Challenges for New Infrastructures and Paradigms in DH Curricular Program Development

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Tanya Clement

    University of Texas, Austin

  2. 2. Alison Booth

    University of Virginia

  3. 3. Maria Sachiko Cecire

    Bard College

  4. 4. Ryan Cordell

    Northeastern University

  5. 5. Miriam Posner

    University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.


Many leading universities in the United States have recognized the profoundly transformative effect that DH has had on research and teaching and have established lab-based research programs or institutional centers for interdisciplinary collaboration on digital projects in the humanities. The University of Virginia led with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, which now supports more than forty DH research projects. The Stanford Humanities Laboratory, established in 2001, is a collaborative research environment for crossdisciplinary and multi-institutional, technologically transformative projects. Duke, a founding member of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), adopted a similar model within its John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. Other universities such as Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, Berkeley, Princeton, and the University of Michigan have begun aggressively to hire in the field and to design multidisciplinary DH programs. Moreover, University of Pennsylvania and Yale have attracted large donations from alumnae for DH institutes, while state institutions like Maryland, Nebraska, and UCLA have garnered millions of dollars in external funds to support their field-leading digital scholarship centers.

Digital Humanities scholarship is, by necessity, collaborative and interdisciplinary. DH approaches to the creation and dissemination of scholarship investigate the information life cycle from digitization to preservation including multimediality, design elements, and computational reasoning and implementation through perspectives developed in the context of deep understandings of the key issues at stake in the humanities. DH approaches to teaching typically involve an emphasis on experiential learning and research by creatively expanding modes of access and networks of participation through the methods that students employ. This multidisciplinary work in research and teaching is not limited to conventional humanities departments, but, rather, emerges in every humanistic field, in arts and architecture, information studies, film and media studies, archaeology, geography, ethnic studies, and the social sciences. Because of this essentially multidisciplinary nature of DH work, some of the universities listed above have begun to move away from more traditional models of DH where DH is housed in the library or where DH is primarily an endeavor of the English or History Department. Northeastern University's center for Digital Humanities and Computational Social Science (NULab) and King's College DH Department, for example, bridge the humanities and computational, qualitative social sciences while Bard College's Experimental Humanities Concentration and Initiative is focused primarily on the arts.

Even with all this funding and enthusiasm, however, it remains surprisingly challenging to design curricula in DH on the undergraduate and graduate level. These challenges are a direct result of the fact that attempts to develop new paradigms and models for "training" students break (or stretch) molds for learning and teaching that have calcified over decades into departmental silos and administrative policies concerning credits and teaching loads. These challenges include the difficulty of organizing teaching arrangements that include faculty from multiple disciplines, supporting cluster hires versus supporting "reskilling" faculty to teach new methods from different perspectives, and designing single courses with heavy loads of material including perspectives on the world (such as cultural critique) alongside advanced topics in, for example, statistical models, computational approaches, and data visualization.

This panel will include representatives from five programs who bring perspectives from both private and public, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges in the United States. The panelists have worked within the context of long-standing digital humanities centers as well as within initiatives just now developing without these historical, infrastructural legacies. Each panelist will speak for twelve to fifteen minutes on the below topics, leaving time for questions from and conversations with the audience.

Tanya Clement

For many years, Digital Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin has happened on a project-level basis, without the support of a DH center, in American Studies, Anthropology, Classics, English, French and Italian, History, Information Studies, and in Portuguese and Spanish, among other departments (some projects can be viewed at the UT DH page)

At UT, we are experiencing a scenario that is familiar at universities and colleges that are supported by instantiated DH centers and initiatives. The existing, funded projects at UT do not offer enough project-based, training opportunities for a wide range of students. Project-based work with digital information technologies is often heralded as the site of work that defines DH (Burdick, et. al, 2012; Drucker,

2012; Hayles, 2012; Svensson, 2009, 2012). It is also the site of experiential learning and project-based research in DH on the undergraduate and graduate level, a trend that is noticeable in many of the lessons and curricula collected in the recent Modern Language Association publication, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Even with this fabulous array of DH classroom-based assignments, the students who are best trained in DH -- those who on the graduate level are best prepared for the job market in private and public industry as well as the academy -- remain those students who participate in the kinds of long-term, interdisciplinary-team-led projects that have become the mainstay of DH. These kinds of projects, however, usually only have the funding to train a handful of lucky students. At UT, we are working to consider a different paradigm for teaching and training students that is not dependent, primarily, on the soft-money world that remains the status quo for most underfunded DH projects.

