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Our Research IT Reading Group topic next week will focus on the Digital Humanities + Literature (DH + Lit) working group. Working group leader and English PhD student Amy Clark will cover founding the Literature and Digital Humanities working group, its goals and aims, its place in the larger DH community, and some of the challenges we've encountered, as well as how those challenges will likely inform our structure going forward. She'll also talk a bit about why literary scholars might feel resistance to digital methods, and the philosophical or methodological issues involved in navigating that.

When: Thursday, May 5 from noon - 1pm
Where: 200C Warren Hall, 2195 Hearst St (see building access instructions below).
Event format: The reading group is a brown bag lunch (bring your own).

PresentersAmy Clark (PhD student, English)

Please read prior to the meeting: "The State of the Digital Humanities: A Report and Critique" by Alan Liu (attached)

 

Presenting: Amy Clark, PhD student in English
Facilitating: Quinn Dombrowski, Research IT


Attending:

Aaron Culich, Research IT
Ashley Sanders, DH Claremont College
Barbara Gilson, SAIT
Chris Hoffman, Research IT
Jamie Wittenberg, Research IT & Library
Lisa Taichman, TextLab, visiting student (from McGill)
Patrick Schmitz, Research IT
Perry Willet, CDL
Rick Jaffe, Research IT
Scott Peterson, Doe Library
Steve Masover, Research IT
Steven Carrier, School of Education

 


Amy Clark:

* English Dept, and Lit Depts generally not very tapped into DH. Resources on campus not visible to students interested in using technology (e.g., databases, computational textual analysis) in conjunction with study of literature.
* DH & Lit group started to make tools, resources, techniques more visible -- particularly to the English dept where group founders are based, but also to other lit depts on campus.
* Format: talk w/ faculty member involved in some sort of digital methods; have had six this year. E.g., Scott Saul; Nicholas Paige (French). And trainings that permit folks to do something with a technology of interest.
* Survey: why are lit scholars not tapped into DH resources and groups on campus. Found reluctance among lit scholars to engage in this type of work/resource. So our approach is to show the kinds of things that *can* be done in this scholarly space.
* Talks and trainings early in the semester are well-attended; people get caught up in end-of-term obligations and attendance drops off later.
* Challenge: making things accessible in the most useful way.
* People are more interested in being passive -- receiving rather than participatory.
* Lit scholars tend to be segregated by period. Don't often attend the same events, even when tools are applicable across time periods. That's how lit scholars self-segregate. So: how do you take a trans-historical set of tools or resources and present it across a broader group. Conclusion: tools/resources not visible unless they're being applied to a corpus / period of interest to the audience.
* Would like to experiment with this question this year.
* Trainings (esp last semester) had 20-25 people, mostly grad students. [Teddy Roland has been principal trainer. Teddy has then used the talk/training model to design a class he taught.]
* In "optimizing one's CV" for the current academic market, it's advantageous to have experience / skills in DH methods; nonetheless, very few in English are taking advantage of DH mini-grants

Patrick asks: is there tension between techniques that make it easier to ask / organize "traditional" questions and those that enable asking "new" questions?
Amy: Perhaps a fear whether the new, quantitative questions invalidate, depersonalize, or otherwise devalue a qualitative approach.
Aaron: Some tension I've heard about in the text analysis space is that the programming -- doing what you need to do to use DH tools -- takes a long time, and there's nothing domain-interesting to say until the program is done enough to produce interesting analysis.
Amy: Necessary to figure out how to make clear that the investment in that technology-focused work is worthwhile.

Amy: Interested in shifting from talk/train to self-training mode. In part due to the logistical burden of arranging the events. But also we're noticing that the current structure, and the oddity of different sets of people showing up to different events, is driving Imogen & me to think about a more interactive mode of organizing ourselves ... to get people more involved, and to make the sessions less suited to quick dips in and out of the group (e.g., based on interest in a subject, speaker, corpus, or period).

Lisa: Having both a close reading and a digital approach to a topic or corpus has been working well at University of Vienna. That's one approach to think about.
Lisa: Another question that I think is difficult to bridge the quantities one gets out of DH to a theoretical or critical approach ... learning how to become skilled at theorizing DH, at seeing how they fit into the broader landscape of study of literature.
Lisa: Outcomes, making them visible, is a very helpful way to draw people in.

Jamie: Can the period-orientation of scholars of this sort be harnessed to the advantage of the DH & Lit effort? Training in a domain-based way has been more successful in RDM area (and leverages fear of missing out, FOMO) -- after encountering the same kind of domain-segregation patterns Amy described wrt DH & Lit.

Rick: Might a faculty member encourage all her grad students -- a team/cohort approach -- to learn these techniques as part of a related set of scholarly efforts.

Quinn and Scott: Building a project-oriented group can draw folks together; OTOH, an ongoing project can become something that excludes newcomers because they haven't been part of tis history.

Lisa: Would like very much to have people who learned about a technique or how to use a tool come back in a year (or whatever period) and describe what the outcome was of using that tool/technique.

Chris: What about a panel that directly addresses some of the fears or hostility to DH methods -- e.g., the question whether quantitative methods do invalidate qualitative approaches -- or not.

Jamie: Resource-centric trainings might bring in a different/new audience.

Quinn: I've thought for a long time of a practical workshop in how not to embarrass yourself with technology. E.g., accept all changes from advisor before sharing your proposal.

Jamie: Python for Humanist course developed at U of I (by Elizabeth Wix); available online.

 

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