Global Outlook::Digital Humanities: Promoting Digital Humanities Research Across disciplines, regions, and cultures

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

    University of Lethbridge

  2. 2. Barbara Bordalejo

    University of Saskatchewan

  3. 3. Roopika Risam

    Salem State University

  4. 4. Paul Spence

    King's College London

  5. 5. Elena González Blanco-Garcia

    Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) (National Distance Education University)

Work text
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By DH 2014, Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH) will be 18 months old. Old enough to have experienced its first growing pains but also old enough to have a sense of the opportunities that exist for promoting the globalisation of Digital Humanities research. This paper discusses the past and future of the Special Interest Group (SIG), concentrating particularly on what is generalisable: the lessons we have learned about collaborating in a multilingual, multiregional context (although this makes it in some sense a project report, the lessons are themselves highly relevant to and have implications for the community as a whole).

The basic premise behind GO::DH is both exciting and frightening. It is a community for Digital Humanities scholars around the world that encourages them to discover new work and new colleagues in regions and disciplines they might never have considered before. But in asking scholars to do this, it also asks them to work along some of our most controversial lines of division: language, culture, nationality, history, and income level. In a field that is famously and self-consciously “nice” (Scheinfeldt 2010), these are the places where our self-conception has been tested (and called into question) most vigorously (see especially Fiormonte 2012 on language and nationality; Babalola 2012 discusses some of the challenges that divide the use of the digital in High Income vs. Low Income Economies).

The English language and (arguably at least) Anglo-American disciplinary and rhetorical norms dominate the practice of our profession. This places non-native speakers of English and scholars working outside the Anglo-American academic context at an immediate disadvantage. In addition, as Fiormonte suggests, it probably also has led to the relative scarcity of such scholars in the disciplines'gatekeeping positions.

The interest in technology that defines our field, moreover, creates divisions the moment our collaborations attempt to cross the boundaries that distinguish high, mid, and low income economies (O’Donnell 2012a). As Babalola has shown, the kind of basic infrastructure that Digital Humanities scholars in High Income Economies take for granted either does not exist or can be disproportionately difficult and expensive to access in mid- and especially low-income economies. As she demonstrates, moreover, this problem is about more than download speeds or CPUs: many of our core approaches, assumptions, and methods of dissemination (from the outsized importance of conference presentations in our discipline to the use of crowdsourcing) imply an access to resources common only in High Income economies.

And finally there is the spectre of colonialism and development politics. Any project that brings scholars from high-income economies into close contact with scholars from mid and low income economies is going to run into questions of intention, history, and politics. Can such collaborations be collaborations of equals, in which all participants both teach and learn? Or must they inevitably resolve themselves into the more unequal relationship of donor and recipient? The initial impetus for GO::DH arose among scholars working in High Income economies who wondered about their lack of contact with scholars working in other regions (O’Donnell 2012b). Initially, this caused suspicion among scholars who live in or work with those in mid and low-income regions. What was the motivation for interest from the high-income scholars? To what extent would this new organisation be able to avoid replicating the status quo in the field at large, where those with resources determine the course of the collective effort.

Despite our initial fears about what could go wrong in such an endeavour, the first year of GO::DH's existence has been remarkably productive and relatively smooth. While there have been some misunderstandings (some of which are discussed in the other papers in the panel), there have been remarkably few problems. The SIG has successfully managed to integrate multi-lingualism into its discussion-list, which several threads being carried out in languages other than English. It has provided a framework for a remarkable number of projects and working groups—from Around the World of DH to the second Caribbean ThaTCamp, to the first Global DH conference (planned for this coming Spring in Mexico in association with RedHD. And it has even led to the formation of new groups, such as the proposed Portuguese-language DH organisation.

The techniques we have used in building this community, capturing the good will of its constituents while avoiding some of the more obvious potential problems offers wider lessons for the DH community. In this talk I will discuss some of the specific techniques—from ad hoc translation to the collaborative development of by-laws and executive positions that we have used to successfully build GO::DH over the last year into the relatively stable community it has now become.

Works cited
Babalola, Titilola. (2012). “The Digital Humanities and Digital Literacy: A Review of Digital Culture in Nigeria”. Lethbridge, Alta.

