It’s the middle of August, and the cicadas are buzzing. I think they’re cicadas. I’ve been forced to my basement for most of the summer since the upstairs ‘office’ has been taken over by my spouse and my kids for their own work. I’ve been teaching my summer online courses, reading MA theses, and cursing my past self for agreeing to do a bunch of reviews way back in February that have all now come due. Where did all the time go?
In some respects, a typical summer.
But of course, it’s been anything but; and in a few weeks we’ll be starting the Fall term. This year is a new start for the Digital Humanities MA program at Carleton, as we’ve moved administrative homes from English to the College of the Humanities! This move couldn’t have been accomplished without the hard work of several people, including - but not limited to! - Priya Kumar, Judy Katz, Karina Auclair, Jennifer Links, Diana Green, Shane Hawkins, and Brian Greenspan. Not only has the MA moved homes, but the Minor in Digital Humanities has moved as well. Like all new housemates, it’s taken a bit of time for us to settle in, but I think everything is sorted out now and we’re ready to go.
If this were a movie, this’d be the point where something else comes out of left field and derails our carefully laid plans. But, as I tell my own students, ‘DH is a team sport’, and in the College, we’ve got a great team. So I’m feeling good!
The move to the College is exciting for a couple of reasons. DH can come in lots of flavours. Typically, in North American programs, the English- or History- flavours tend to dominate. Being based in the College I think gives us a securing footing to imagine DH informed by other traditions as well; some of the earliest work in digital humanities or humanities computing was informed after all by the work of Classicists. My goal for DH in the College is to grow and develop a version of DH that builds on the varied strengths of Carleton’s 13 different contributing programs - for instance, what does DH informed by our newest participating program Cognitive Science look like? What kinds of questions could it ask? I’ve been writing recently on artificial intelligence and archaeology and text generation so I’m curious to see what emerges.
Another reason I’m excited about the move to the College is that we can now offer our students an integrated pathway from their varied degree programs through the Minor into the MA, and both programs can then support each others’ growth.
And the final reason I’m excited for this fall? We accepted 18 students into the MA program this year, our largest cohort ever! 15 students accepted our offer, and this year’s DIGH5000, the core course, will have an exciting mix of perspectives. Dan Papagiannis will be leading the course this year. Dan brings a more media-centric vision of DH to the program, with deep experience in augmented reality, games, and other immersive media, and we’re pleased to have him on board. Welcome Dan! Welcome, new students!
I’ve been teaching online in one form or another for about 15 years now. One thing that seems to be essential about a good online learning experience is that it has to include a social dimension. As a learner, you can’t be switched on all the time. You need that time before class or after class (sometimes during class ;) to shoot the breeze, talk about movies, enjoy each other’s company. You need to be able to compare notes about what’s going on, to ask for help, or to kvetch.
Faculty need this too. Especially at this moment when we’ve all had to shift to teaching online, which is hard to do at relatively short notice. It might be nice to connect and bounce ideas off each other, figure out how to make the best of this current moment.
To that end, I have set up a Mattermost server to function as a low-key social space for DH students and faculty. Think of it as a virtual equivalent to the coffee table set up in the hallway outside a department event, the space where serendipity can occur. Minus the coffee.
If you’ve ever used Slack, Discord, or MS Teams, the basic idea will be familiar - Mattermost is an open source chat service. ‘Chats’ can happen in public, topical, channels, or they can happen privately between individuals. I’ve also set it up with the open source Jitsi instant video chat service as well, so you can spin up an instant video meeting if you so desire.
Full disclosure - this is the first time I’ve set one of these up, so there might be hiccups. I use Reclaim Hosting to do this. Reclaim is a web services company that caters to students and faculty, and values user privacy. If you want to take control of your online digital identity, I’d heartily recommend them as your first port-of-call.
You have to sign up with an email that ends in
gmail.com. If you want in, but have trouble, just send me a note - email@example.com
These chat services are a bit chicken-and-egg; they gain their value the more they’re used. So I’ve set it up with a light touch and I hope you’ll find it useful for connecting with one another in productive ways.
I want to finish up this inaugural edition of the Irregular by casting a spotlight on two fantastic projects.
brings together insights from linguists in Iran and internationally, statistical and demographic publications by national agencies, and, foundationally, speakers of the many languages and dialects of the country.
Rather than communicating a single view of Iran’s languages and dialects, the Atlas allows users to enrich their own perspectives on language distribution with location-based language data.
Jennifer Evans is the Coordinator for The German Studies Collaboratory, An Interdisciplinary Experiment to Transform German Studies. The Collaboratory is a
virtual hub of resources for those interested in German language, art, culture, and history. The project offers links to existing materials found on the ‘net, including teaching resources, scholarly lectures, and research materials. At the centre is an ethos of sharing, of professionalism and collegiality, of working through these challenging times together in the spirit of community. By promoting collaboration, be it contributing new materials, borrowing an idea, and sharing what we already have produced, the GSC hopes to model what critical, open and accessible knowledge production might look like.
Do explore both of these amazing projects!
I will try to collate materials together here to alert you to events happening in the broader DH scene in Ottawa or online. If you have an event you’d like to promote or feel this wider community should know about, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of events…
The Alliance for Digital Humanities Organizations annual conference was to have been a jointly held conference this summer at Carleton and at the U of O. It had to be cancelled, of course. But, our friends at the Humanities Commons hosted presenters’ and speakers’ materials, and you can get a sense of the wide variety of DH work we would’ve been privileged to host behind this link.
I am one of the many people in the DH world whose life was touched by Dr. Stéfan Sinclair, of McGill University. Stéfan passed away on August 6. The Canadian Society for Digital Humanities has written about Stéfan’s huge impact on the field, and his generosity of spirit, here.
When I was first starting at Carleton, and finding my way in the field (coming to it after a considerable time away from academia, and my first existence as an archaeologist), Stéfan found out that I was applying for a teaching award at Carleton. He wrote a letter of support, unsolicited and unprompted, because he’d seen and liked the work I was doing. Since his passing, many people from around the world have shared similar stories of Stéfan’s scholarly and personal generosity. He built people up, and gave them the tools and space to go further. While I never saw encountered him in person very much, we corresponded, and I considered him a friend. We once shared an airport shuttle from Hamilton to Toronto and he spent the time asking about my work, querying it, and finding things in it that I hadn’t imagined. We laughed a lot, too. If you’ve ever used Voyant Tools or considered playful ways of integrating text with computational analysis, you’ve been touched by Stéfan’s work. We will miss him, because he made all of us better at our work. We will miss him because he was our friend.
My ambition is to produce one of these newsletters per month; event notifications might come a bit more frequently. For this initial offering, I took emails from the DH mailing list that I inherited when I became the DH Coordinator. Please forgive, and hit ‘unsubscribe’ if you don’t want any further editions.
If you know of someone else who might like to receive this Irregular, please do forward this and send them to the sign up page.
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