Ere it all exit my head with the return to normal life, I want to shore up my learning from the Digital Humanities 2014 conference in Lausanne by sharing a few notes. Maybe it goes without saying that the conference was a varied and beautifully organized intellectual feast, for which I am already nostalgic. The feasting was at times quite literal, as we often went double-fisted with the hand pulled espressos and mini pâtisseries during the pauses. I often hop on the Twitter for conferences, but never have I seen the tweets unfurl like a maniacal, magic carpet from my Tweetdeck as I did in Lausanne. (Here, I want to take note of Martin Grandjean’s and Yannick Rochat’s awesome visual analysis of the conference tweets–over 16,000!) Easily one of the best take-aways for me was meeting so many librarians with DH responsibilities with whom I could ask questions, compare notes and discuss workflows and strategies. Incidentally, here’s a plug for new and returning ADHO members: I learned of the soon-to-be-formalized ADHO Libraries SIG (draft proposal and sign-up sheet). And obviously, inevitably, DH2014 had its very own meme, called #dhsheep. Hat tip to @amyeetx for the original photo of a dazed looking sheep (goat?) grazing over by the ag school just across from where most of the conference events were taking place, which faithfully captured the way many of us were feeling by Friday morning. Retweets, meme-ification and hilarity ensued. I think my favorite incarnation was:
— Miriam Posner (@miriamkp) July 11, 2014
For me, an interesting thread having to do with internally vs. externally focused training programs emerged from the digital pedagogy workshops and presentations. Whereas I, in my first several months at Rutgers, have been focused on the types of training I can provide for students, the focus in several of these talks was on training for subject and reference librarians to prepare them to become better digital collaborators. I want to mention specifically the Methods for Empowering Library Staff workshop and Jen Guiliano’s and Trevor Munoz’s paper Making Digital Humanities Work. In the workshop, we explored different DH training programs that were structured either as a project or as skill development. An example of the former is Columbia’s Developing Librarian Project; of the latter, the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Training Programme. It seems plausible to me that an additional benefit of these kinds of programs is the attenuation of administrative and communication challenges within library units as well as with other academic or administrative divisions when it comes to the practices of digital scholarship. If we have the space and the opportunity to explore digital tools and methodologies, not only will we broaden our work as (subject) librarians and become less likely to pass a “digital” question on to a junior colleague, but we also begin to develop a common vocabulary and understanding of what it means to practice digital scholarship.
On the external-to-the-library side of things, I want to note quickly a concept I captured from Alex Gil on the ephemeral digital lab, which is to say a lab that is attached to a specific course that exists solely to support the technology needs of the faculty member teaching the course (although that is but one variation). Additionally, I particularly enjoyed a session on undergraduate education and DH, including Robert Sweeny’s brutal honesty about the potential for miscommunication, and the importance of starting from where the students are, rather than where we think they should be: “Realizing the Democratic Potential of Online Sources in the Classroom.” The presentations of Diane Jakacki and Katie Faull on “Digital Learning in an Undergraduate Context: Promoting Long Term Student-Faculty (and Community) Collaboration in the Susquehanna Valley, PA” and Amy Earhart and Toniesha Taylor on “Digital Activism: Canon Expansion and Textual Recovery in the Undergraduate Classroom” were particularly welcome because of the collaborations between university classes and local archives, as well as for the projects’ ongoing, iterative structure (nothing had to be tied up with ribbons by the end of the semester–another class would take up where the preceding one left off). I also had a fruitful Twitter backchannel talk with the authors on giving students the time to experiment with new tools, and the importance of allowing those “wow, that didn’t work” moments to happen.
As far as nifty digital tools are concerned, I want to spend more time exploring Bookworm, a tool developed by the Hathi Trust Research Center to visualize language use trends in repositories of digital texts. I was thrilled to learn that Voyant Tools can now be locally installed: My Very Own Voyant. In chatting with Doug Reside, I was excited to hear about a comparative tool he designed called Libretto, which allows readers to compare different versions of a musical text as it develops over time, only to be a little deflated when I learned that it is a native Android app (I am a loyal Apple customer). Also bookmarked: Annotation Studio, Diva.js, Reveal.js, Topotime, and ClipNotes.
I want to give a shout-out to some fantastic colleagues who shared resources that I found helpful. DHers are a helpful bunch, so this list doesn’t even begin to cover everything I jotted down, favorited on Twitter, or read in the DH2014 abstracts, but here goes:
- Dale Askey published all his notes, organized by day, on his blog The Bibliobrary
- James Baker did the same on his site at GitHub Gist
- Anna Jobin posted a couple of rapid fire Vines of many of the #dh2014 posters here and here
- ADHO posted a number of interviews of #dh2014 participants on its YouTube channel as well as its Storifies of conference tweets
- Infoclio, the Swiss digital history portal, posted still more interviews of #dh2014 participants via SoundCloud (many in French)
Lastly, I am grateful to Yannick Rochat and Alicia Foucart for organizing, and to my fellow DH runners for participating in some therapeutic, muddy, and intensely beautiful morning runs in the hills of Ecublens and along the trails of Lake Geneva. At the end of one such run, four of us even accidentally on purpose fell into the lake, and it was FANTASTIC!!!