Grad Student Roundtable on Digital Humanities

Last night, Cameron Blevins, Jeri Wieringa, and Annie Swafford (left to right in the video above) joined us for a fantastic Google Hangout about their experiences as grad students in the digital humanities and digital history. Please post your reactions and follow-up comments here!

Some of the links mentioned:

7 Responses to Grad Student Roundtable on Digital Humanities

  1. First, it’s always funny to hear/see yourself on video.

    Second, I thought this was a great conversation. Our three contributors were willing to offer their opinions on the positive and negative of DH, on its present state and possible future. While each had their own story and perspective to offer, the three had many similarities that really brought a cohesiveness to the conversation. For me, it was especially interesting to hear from three humanities students who are so engaged in the computer science side as well. As Annie noted, there is an extremely high entrance bar to getting into this line of DH- a fact that has been a bit daunting for myself. Although I don’t have a family member who is a computer scientist/programmer (too bad!), it is comforting to know that people with little experience can actually get to and surpass that entrance bar with help.

    Thanks to Annie, Jeri, and Cameron — and of course Caleb — for this great conversation!

  2. Charlie Behr

    This whole roundtable concept was an interesting reminder that in digital humanities there just aren’t a lot of old wise practitioners handing down wisdom from the mountaintop. It always seems like people are learning most of what they know, especially practical programming abilities, from peers or colleagues or people in unrelated fields, and that’s what this meeting was too. Lots of decentralized handing-around of information. I hesitate to think too highly of any behavior that I think Reddit would approve, but it definitely is interesting to see that even the people we’re looking to as the “masters” of this masterclass have learned a lot of what they know informally, just as we’re going to them informally to find out what they know.

  3. I really enjoyed the conversation facilitated by the roundtable last Thursday, and want to begin this post by thanking everyone who joined in!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of digital history in the field, and something that Cameron said has stuck with me. He commented that he’s kind of waiting for the digital history bubble to burst. I can’t recall if he was referring to just the funding of DH programs, or if he also meant that the novelty was going to wear off. Regardless, I actually feel like the opposite is going to happen based on the technological capabilities of succeeding generations. I think that the general knowledge of computer programing is going to grow exponentially with future generations. Let’s face it, the arts and humanities might be losing funding hand-over-fist, but computer-based technology will not. (At least I can’t yet dream of a world in which something else takes funding precedent over computers.) Our generation knows a lot more about the kinds of technology used in the digital humanities than our parents, and I’d venture to guess that our hypothetical kids are going to be taught basic programing in at least middle school, if not elementary school. To my way of thinking, this is great for DH because scholars will be more likely to want to embark on digital projects. I see it becoming a new mode of research expression, rather than wholesale replacing what we’re already so familiar with.

  4. Hey Everyone:

    I recorded some thoughts about this conversation on my blog:

    I thought the conversation about digital publishing was particularly enlightening, and am thinking about how I could make a digital project to kind of accompany, rather than replace, my traditional dissertation.

    To Kelly’s point about the “DH Bubble,” I totally agree that integrating technology into traditional scholarship will seem more and more natural to future generations of humanists, but in that sense, perhaps the novelty will wear off. Also, I think this highlights how important it is to discuss things like how to count digital projects towards tenure, how DH is received in “traditional” departments, etc., because to Cameron’s point, these are hefty investments in DH Labs and the like at a lot of institutions, and if the administration at these places doesn’t see some kind of tangible pay-off (so to speak) we might see some of them shutting the door.

  5. Elizabeth Liu

    I really enjoyed this talk and learning a little more about each of the guest speakers especially due to their experiences at institutions which have embraced DH. I do understand the apprehension that DH may be yet another bubble but I feel like technology is something here to stay and as the younger generations grow older and the later ones grow up with technology, DH might indeed just be known as H. There have been many examples of bubbles bursting but I think that refusing to adjust to where society is moving can also be debilitating (ie Blockbuster).

    Committing to move towards DH is expensive, which is something I hadn’t really considered before, but in my opninion this is what DH is moving towards.

  6. From this roundtable and our past discussions, I have found it interesting that the role of the digital historian seems to be at a crossroads. Should the digital historian be more focused on developing methods or engaging with the debates in their field? While a healthy balance seems important, should the balance be in the individual or in the department/college?

    I am under the impression that many PhD’s coming out of the big digital history programs are getting jobs in university digital scholarship centers/labs rather than regular departments. This trend could lead to a general perception that digital historians are for methods. We need to maintain a balance between developing methods and using these methods to engage in current debates in the discipline of history. We need to avoid being pigeon-holed as developers and, instead, maintain ourselves as well-rounded scholars. When scholars want to focus on developing digital methods, let’s call them DH developers. This differentiation is important for the integration of digital historians in more traditional history departments.

  7. Thanks everyone for the great comments! Feel free to continue the conversation by reading this interview with Jason Heppler.