Fiormonte, Domenico. (2012). “Towards a Cultural Critique of the Digital Humanities.” Historische Sozialforschung / Historical Social Research 37 (3) (September): 59–76.

O’Donnell, Daniel Paul. (2012a). “In a Rich Man’s World: Global DH?” Dpod Blog. November 2.

O’Donnell, Daniel Paul. (2012b). “Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities”. Lethbridge: Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations.

Scheinfeldt, Tom. (2010). “Why Digital Humanities Is ‘Nice’.” Found History. May 26.

Thinking with an Accent
Barbara Bordalejo, University of Saskatchewan

This paper explores the reasons behind various degrees of impact and development in Digital Humanities in the context of different countries, languages and cultures. It calls attention to the enormous gap between low, middle and high-income countries and offers avenues to continue a change that has already begun. Firstly, the paper considers where is Digital Humanities located as a discipline and how this might influence the phenomenon of inclusion/exclusion (particularly those that refer to language). Secondly, it focuses on practical problems in countries of low and middle-income. Thirdly, it suggests practical ways to construct a field that is truly inclusive and allows wider participation.

Locating the Digital Humanities
Matthew Kirschenbaum, in his article “What is Digital Humanities and What is Doing in English Departments?,” puts forward several possible reasons that explain why English Departments are one of the main spaces in which Digital Humanities is cultured. As Kirschenbaum explains it, the phenomenon is related to text as a relatively easy object to encode (“ far the most tractable data type for computers to manipulate.”), the relationship between computers and composition, the relationship to editorial theory and the work by Jerome McGann in the 1980s, the advent of electronic literature, “the openness of English Departments to cultural studies,” and the development of e-readers, which have finally made it possible to have digital texts in the same form as we have digital music.

It seems that English and History are the main areas in which Digital Humanities posts are advertised. However, Roopika Risam ( has pointed out that most of the recent DH jobs “go hand-in-hand with Rhetoric and Composition and literature positions.” In practical terms, this means that there is some substance to the Kirschembaum claim about Digital Humanities being easily located within English Departments (generally responsible for the teaching of composition and solid in the teaching of literature). If we, temporarily, accept this premise as true (that the English Department is a place in which we can find an important cluster of Digital Humanists) we have to consider the consequences of this: English Departments might have the natural tendency of hiring English Native speakers. An examination of the structure of the Alliance for Digital Humanities Organizations offers an insight on the distribution of power in Digital Humanities: in the steering committee, of 27 positions only Elisabeth Burr, Christoph Meister, Masashiro Shimoda, Oyvind Eide and Edward Vanhoutte are not British, North American (or more generally, native English speakers, as is Paul Arthur, from the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities). This is an observation of fact and not meant as a criticism of ADHO. In paper and pixels, the policy is of inclusion. ADHO has a committee in multilingualism and multiculturalism. However, those who come from the fringes either know or suspect that equity cannot be reached by decree (if this were possible, we would only have to pass laws forbidding poverty and the issue would be solved).

The Myth of Openness in DH
The state of affairs is surprising because it is widely believed among the high ranking digital humanists that the discipline boasts “...a culture that values collaboration, openness, nonhierarchical relations, and agility” and so “might be an instrument for real resistance or reform (59). Notably, this statement by Kirschembaum is also supported by Burdick et al. (“...however heterogeneous, the Digital Humanities is unified by its emphasis on making, connecting, interpreting, and collaborating” (24)), among others. The widespread belief that these values are at the core of Digital Humanities as a discipline, and that just by virtue of such values it is open and welcoming to all, may make us unable to see that the discipline fails to meet these standards.

Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities
Through GO::DH we have been exploring these and other issues and it is becoming clear that the discipline has a clear center and well defined margins. In April 2013, Frédéric Clavert published a note entitled “The Digital Humanities multicultural revolution that did not happen yet” ( Domenico Fiormonte published the link and started a thread in which scholars from very different backgrounds weighed in on their own positions ( Clavert considers the disparity between the number of Anglo-American reviewers for the DH conference and the clear interest in the Francophone community. What defines the field as Anglophone, according to Clavert, is that the “...Digital Humanities, though claiming to be new and revolutionary, are structured in a very classical way for an academic field, where those who master the English language and the English speaking and impact factor based academic journals are the most visible (and the most quoted).” His statements were received with equal amounts of disbelief and approval. As if to confirm Clavert’s position, Craig Bellamy tried to dismiss this issue ( Although the exchange was academic and polite, it brought to light various issues we must face in a global context:

There are projects and initiatives being developed of which we are not aware because they are buried in a non-English context.
There are cultural factors that affect communication, of which one of the most important ones is the perceived imperialism of the imposition of English as lingua franca.
This same linguistic profiling is instrumental in the process of exclusion to which non-native speakers are subject because of the lack of native abilities.
At least, Fiormonte will agree with me in saying that a specific agenda to exclude non-native speakers from Digital Humanities is unnecessary: our linguistic limitations already prevent us from being considered central. Fiormonte’s example of Dino Buzzetti’s rise as an authority in the field (something that occurred not because of his excellent work, or the thirty years of publications in English and Italian, but rather because of the support of recognized scholars) painfully shows the lack of openness of this supposedly all-embracing field. As Fiormonte says: .“'s not enough to have good ideas, work in the Northern [h]emisphere and write them in English: you need good sponsors and authoritative venues (

Of course, the question here is how can this problem be solved. It is clear that we cannot both blame the establishment and ask for a solution coming from it. As I stated before, this is not a problem of ill will, but rather a misunderstanding of the determining factors that create these problems.

Minding the Gap
As a member of the executive of GO::DH, I consider that my role is to identify our problems to generate solutions to them. By organizing Spanish language THATCamps and delivering DH lectures in Argentina and Mexico, I have come to understand that to level the field we need not only to translate texts that currently are only available in English (the Cátedra Datos at the Universidad de Buenos Aires does exactly that: a team of seven people produce translations of up to date texts required as an introduction to Digital Humanities), but we also need to understand the reluctance of scholars to subject themselves to English as the exclusive language for communication and we have to allow for non-native standars to be considered when submissions to conferences or journals are made by non-native speakers. We should not forget that those who speak or think with a foreign accent, are able, at least, to speak another language.

The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Global Digital Humanities
Roopika Risam, Salem State University

Over the past two years, much has been made of the role of cultural critique in the digital humanities, particularly around silences and absences of race, gender, sexuality, and so forth in the digital humanities (Liu 2012; McPherson 2012; #transformDH Collective 2011; Lothian and Phillips 2013; Bailey 2011). Yet, these conversations have taken shape through a United States-centric frame of reference that often elides the larger picture of the digital humanities: its global frame. Taking up the global scope of the digital humanities, however, is to take up imbalances of power that operate in colonialist frames, visible in the dominance of United States and Western European voices within the digital humanities community writ large. Indeed, it requires heightened attention to cultural critique through a postcolonialist framework.

Reactions within the digital humanities community to cultural critique (Whitson 2012, Reid 2011) renders such critiques as problems. Indeed, the problem, as the narrative goes, lies not in gaps within the digital humanities but with the practitioners who dare to raise these issues. In this talk, I will examine the "problem" of the global in the digital humanities. I begin by outlining the stakes of attending to global participation in the digital humanities. These stakes are both intangible and tangible and include radically reimagining loci of the digital humanities beyond the current map that locates the United States and Western Europe at the center, strategizing models for global partnerships outside of neocolonial frames, and developing resources for fostering a truly global digital humanities.

As the stakes imply, attending to the global within the digital humanities requires a two-pronged approach that accounts for the complexities of both theory and praxis. Engaging these concerns, my talk provides a case study of theoretical and practical approaches: Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities (GO::DH) and Postcolonial Digital Humanities (DHPoco). GO::DH is a special interest group (SIG) of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations. GO::DH is dedicated to hacking barriers that prohibit collaboration across both disciplines and geographies (Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities 2013). Barriers include telecommunications, financial resources, human labor, and language (O'Donnell). Focusing on stated goals of "discovery, community-building, research, and advocacy," GO::DH works to foster communication and collaboration on a global scale. DHPoco is both a movement and emergent subfield of the digital humanities, invested in decolonizing digital spaces, making space for colonial critique and anti-colonial thought in the digital humanities, and writing alternative genealogies of the digital humanities (DHPoco 2013). By examining the work of GO::DH and DHPoco, I make the case for continued attention to and development of theoretical and organizational spaces for fostering the global digital humanities, as well as its benefits to the digital humanities community as a whole.

