On Digital Humanities and community

A funny thing about Digital Humanities is that whenever two or more DH people (I know the accepted phrasing is Digital Humanist but like, lol no) get together, they have to agree on what DH means for them. Quite often it’s a strategic term, deployed more to establish an in-group and an out-group, than a real marker of a community of practice.

Although, that’s an interesting digression: understanding DH as a Wengerian Community of Practice, with peripheral identities and marginal identities and trajectories of participation. But as interesting as that path is to follow, I think I’ll wait a bit to pursue it.

Returning to the main topic of discussion: “DH.” The construction of DH as a discipline is quite strange to me, because of this phenomenon. I talked about fields and disciplines earlier on this blog, but I’d argue that DH isn’t really a field either. If disciplines are identified by shared methods and fields identified by shared objects of study, DH is identified by…a social network. There is a set of people who use the term in describing what they do, and this set of people meets in a variety of venues. DH is a particularly patchwork network, moreover, so these venues don’t necessarily overlap. I’ve been to a few DH conferences/events/thingamajigs in my time, and while there are certain people I’ve seen repeatedly, the vast majority travel in their little packs that don’t necessarily overlap with my pack (which for two years was the Boston-area DH group, based out of my home lab).

In sixth grade there was a system for class changes: the administration assigned each student to a “pod” of 4-6 people with an identical schedule. At this stage in my education history, there wasn’t anything too complex so scheduling this was not a problem. It helped us get used to our schedules, and also helped us feel a sense of stability when, for the first time, we were moving rooms every class period.

The DH community is kind of like this: there are pods based around projects and places, and these pods move through the currents of the community.

I’ve had the fortune, or the misfortune, to leap away from my pod and find myself in a new place with new projects and people. So, going to the first gathering of the Texas Digital Humanities Consortium was an enlightening experience. I’ll write more about that another day (no promises), but suffice it to say I met people and learned about projects, and I’m looking forward to see where this pod is going.

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THATCamp RTP

I was in North Carolina for the weekend and I found out about a THATCamp being held in the Triangle (THATCampRTP: Digital Knowledge), so I figured I might as well go. It was on Friday, March 28, and lasted all day. I personally had a great time, but I like this sort of event where talking and meeting people and learning skills is involved (I think that’s why I like school, and why I like it better when it’s less formal).

I don’t have much to say from it, so I’m going to try something experimental: a list of things that I know now that I didn’t before attending, in no particular order  (I lied, it’ll be vaguely chronological).

  • I can play around with hardware and circuits and software just by plugging something into my computer
  • I miss working with breadboards and circuits and I should pick up a kit and try stuff on my own
  • It annoys me when people assume I don’t understand basic things and explain those to me, rather than actually listening to my question.
  • Lunch with friends is always good and sometimes it’s easy to forget that academics are people too (as an academic, no less).
  • I hate when people dominate discussions, and I hope I don’t do it. There’s a fine line between making your point and refusing to let others make theirs.
  • Preaching to the choir is fun but usually not very productive, but sometimes it is!
  • On that note, I really need to look into more legal issues/scholarship: I’m talking about games in culture, and law is part of culture.
  • Safe spaces are important to me, and I will do whatever is in my power to help make them so for other people. And I will expect the same in return.
  • That said, I understand that there is a lot of work to be done and that not everyone has the energy/spoons/desire/whatever to do it, and that’s OKAY.
  • There’s a lot of effort that goes into constructing a document to which multiple people can agree and that reflects the competing goals and desires of many. I commend anyone who takes this on.

I’m lucky, here at this blog. I’m the only one whose goals and desires inform it, because this is my space and my writing. And that reminds me of the last thing I learned:

  • I need to write, learn, communicate, and teach. I wouldn’t be me without doing all that. Yes, I need to slack off and take time off and isolate myself sometimes, but when it comes down to it, the production of knowledge is what I want to help with.