My Latest from NITLE’s Techne Blog: Fighting Digital Humanities Isolation

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on January 26, 2012 at NITLE’s Techne blog,

Last year, NITLE published a widely-shared white paper (Divided and Conquered: How Multivarious Isolation Is Suppressing Digital Humanities Scholarship) that pointed to the challenges of isolation for digital humanists. This challenge especially affects digital scholars at small liberal arts colleges. Quinn Dombrowski and I wrote that paper because we were part of a small group working on a project to address that challenge. I am happy to report that our project, DHCommons (Digital Humanities Commons) officially launched on January 5, 2011 at the MLA convention with a workshop on Getting Started in the Digital Humanities.  You can see a video of Ryan Cordell’s official introduction to the workshop and the project in his recent ProfHacker post, “DHCommons Launches for All Users.”

DHCommons has become part of centerNet, an international network of digital humanities centers. This seems like a fitting home to me, because these centers counter isolation on individual campuses, and the centerNet network counters isolation of individual centers. Most small liberal arts colleges, however, don’t have a digital humanities center. DHCommons fills an important gap by connecting faculty and staff at small liberal arts colleges with the larger digital humanities community.  Our goal is to enable isolated scholars to join existing projects, find projects to which their students can contribute, or find collaborators for their own digital projects.

The Digital Thoreau project provides a great example.  This project aims to provide

the most complete and interactive online corpus of Thoreau’s published works, manuscripts, journals, letters, and related materials, contextualized with the best existing scholarship and open to the widest audience for access and response.

According to Paul Schacht, Professor and Chair of English at SUNY-Geneseo and project director of the Digital Thoreau project, the projects more immediate goal

is to create a digital edition of “Walden” that will show the genesis of the text through Thoreau’s seven drafts and that will be contextualized using materials from the Walter Harding collection and other collections at the Thoreau Institute Library.

Paul Schacht, Project Director, Digital Thoreau

Dr. Schacht, like many liberal arts college faculty, did not learn digital humanities in graduate school. Although he has been experimenting with digital pedagogies since the late 1990’s (last year he won a NITLE Community Contribution Award for “English Majors Practicing Criticism: A Digital Approach”), he is a newborn in the world of digital scholarly projects.  He came to the DHCommons workshop at MLA to connect to and learn from other digital humanists about how to approach the incipient Digital Thoreau project. He also connected with two other faculty members who, like him, are teachingWalden this semester.  These are the kinds of connections we hope to encourage with DHCommons.

NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar, February 3 at 2 pm EST

Prof. Schacht will join two of the original creators and board members of DHCommons–Quinn Dombrowski and Chris Dickman–on February 3 at 2 pm EST for the next NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar, Building Scholarly Networks: Digital Humanities Commons. Please register online by Thursday, February 2, 2012.Registration is free; however, space is limited.  The full event description is below:

Building Scholarly Networks: Digital Humanities Commons

One of the key challenges facing digital scholars—especially those at small colleges without a digital humanities center—is isolation. In this seminar, panelists will discuss the challenges of starting a digital project at a small college and finding collaborators in the digital humanities Community.  Speakers will include Dr. Paul Schacht (SUNY-Geneseo), who faces the challenge of building a scholarly network as part of the Digital Thoreau project.   Dr. Shacht will be joined by two founding board members from  DHCommons (Digital Humanities Commons), an initiative ofcenterNet.  DHCommons, which launched in January 2012, is an online hub focused on matching digital humanities projects seeking assistance with scholars interested in project collaboration. This hub responds to a pressing and demonstrable need for a project-collaborator matching service that will allow scholars interested in digital humanities to enter the field by joining an existing project as well as make existing projects more sustainable by drawing in new, well-matched participants.Panelists will include:


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