Last week, I had the pleasure of participating at the 3rd bi-annual Digital Humanities Congress in Sheffield. The conference took place on 8th-10th September 2016 at the University’s residential conference facility, The Edge, which was nicely located at the heart of Endcliffe.
Although this was my first time at the conference, I enjoyed the variety of research papers and the discussions that were developed as a result of their presentation. Having an international audience of scholars working on different aspects of the Digital Humanities (DH) guaranteed interesting and constructive debates.
It is worth noting, in this report, the keynote speakers’ contribution in challenging the audience to critically consider their practices as researchers and educators in DH. Firstly, Marylin Deegan’s (King’s College London) presentation was based on the projects she is currently involved; these focus on the digitization of cultural heritage (Gacaca Archive and Digital Soudan) and dissemination practices in the Global South. Based on her experience in the context of these and other future-driven initiatives, such as the Academic Book of the Future project, she addressed core issues around culture, memory and democracy. Her talk highlighted the ‘humanitarian’ side of DH practice and the opportunities and challenges that currently exist in places such as Africa, India and the Middle East.
Stephen H. Gregg (Bath Spa University), in his plenary talk, called us to envision the future of teaching in DH, while he encouraged scholars to use their discipline as a platform for innovative experimentation in digital pedagogy. Finally, Matthew Gold (The Graduate Center, CUNY), in his closing keynote speech, talked about diversity, inclusivity and liberalism in DH; more specifically, he argued that these values should be reflected on the composition of teams and the nature of DH projects. Moreover, he noted that scholars in the field are now in a good position to address issues around infrastructure, build more ethical tools and work towards critical pedagogy and global DH.
Besides the keynote talks, the programme comprised a variety of papers by scholars from the UK and beyond who presented their work in the context of research and educational projects. Their papers covered the broad spectre of DH topics, ranging from issues around digitization and infrastructures, open access, and scholarly and institutional practices to new developments in areas such as text and network analysis, linked data, visualization, and digital pedagogy.
Given the fact that my interests lie in the area of user behaviour as well as the facilitation of scholarship in the digital age through appropriate infrastructure, I was particularly pleased with the amount of papers addressing similar matters. Actually, I had the chance not only to attend sessions where relevant papers and projects were discussed but also participate through presenting the results of my PhD thesis on the information practices of art historians.
Apart from that, the conference provided a great opportunity for networking and exchanging views and ideas with researchers and practitioners working in/with research libraries. Some of the main points of our conversations were related to the ways academic libraries can collaborate with DH scholars or enhance research and teaching in this area; two very interesting initiatives dealing with pertinent issues are the Open Access e-textbook project ‘Using Primary Sources (UPS)’ at the University of Liverpool and a case study of the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities (IDRH) at the University of Kansas (KU).
Finally, after two and a half days of great food and productive conversations, the conference reached its successful end, with many of us anticipating the next one which is planned for 2018.
Christina Kamposiori, Programme Officer, RLUK