Designing Multilingual Digital Pedagogy Initiatives: The Programming Historian for English, Spanish, and French speaking DH Communities

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Antonio Rojas Castro

    Cologne Center for eHumanities - Universität zu Köln (University of Cologne)

  2. 2. Anna-Maria Sichani

    University of Sussex

  3. 3. Sofia Papastamkou

    Institut de recherches historiques du Septentrion

Work text
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The Programming Historian
is an initiative launched in Canada and the United States in 2012 that aims to publish peer-reviewed tutorials for digital humanists. The project stands nowadays as an exceptional open multilingual educational resource (D’Antoni, Susan, 2009) thanks to its open infrastructure and international profile, bringing together practitioners from Canada and the United States to Chile, Colombia, Spain, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

With this poster we would like to discuss the design of a multilingual strategy for
The Programming Historian
, to reflect on some theoretical concepts — contact zone,
lingua franca
vs. vernacular, and writing for a global audience — that are guiding our current transition from a monolingual project to a multilingual one available in English, Spanish and French. On the one hand, after translating 41 lessons from English, in April 2019,
The Programming Historian en español
has recently published two original lessons while two more are currently under review. On the other hand, also in April 2019, the
Programming Historian en français
was launched and has already published one translation from English into French.

The current situation of the
Programming Historian
is the result of a commitment to openness and diversity. In 2016 the editorial board identified barriers of gender (Crymble, 2016) and it took steps to promote a more inclusive community in terms of gender and LGTBQ representation; but the field of DH is not diverse enough in geographic and linguistic terms (Galina, 2014; Fiormonte, 2014; Mahony, 2018) and the
Programming Historian
wasn’t an exception in this regard. Although all lessons were written in English and could potentially reach a global audience, resources, datasets and references clearly expressed research questions led in Anglo-American institutions and authors often assumed an audience that share the same world view. In other words, cultural and language barriers remained a problem. In 2017, three new editors from Colombia, Mexico and Spain joined the editorial team to begin an edition in Spanish and, one year later, in 2018, three French-speaking members joined the Editorial Board to work on a francophone edition.

These two new editions confirm the status of the
Programming Historian
as a transnational project. Covering a broad linguistic area, the Spanish and the French-speaking editions aim to provide both original lessons and translations addressed to their specific linguistic community. Thus, the translation process can be seen as a localization activity where adaptation and domestication of Anglophone language, resources and cultural references may be needed to meet our Hispanic and Francophone audience’s expectations. For this reason,
The Programming Historian
can be seen nowadays as a “contact zone”, that is, “social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt, 1991: 34), but also where people — editors, translators, reviewers, users — can exchange successfully ideas around computing methods and digital tools.


Crymble, Adam (2016), “Identifying and Removing Gender Barriers in Open Learning Communities: The Programming Historian”,
Blended Learning in Practice
, MIT, Cambridge, 49-60.

D’Antoni, Susan (2009), “Open Educational Resources: reviewing initiatives and issues”,
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning
, 24:1, 3-10.

Fiormonte, Domenico (2014), “Digital Humanities From a global perspective”,
Laboratorio dell’ISPF
, 11.

Galina Russell, Isabel (2014), “Geographical and linguistic diversity in the Digital Humanities”,
Literary and Linguistic Computing
, 29:3, 307–316,

Mahony, S. Fudan (2018), “Cultural diversity and the Digital Humanities”,
J. Hum. Soc. Sci.
11: 371.

Pratt, Mary Louise (1991), “Arts of the Contact Zone”,
, 1991, 33–40.


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