• To Tech or Not To Tech: Exposing Digital Humanities to Academic Luddites

    Ah, not last!

    Being a historian with only a cursory background in the digital humanities (which is to say I can use the Internet and DIY the guts of my computer from time to time), I am interested in having a general meta discussion on brainstorming the best ways to introduce the concepts, skills, and technology of the digital humanities to non-DH scholars (aka Academic Luddites). This is a topic that has been of growing importance for me lately as I have stumbled and groped my way through this broad field/culture, following people on Twitter, poking through key websites (e.g. CHNM), and now even going to THAT Camps (hi all). However, one key takeaway I have from all this is the gap that exists between DH practitioners and, well, everybody else. Anecdotally, I know that among my current and past colleagues in higher education (historians primarily) interest in digital humanities, technology, or whatever is heavily tempered by tech resistance, perceptions of cliquish attitudes, code fear, or perceptions that learning how to harness new DH methods in research and teaching would be too alien, take too much time, or isn’t scholarly enough. What then are the best practices to help overcome this for an individual who finds themselves in an academic department or school relatively untouched by the digital humanities?

    Discussion topics for the session could include: 1) the good technological first steps, easy and basic, for an Academic Luddite to start with to join the DH playing field; 2) the resources that exist to help one overcome code fear; 3) useful lines of discussion when talking about DH approaches with skeptical colleagues; 4) other Campers’ experiences bridging the DH-Luddite divide; and 5) the existence (or creation?) of a clearinghouse for best practices (a Digital Humanities for Dummies type thing, perhaps?).

    Ideally, I would be interested, if the idea seems valuable or useful, to work towards compiling such a clearinghouse (if one doesn’t already exist, in which case, point me to it). However, I do not want to lay any grand expectations on the session beyond having an interesting discussion.

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6 Comments


  1. LynneG says:

    I think this is a fabulous idea, and wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. Coming from a department of anthropology where a few people are wholly into DH while the rest think it is a fad, it is important to discuss how to go about convincing people that the approach will be a bonus, not an onerous task.

    I like the idea of both thinking about how to prepare tools, as well as convincing arguments.

    Count me in for this discussion.

  2. harriettg says:

    Count me in too: Part of my job is introducing my library colleagues, campus faculty, and students to digital humanities tools and research, so I’d be very interested to hear of others’ experiences in this area. I also will hopefully be co-leading a preconference at the American Library Association meeting next summer that will be an intro to DH for librarians. Looking forward to this discussion!

  3. katymeyers says:

    As a tech-based grad I want to look at how we convince our superiors that what we are doing is worthwhile, to echo Dr. Goldstein’s comment on my post on Hacking Grad School.

  4. Stanford is currently running a Tooling up for Digital Humanities set of workshops this spring: http://toolingup.stanford.edu/

    As a librarian, I would like to think that the library might prove as a possible “neutral territory” where DH ideas, tools, and practices could be introduced and built upon.

  5. LMaruca says:

    We must work in the same department! Or maybe almost everybody does? I’m proposing something similar in a way..how to help students, but especially grad students, tool up in such an environment. I look forward to talking about this with you this weekend.

  6. knoxdw says:

    I’m very interested in this discussion, though I don’t entirely accept the framing of it as digital humanities on the one side and “Luddites” on the other.

    I like the phrasing “code fear” in #2 — that gets at something important, that it’s not about knowing code, but about not letting fear of the unknown shut down inquiry. Anyone with an interest in the humanities knows the feeling of absorbing more than they can immediately make sense of. Code needs to be more visible even to people who never expect to specialize in applying it. A little aporia is OK now and then, it’s all humanities.

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