Moya Bailey (2011), "All Digital Humanists Are White, All Nerds are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave," Journal of Digital Humanities 1.1.

Alan Liu (2012), "Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities" Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tara McPherson (2012), "Why Are the Digital Humanities So White?" Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Daniel O'Donnell (2012), "In a Rich Man's World: Global DH?," 2 November 2012,

Global Outlook (2013) : Digital Humanities, "About,"

Alexis Lothian and Amanda Phillips (2013), "Can the Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?" Journal of E-Media Studies 3.1.

Alex Reid, "Alan Liu, Cultural Criticism, the Digital Humanities, and Problem Solving?"

Roopika Risam and Adeline Koh (2013), "Mission Statement," Postcolonial Digital Humanities, Collective, "A Call to Action," 26 October 2011 Roger Whitson, "Does DH Really Need to Be Transformed?," 8 January 2012,

Global Challenges, Local Interpretations. An analytical perspective about DH in Spain
Paul Spence (King’s College London) and Elena Gonzalez-Blanco (UNED, Spain)

Digital Humanities has a long history in the Spanish-speaking world, with landmark projects like Admyte and BOOST/Philobiblon emerging in the 1970s and 1980s (and later the Miguel de Cervantes Digital Library), followed by years of isolated research projects (in Spain, the focus for this paper, these have often had a strong philological focus, but also encompass bibliographic studies, multimedia and other forms of digital scholarship) and a number of experiences in teaching, including the now defunct online Masters programme in Digital Humanities at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, which ran with some success for a few years. But as is common with non-Anglophone traditions, the rich history in digital humanities in Spain is under-represented internationally, and in this particular case has not even achieved a consistent institutional presence in Spain. 2013 was a milestone in the history of digital humanities in the Spanish language (Baraibar 2013), and Spain saw a number of events and initiatives,iv including the inaugural conference (‘Digital Humanities: challenges, achievements and future perspectives’) in July 2013 of the newly-formed association Humanidades Digitales Hispánicas (HDH, ‘Hispanic Digital Humanities in English’). HDH joins a broader articulation of Hispanophone digital humanities organisations, which started with the Mexican association RedHD, and reflects a broader flowering of initiatives in Spain, which however do not conform a homogenous whole.

A survey of digital humanities in Spain
The term ‘humanidades digitales’ is a trending topic in Spain, and in this paper we explore its manifestations, its tensions and its challenges. A wide-ranging history of digital humanities in Spain is much needed, both to communicate the historic and disciplinary depth of the field in the country and to help give substance to the development of the field in Spain itself. What is needed as a prelude to this, however, is stable documentation of the field as it currently stands, and what we have done is to carry out a broad survey of digital humanities activities in Spain with a view to making it available for further research by others. In our research, we have surveyed conferences, publications, official and unofficial websites and blogs in Spain, in addition to broader international resources.

Digital humanities in Spain still suffers from relative invisibility at an international level in digital humanities, but the evidence changes in different settings – for example, Spanish representation is relatively prominent in the results of the ‘Who are you Digital Humanists?’ survey carried out by researchers from OpenEdition, with 40 respondents (compared to 49 in the UK, which has a population 30% higher). In part this is due to more general issues with how digital humanities is defined and represented internationally, but self-identification is a major issue – many researchers are interested in the digital humanities without necessarily feeling themselves to be represented by the label. While there is a relatively strong theoretical tradition often connected to conventional humanities disciplines (digital philology, digital art) or information science, there is not a strong history of tool-building that is more prevalent in other regional contexts.

Communities, definitions, labels
Domain-specific communities have played important role in developing awareness of digital scholarship, although they may not self-identify as digital humanities entities – some of the greatest progress has been made in groups such as TC/12, a research project with major funding to explore texts and research tools in Spanish Golden Age theatre, or CHARTA, an international research network which both provides guidelines for editing Spanish archival texts from the twelfth to nineteenth centuries, although in some cases the engagement with technology is uneven or still under negotiation (Spence et al 2012). Sometimes digital humanities finds its expression more comfortably in MediaLabs, as is the case of the MediaLab of Salamanca, which recently organised a series of seminars, or broader scholarly initiatives in social and human sciences, such as GRINUgr, which examines digital humanities from the prism of digital culture.

