The Digital Humanities is a broad community of theory and practice.
Getting started doing this work can be a bit overwhelming.
Especially given that many of the methods and tools were created far afield from the disciplines that are typically grouped under the other Humanities.
A couple of years ago when I was thinking of getting started in DH while I working at the Library of Congress helping to grow a Digital Preservation program, I sought to focus my efforts by narrowing the tools and methods that I would learn to things that I knew would likely be useful to historians, given that my graduate training is in History.
This exploration turned into research and I subsequently presented on published on it. This gave me the confidence to do my own DH research, engage with faculty as a collaborator, and teach DH tools and methods confidently.
So it was a process of narrowing from this big thing called DH to a more manageable and familiar thing. Im sure a similar approach could be taken on elsewhere.
Focusing on the things you think might be most useful given your disciplinary grounding, helps establish a foundation you can draw on to engage other disciplines where needed.
Despite well-considered plans to stay up to date and carry forth your research, it is still likely you will experience fairly regular discomfort under the barrage of new things to learn.
Even with a narrowed DH, there is always something new.
A new development, a new tool, a new debate, etc.
For me its helpful to look at the image on the slide everyday (it’s the wallpaper on my laptop)
It’s a reminder that being that being uncomfortable is a necessary precondition of growth.
A quick note on the value of being uncomfortable
Its tempting to focus effort on the areas of campus that seem most familiar for research partners or audiences for DH services, say humanities disciplines broadly defined.
Say if you were an English Librarian to reach out to English faculty.
This is great, but it runs the risk of missing out on working with people working in the Sciences, broadly defined.
It might seems like a stretch. After all why would a computer scientist be interested in working on a humanities question?
A little more than a year ago at a colloquium that Harriett organized on DH at UIUC, I asked a couple of computer scientists that worked on a DH project what incentivized them to work on a DH project They said because the data was different than the kind they would normally work with That was enough
I find this statement verified in work Devin Higgins and I are doing with Arend Hintze, a post doctoral research at the Adami Lab.
Adapting an algorithmic approach applied to twitter data and genetic sequences to the public domain version of the Google Books Dataset.
A big part of his motivation to do this research with us seems to be motivated by working in another domain by virtue of access to different data – millions of books.
If I would have delved into second guessing Arend’s potential interest in our question this work would have never happened.
Sometimes being willing to be uncomfortable turns up unexpected value.
I want to dispel the notion that DH in the library is a solitary endeavor.
When I talk about DH Im not just referring to this broad community of practice
As a librarian I think about novel engagement of information and data literacy through DH pedagogy, about metadata, about data curation, about the possibilities of subject area engagement across the library. DH construed in this way, in this professional context, is a team based effort.
Its an activity and area of scholarship that thrives best when conducted in the context of a Fellowship.
At MSU Libraries we have as a Digital Humanities team, situated within the Digital Text Services unit.
Aside from broad responsibility for Digital Humanities, we collectively have liaison duties for Linguistics, Philosophy, American History, English Literature, American Literature, and Performing Arts
Outside of our unit, I have a quarter time appointment to our Data Curation unit, and my colleagues have appointments to our Digital Information Division, and Reference and Instruction.
Direct ties to subject areas combined with appointments to other parts of the library strengthens our
ability to be effective with respect to collection preparation to support computational analysis of collections,
communicating principles of data curation, and staying informed about needs of the campus community.
At MSU we are fortunate to have high DH research activity with curricular commitments to the value of DH.
Our College of Arts and Letters offers a graduate certificate and undergraduate specialization in DH
We have an established DH center – Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences
We have a Creativity Exploratory and Literary Cognition Lab.
The Libraries are themselves increasingly articulating their own DH research agenda.
I think about alignment methods as an external as well as internal activity. Externally we do all of the above
An exciting development in the past 2 months. CAL and the History Department both hired their own DH Specialists – Kristen Mapes in CAL and Brandon Locke for the History Department. Kristen and Brandon are both coming out of LIS programs – like minds! LIS solidarity I expect in coming months.
Re: internal alignment …
We have this thing called the Digital Scholarship Collaborative A gathering of forces if you will within the library that serves to stimulate us intellectually and strengthen our ability to do good work. Its composed of librarians dedicated to DH, our metadata librarian, a digital library programmer, our data librarian, and a number of other colleagues are broadly vested in the digital scholarship and the challenges and opportunities that it presents
Other internal alignment is ongoing, and is prompted by external research need that couldn’t have been thought up if we had tried.
Chicken or the egg is apt.
Im currently working on a research project with a faculty member in a humanities discipline, Seeking to test an algorithmic approach to automatically identifying hedging language. So every time someone makes a hedge.
In order to take this work further we require access to Poultry Science journal literature in mass. A text mining project.
This has prompted collaboration with the appropriate subject selector. There is some convenience to this external pressure. It helps acquaint colleagues in the library to new use of the collections, and Takes positive steps toward establishing precedent for stronger efforts to negotiate for text mining rights with the electronic content that we purchase.
My DH Pedagogy is greatly informed by the granularity of the Data Information Literacy Competencies. There is a lot here, but really I think its tough to DH well without some degree of fluency in each of these areas. Not possible to hit everything in a single session, but it’s a constant reminder to try and engage some of these things while teaching
Lately this has meant an emphasis on METADATA I love METADATA And I try to get my students to love it too.
If they cant grasp its importance, then they cant reach their potential to DH well.
Typically I try to incentivize caring rather than scaring into caring. Metadata is instrumental to data reuse and preservation but I don’t think that framing does a good job of making people see possibilities So Ill take a moving image, or a movie
And Ill demonstrate, how quickly data can be generated that describes the data – or the movie in this case. Lots of numbers In this case pixel intensities across every frame of a movie. I try to not get them to freak out.
By showing them some of the interesting things they can do when they understand how that data can be harnessed to derive new insights about an object and a larger research question .
And at the end of this particular workshop, Im feeling happy if I can convert a couple of them to seeing the power and potential utility of metadata. Not just a tool for preservation or description, but a body of information that can be used to visualize and analyze content in new ways. So you could say that my DH pedagogy is heavily inflected by Data Information Literacy Competencies
Digital Humanities Librarianship: Year One
Thomas G. Padilla
Digital Humanities, Linguistics, and Philosophy Librarian
Michigan State University Libraries
@thomasgpadilla | firstname.lastname@example.org
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ANALYSIS NETWORK ANALYSIS
Digital Library Programmer
• College of Arts and Letters
– Graduate Certificate in DH
– Undergraduate Specialization in DH
– Creativity Exploratory
– Literary Cognition Lab
• MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences
– Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellows
– Many projects … e.x. Public Philosophy Journal
• History Department
– LEADR LAB (in progress)
• Writing Rhetoric and American Culture, Philosophy
Department, Religious Studies
• The Libraries
Cultures of Practice
Databases & Data Formats
Data Curation & Reuse
Data Management &
Data Processing & Analysis
Data Quality &
Discovery & Acquisition
Ethics & Attribution
Metadata & Data
DATA INFORMATION LITERACY