How to engage in digital humanities at small liberal arts colleges?

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on September 2, 2010 at NITLE’s Techne blog,

By launching a digital humanities initiative at NITLE, we signal our belief that the digital humanities are important for small liberal arts colleges. We also think that these institutions, in turn, can contribute to the digital humanities movement. In previous posts, I’ve offered some definitions for digital humanities and digital scholarship and explained the timing of our initiative. Today, I want to talk about how you can get involved with the digital humanities at small liberal arts colleges.

NITLE Network of Liberal Arts Colleges

The digital humanities matter for liberal arts colleges because the humanities are such an integral part of liberal education.

At NITLE, we believe that the digital humanities offer important opportunities to

  • reinvigorate the humanities
  • connect undergraduates to humanities research
  • help liberal education re-think and expand its understanding of “literacy” in a deeply changed and increasingly digital environment

What can you do, as a member of a liberal arts campus? By yourself, it’s a challenge. Digital humanities as an approach to research and teaching requires collaboration. At small colleges, that’s all the more true. At NITLE we want to build that collaboration by finding pockets of innovation in the liberal arts community and connecting these dots into a coherent, collaborative effort.

Its goal is two-fold: to advance the development of digital humanities at liberal arts colleges and promote the valuable contributions these colleges make to and within the broader digital humanities movement.

What you can do, then, depends on the connections you make.

The great thing about digital humanities is that there is a vibrant sense of community, especially in social media. Some faculty and staff in the NITLE Network are already engaged in digital humanities projects, often led by research institutions. But there is still value to be found in networking with colleagues at other liberal arts colleges who understand the particular challenges of that context. Others may just be getting interested in the digital humanities and wondering how to get started. So, let me list some ways to get involved, no matter where you are in your particular digital humanities journey.

Seven Ways to Get Connected with the Digital Humanities Community

  1. NITLE Digital Humanities on the web: Those just getting started can use NITLE to connect to people and resources that will show you what’s possible and why. The digital humanities section of the NITLE website aggregates NITLE Digital Humanities news, voices from the community, and updates on Digital Humanities in the NITLE Network. It presents the digital humanities from the perspective of small liberal arts colleges. We’ll be adding featured projects and case studies to help show you the possibilities for digital humanities on your campus.
  2. Digital Scholarship Seminar Series: To really get connected to other digital humanists in the NITLE Network, take part in the Digital Scholarship Seminar Series. This community-led series is a great way to meet others at small liberal arts colleges interested in this area. The first seminar, on Undergraduate Digital Humanities Courses, will take place online, September 24, 2:30-3:30 pm EDT.
  3. Hamilton Digital Humanities initiative (DHi) and Shared Infrastructure for Digital Humanities: The Digital Humanities initiative at Hamilton College has collected resources and examples relevant for faculty and staff at small liberal arts colleges. Last night I spoke with DHi co-directors Angel Nieves, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, and Janet Simons, Associate Director of Instructional Technology, as well as Greg Lord, Lead Designer and Software Engineer for DHi. They are currently exploring ways that small liberal arts colleges can collaboratively produce infrastructure to support digital humanities research and projects and seek input and collaborators from the community. Janet led a discussion and presented a poster presentation on their project at NITLE Camp in June 2010 at DePauw University. She is especially interested in what features you want or need in a shared infrastructure. Find out more by reading this description of the DuraCloud pilot project or contacting Janet Simons.
  4. THAT Camp LAC: Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English & Director of Writing-Across-the-Curriculum at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin is planning “THATCamp Liberal Arts Colleges,” which will focus on a particular academic setting—the liberal arts college—rather than a particular geographic region.

    THATCamps Around the World

    Check out the website and follow@thatcamplac for updates. Ryan is still seeking co-organizers, so if you are interested get in touch with him. Ryan, who did his graduate work at UVA, is a great example of how new faculty versed in the digital humanities can bring the movement to small liberal arts colleges.  He also (along with other digital humanists) writes for the ProfHacker blog, which delivers tips, tutorials, and commentary on pedagogy, productivity, and technology in higher education.  Follow Ryan on twitter @ryancordell.

  5. THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp is a free, open “unconference” where humanists and technologists meet to work together for the common good. It started out at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, but now there are regional THATCamps around thecountry and the world. This is a great way for faculty and staff at small liberal arts colleges to connect with the rest of the digital humanities community. Occidental College hosted THATCamp Southern California in 2010 and plans to host it again in 2011. Check out the THATCamp website to find regional camps near you and follow them on twitter @thatcamp.
  6. Twitter. There is a huge personal learning network of digital humanists availableto you on Twitter. Here are some ways to find them. Check out this twitter searchthat combines the search term “digital humanities” with the #digitalhumaniteshashtag. Take a look at Digital Humanities Now, which aggregates and organizes tweets from Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities twitter list. This “real-time, crowdsourced publication . . . takes the pulse of the digital humanities community and tries to discern what articles, blog posts, projects, tools, collections, and announcements are worthy of greater attention.” Pick a few people to follow and build your own network by seeing who they follow. Take a look at what they’re talking about and think about how it is relevant to your campus.
  7. Get in touch with me (Rebecca Davis)! If you’re one of those pockets of innovation that’s been working in isolation, let me hear from you. I’m collecting data on digital humanities at small colleges and will be publishing a series of case studies starting this fall to showcase how small colleges can contribute to digital humanities. Oh, and you can find me on twitter @frostdavis

I’ve listed seven ways that I’ve found to get into the digital humanities. If you know of others or want to critique my list please post a comment.


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