If in 2006 Isabelle Leibrandt could ask if Digital Humanities was a science fiction or an imminent reality (Leibrandt 2006), no-one could argue of its existence as such now. The question, and not only in a Spanish context of course, is what is it? Is it just a convenient label which allows each person to project their own fantasies, as Olivier le Deuff puts it (Le Deuff 2012), or is it a set of fully-formed academic practices? Labels may not be particular illuminating here, but the pattern in Spain, where any label has been used at all, is to use the term ‘informática humanística’, roughly equivalent to ‘humanities computing’ in English, and which is probably most closely influenced by the Italian usage ‘informatica umanistica’. Unlike in Italian, where the historic term has persisted (as evidenced in the name of the Italian association, evidence of the use of the term largely disappears in around 2008, when we gradually see the emergence of ‘humanidades digitales’, an almost direct translation of ‘digital humanities’.

In a blog on the relationship of the digital humanities to information science, Luis Rodriguez-Yunta asks why we use the term ‘digital humanities’ and not just ‘digital scholarship’. In his own response, he points to the academic, social and cultural demand for accessible and humanities-focused sources/documentation, but also, crucially, the role of the humanities in defence of the human, implying a ‘humanisation’ of technology.

Spain has suffered especially badly during the global economic crisis, with exceptionally high unemployment figures and drastic cut in funding, which has in turn heightened the sense of crisis in the academy, where the humanities are perceived as being especially vulnerable to criticism, and some have perceived this crisis as an opportunity to redraw traditional disciplinary lines. The Digital humanities have a strong background in the philological tradition in Spain – indeed the two initial seminars which led to the creation of the HDH association in Deusto and La Coruña with strong philological characters. But there are also strong voices for a recalibration of the humanities, which in the words of José Manuel Lucía, can use digital technologies to recuperate a social space it gradually lost in the twentieth century (Lucía, 2012).

Focus for the future
The HDH conference in July 2013 was the focus for a number of key debates affecting Spanish digital humanities at this time, including the role of teaching and systems of academic value and credit. The HDH association has filled an important void in Spain, providing formal structures for digital humanities, offering an organisational focus and functioning as a mechanism to lobby national academic institutions responsible for the formal evaluation process. We will end our paper by exploring the crucial role of HDH and other initiatives in helping the digital humanities to establish itself in Spain, and describe efforts to create an academic centre of digital humanities in Spain, which up until now has not existed, with a focus on research, teaching and general support for digital humanities practitioners.

Baraibar, Álvaro (2013) ‘Buenos tiempos para las Humanidades Digitales en español’ Blog

Dacos, Marin (2013) ‘La stratégie du Sauna finlandais’ Blog

Galina Russell, Isabel (2011) ‘¿Qué son las Humanidades Digitales?’ in Revista Digital Universitaria Vol. 12, No.7,

González-Blanco, Elena (forthcoming). ‘Las Humanidades Digitales vistas desde España’

Le Deuff, Olivier. (2012) Humanisme numérique et littératies, Semen n° 34, p.117-134

Leibrandt Isabel “Humanidades, ciencia ficción o realidad inminente?”

Lucía, José Manuel (2012). Elogio del texto, Madrid, Fórcola

Romero, Esteban‘Humanidades Digitales en investigación, docencia y universidad’ presentation at

Spence, P., Isasi Martinéz, C., Pierazzo, E. & Vincente Miguel, I. (2012) Nuevas perspectivas para la edición y el estudio de documentos hispánicos antiguos. Sánchez-Prieto Borja, P. & Torrens Alvarez, M. J. (eds.). Bern: Peter Lang

Spence, Paul (forthcoming). Report on first Digital Humanities conference in Spain (forthcoming in Japanese)

Zotero group for ‘humanidades digitales’ iii

Associazione per l’informatica umanistica e la cultura digitale, AIUCD

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO