Friends and members of NUDHL:
Here’s a brief recap of our first meeting of 2013-14. Over the course of this year, you’ll see more posts like this, which will provide a record of our gatherings for current and future members, They will also serve as a resource as our agenda unfolds over the course of the academic year.
On Friday, October 11, NUDHL Convener Michael Kramer moderated the first meeting for the 2013-14 year. The title of this two-hour session was “Introduction to NUDHL and the Digital Humanities,” and it sought to reflect upon what we accomplished last year as well as what we will undertake this year. Michael mentioned Matthew Gold’s edited collection Debates in the Digital Humanities, which we used in the past to stimulate conversation in monthly meetings. He also summarized some of the points that surfaced frequently in last year’s sessions (file backwards through the NUDHL blog for some of this content).
This first meeting of this year also introduced all members in attendance, both old and new, including Co-Conveners Jillana Enteen, Josh Honn, and Michael Kramer, and Assistant Directors Kevin Baker and Andrew Keener. Attendants hailed from a variety of departments and disciplines including: Art Theory and Practice; English; History; Information Technology; Media, several divisions in Northwestern Libraries; Technology and Society; Rhetoric and Public Culture; and Spanish and Portuguese. The recommended reading for this first session was Jeffrey Schnapp et al., “A Short Guide to Digital_Humanities” (2013), which provoked a thoughtful conversation about the multiple, conflicting definitions of DH, what it can do and offer, what the stakes are, and who is or who can be involved. Of course, as Michael and the English Department’s Jim Hodge were quick to remind us, this book bears the marks of its origins: advocacy for an undergraduate DH program directed towards administrative offices.
Rather than attempting to collaboratively formulate a strict or polemical definition of what digital humanities is, we sought in this session to articulate what it does. This strategy for the conversation invited members to discuss some of their own experiences or interests in the ways that DH serves their research or work. Michael suggested at first that DH might promise a challenge to the very traditionally text-centered approaches of the humanities, as well as multiple modes of perception in both research and teaching. Jim Hodge brought up the notion of “deformance,” a term used by Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels to describe the playful reconfiguration of texts, to which Josh Honn added computer glitching. Thinking more broadly, Andrew Keener summarized some of Franco Moretti’s points about distant reading in Graphs, Maps, Trees, and offered some thoughts about different modes or models of DH (Moretti being at Stanford, and the bibliographically-inclined McGann “school” radiating outwards from UVa on the East Coast). Towards the end of the conversation, Elizabeth Hunter raised some questions about the roles of gaming in the digital humanities, and we hypothesized how a first-person Shakespeare RPG might integrate a player’s experience with an increasingly difficult sequence of encounters with early modern English language or text. Other topics to surface, if only briefly, included: the difference between the public humanities and the digital humanities; 3D printing; canonicity; and databases.
At the very end of the meeting, Josh invited attendants to peruse the Northwestern University Library’s “A Guide to Digital Humanities”, a useful resource for faculty, staff, and graduate students interested in learning more about DH at Northwestern. Additionally, this NUDHL blog offers a place for discussions to continue between sessions and throughout the year.