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DH 2015 Sydney notes – Wednesday

July 1, 2015
flickr, sv1ambo

flickr, sv1ambo

These notes were taking using the online text editor Draft, which creates Markdown files that can be either exported or directly published to platforms such as WordPress, etc. As always with my conference notes, I have attempted to put my editorial comments in italics.

Morning Long Paper Session

Organizational Practices in Digital Humanities Centers
Smiljana Antonijevic Ubois – Penn State University

She’s a research anthropologist, so this should be interesting …

She posed her talk as a problem: why digital humanities centres (DHC)? Gave a brief overview of origins in the 1980s, noting that the visions behind these unfold in practice. This influence is the goal of her research. She studied 23 institutions in Europe and the US with 258 participants. Methods included case studies, surveys, in-depth interviews, observation, etc. She visited 11 centres, some established and others just starting out. In common: physical space with 5-15 staff.

What are their missions? Common elements included revolutionizing the way “humanities scholars are doing their work” or inspiring “humanists to think about digital technologies.”

Who develops these DHCs? Some were founded by faculty members, in bottom-up fashion. Others resulted from library/IT mergers or alignment. One center seems to have resulted from a lark:

I was the librarian for literature and history, and my boss said one day, “well, why don’t be just add the words ‘digital humanities’ to the end of your job title and see what happens?”

The result of this was a blossoming of interest and intense activity.

How should one develop a DHC? Often it seems that the choices made in the physical space influenced how it was received; some were invaded by students because they had nice machines, which had a repellent effect on scholars. Others were more about a research environment that deemphasized hardware and gadgetry.

Who uses these DHCs? Typically, the main goal of most centres is to support scholars in their current research, and gradually move them toward DH approaches. Sometimes there are multiple choices/centres, and this can lead to confusion for potential users.

How does one attract users? Many use digital tools, but aren’t attracted to the notion of the digital humanities as a label. Centres must spend time explaining what they do and how they fit into scholars’ existing research. A key factor is to reach the “right people,” which would seem to mean the people who shape and influence the culture at their institutions.

Who staffs these centres? Humanists with computational skills, mainly. Need to be able to speak both technology and humanities.

Where do people learn skills and tools? Number one answer: on their own. This isn’t shocking and speaks to the need for instructional materials that are widely appealing as opposed to textual documentation that flummoxes non-experts. Courses and classes were deemed too generic by some, who indicated that it’s easier to learn from colleagues.

Success entails setting the right priorities since the resources of a centre will not allow it to serve everyone nor meet all emergent needs. Centres do provide a protected space that allows people to explore, but they need to be conceptually and physically connected to other activities and spaces.

She has a book coming out–Amongst Digital Humanists–that details the work presented here.

Perseids and Arethusa: Building Tools That Build Digital Humanists
Bridget Almas, MarieClaire Beaulieu – Tufts; Gernot Höflechner – Leipzig University

Core question:

Can a methodology which allows students, scholars, and teachers to use tools as we build them contribute to the development of those individuals as “digital” humanists?

This encompasses two constituencies, both traditional humanists and professors and young undergraduates for whom technology is inherent in their lives. Clarified that her talk was not the result of extensive analysis, but a report of their experiences building Perseids and Arethusa.

Perseids is an online editing and annotation platform for ancient texts built from existing open source tools. Gave a brief overview, but a core value is putting data first, so for example they use persistent identifiers for everything. Arethusa is used within the Perseids platform that provides the client-side annotation framework.

By avoiding a polished UI, they found that humanists began to do interesting and unexpected things, even those who had no prior experience. They decided that they needed to support these ‘deviations.’ Users developed new skills because the platform opened up doors for them. The platform also taught users that things break and go wrong, a difficult lesson for those new to working intensively with technology to learn.

Afternoon Short Paper Session

Psst! An Informal Approach to Expanding the Linguistic Range of the Digital Humanities
Alex Gil – Columbia; Elika Ortega – Western U; Daniel Paul O’Donnell – U of Lethbridge

Alex read a paper describing the DH Whisperers project that took place at DH2014 in Lausanne, where GoDH members could wear a badge indicating which languages they speak and to signal their willingness to help attendees struggling to listen to English talks. The paper put out a call for communities of translation that would help broaden the languages used in the various ADHO constituent organizations.

Noted that when people give talks in languages other than English, English speakers tend to leave. He said they need to check themselves. I’ve seen this happen myself and also find it incredibly rude. If it happens, stick around. Walking out can be so easily misinterpreted.

Suggested that one mention for whispering/translating a talk would be to use shared Google Docs. Live tweeting is another option, but he pointed out how incredibly stressful it can be. For the Q&A, the Doc is less useful, and is where “the Whisperers can step up.”

Publish: Whatever the Price? A French Study on Structuration of Costs during Publishing Process in Digital Humanities
Emmanuelle Corne, Anne-Solweig Gremillet, Odile Contat – CNRS

Laid out the case–familiar to many–for public institutions to share the results of their research more widely than the traditional journal publishing system permits. Spoke clearly about the particular French path and conditions.

Conducted a survey to gather data on the publishing costs of journals across all disciplines, as well as to identify common needs and conditions for a variety of journals that could lead to recommendations. As a lead-in to the survey, they conducted interviews with a variety of editors. Received 62 responses, of which nine came from STEM journals, so ended up with an n of 50 SSH journals, representing a wide swath of disciplines.

Discovered that the content in these journals is produced using public funds. The main cost is the cost of the copy editor. The commercial publisher typically only appears as a printer/distributor. Per journal, the average workload is 10.5 months of labour, at a cost of 42,000 Euro. Therefore the median cost per article is 1330 Euro, the minimum being 500 and the maximum being 4000, or 66 Euro per page with 5 and 200 being the range.

SSH journals in France do not assess an APC (article processing charge). Half use a subscription model with moving OA walls ranging from one to five years. 20 are digital and open access (9 pure OA and 11 freemium where the HTML is free but further services are fee-based). Five journals were print only.


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