Digital Humanities in 2007 [Part 1 of 3]

I love reading year-end summaries and lists. Even if the judgments can seem arbitrary, such lists let me know about things I missed and remind me of what matters. Here I offer my own impressions of significant goings-on in and around digital humanities in 2007. Since a lot happened this year, I’ll divide these musings into 3 posts. Post 1 will focus specifically on digital humanities initiatives; post 2 on mass digitization, reading, and scholarly communications; and post 3 will examine databases, virtual reality, social networking, and “green” digital humanities, as well as present some simple stats on the ideas that generated the most buzz. Please see for links to all of the papers and web sites mentioned here (links are also embedded in the post, of course).

  • New digital humanities initiatives. At the end of 2006, the ACLS published “Our Cultural Commonwealth,” which made the case for building the cyberinfrastucture for humanities and social sciences. Since then, it seems, “digital humanities” is gaining more recognition, attracting more funding, and stimulating exciting research projects. (Of course, many of these activities got started well before 2007.) Digital humanities centers, researchers, and funders have been actively working to develop the humanities cyberinfrastructure. For instance:
    • In April representatives of leading digital humanities centers and funding agencies convened at the University of Maryland for a summit to discuss establishing a network of digital humanities centers. Such collaboration could reduce duplication of effort, create synergies, and provide an infrastructure for training and supporting digital humanities scholars.
    • Organization building is occurring at the level of academic fields as well as research centers. As an Americanist with an interest in the digital, I was delighted that the Digital Americanists was formed. This organization aims to support the development of digital scholarship in American literature and culture, provide an infrastructure for evaluating and sustaining this scholarship, and stimulate reflection and conversation among Americanists about digital tools and methods. Like NINES and other organizations, the Digital Americanists brings together a community of scholars to tackle some of the problems facing digital scholarship, such as the lack of recognition and need for appropriate tools and training.
    • The first NEH Digital Humanities start-up grants were awarded. I found the diversity of projects funded in the first round of digital humanities start-up grants remarkable; disciplines ranged from Celtic studies to classics to jazz to art, and approaches included digitization, database construction, podcasting, and tool-creation. Some of the usual suspects (Virginia, Kentucky) were represented, but there were also successful proposals by institutions I had not previously associated with work in digital humanities, such as Coastal Carolina University. Other funding programs supporting digital scholarship in the humanities included the NEH/IMLS Advancing Knowledge program, the ACLS Digital Innovation fellowships, and the MacArthur/HASTAC Digital Media and Learning Competition (which focused more on pedagogy and communication than research).
    • Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) was launched. An open access journal, DHQ facilitates the free exchange of ideas, provides a forum for publishing multimedia works, and encourages experiments with scholarly communications by enabling authors to incorporate datasets, video, and other forms of media. All articles are encoded in XML; ultimately this markup will provide the basis for sophisticated searching and visualization. Already DHQ is getting some attention–Dennis G. Jerz’s “Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave: Examining Will Crowther’s Original “Adventure” in Code and in Kentucky” (from issue 2) generated much buzz and even was noted by slashdot and boing boing. Recent articles have examined topics such as gaming, pedagogy, digitization, text markup and analysis, and narratology.
    • The Text Encoding Initiative turned twenty. The slogan for the 20th Anniversary conference–“20 Years of Supporting the Digital Humanities”–indicates how “digital humanities” has supplanted “humanities computing” as the preferred term, as well as how digital humanities is not a new fad, but a scholarly approach with a significant history. (Of course, humanities computing has been around much longer than the TEI, dating back to Roberto Busa’s work on the Index Thomisticus in the late 1940s.)
    • The Humanities Research Network (part of the Social Science Research Network) was launched, providing free access to humanities articles. (Top papers focus on the law; perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular paper is titled “Fu*k.”)

5 responses to “Digital Humanities in 2007 [Part 1 of 3]

  1. One outcome of the summit (which was actually held downtown at NEH) was the new virtual organization centerNet:

  2. Pingback: Tapera » Digital Humanities en el 2007

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  4. Pingback: Digital Humanities in 2008, Part I « Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

  5. Pingback: digital dil·et·tante » Digital Humanities & Library Survey Reports

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