying Current in DH

  • Google search for news on your topic
  • Subscribe to The Humanist
  • Twitter
  • Conference paper topics and trends
  • Industry top sheets and contacts