To better understand our proposed methods of training, it is important to describe the UT landscape.

The University of Texas at Austin is a large research university with over 3,000 teaching faculty and over 50,000 students. It is rich in multicultural, multimedia, obscure and popular special collections of interest to

humanities scholars. Some examples include the

Gloria Anzaldua archives, the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN), and the Radio Venceremos collection of digital audio recordings of guerrilla radio from the civil war in El Salvador housed in the Benson Latin American Collection. The papers of Carson McCullers, David Foster Wallace, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as many collections of medieval and early modern manuscripts including one of five copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States are at the Harry Ransom Center, which also holds a robust collection of film (including the archive of Robert Dinero), photographs (such as the Magnum Photos' New York bureau collection, dating from 1929 to 2004), and authors' recordings including tapes of Anne Sexton's therapy sessions and Spalding Gray's performances alongside the center's other robust collections of twentieth century writers and performing artists. At the Briscoe Center for American History there is the Texas Poster Art Collection which documents the visuals behind the pivotal early music careers (1960s to 1970s) of iconic music legends such as Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt as well as over 2000 reels of tape that include the field recordings of folklorists John A. Lomax, William A. Owens, Americo Paredes, and John Henry Faulk.

The list of amazing collections at UT goes on, but in terms of DH, it doesn't matter. Most of these materials, like most of the materials (no matter if they are paper, reels, tape, or photographs) in special collections at many institutions are almost completely inaccessible to DH methods of presentation and inquiry - even when they are digitized. These materials are either under copyright; in non-text formats such as an image, audio, or video file; undescribed (and therefore, in many cases, undiscoverable); or unstructured; all of which make them unsuitable for most DH tools. Instead, UT scholars and teachers, like scholars and teachers everywhere, typically use the same collections that others use: what is freely available online - a trend that systematically limits the kinds of questions we can ask in DH scholarship and teaching.

At UT, we are trying to address these issues in our plans to create an undergraduate and graduate curriculum in DH by considering three primary questions that plague DH curriculum development everywhere:

1. How do we train a wide range of students on the undergraduate and graduate levels across a wide range of DH issues including, but not limited to, the creation of digital collections and archives; the analysis of digital materials; and the use of digital technologies to write, publish, and consume scholarship when our faculty are siloed from each other not only by administrative departments but by their, sometimes, many decades of differing experiences and training?

2. How do we teach students to consider multimedia and multiculturalism when using DH methods when the primary materials to which we have “data ready” access are text-based, in English, and unstructured?

3. How do we create an interdisciplinary framework that is productive and innovative as well as sustainable?

Building on the amazing work done by DH scholars in praxis-based training programs in libraries such as the Scholars Lab at the University of Virginia, Columbia's Developing Librarian Project, and Indiana University's Research Now: Cross Training for Digital Scholarship initiative, the DH@UT initiative is imagining a sustainable model for training students that is experiential, collaborative, and interdisciplinary. Collections are at the heart of humanities research. The work to make such collections “data ready” for DH scholarship coincides with deep expertise in the humanities as it relates to the organization, preservation, curation, analysis, visualization, and communication of digital works in the humanities. Pairing students with projects for making the collections at UT more accessible offers a unique opportunity to train students to generate a more diverse range of data-ready collections and to immerse them in questions surrounding critical information infrastructure studies (Clement, 2015; Liu 2016; Verhoeven 2016) that has engaged staff, undergraduates, graduates, and faculty at the heart of DH research.

Questions remain, however, about how such a program could be implemented. Faculty from a variety of disciplines will have to commit to using UT collections that perhaps do not fit exactly into their research objectives. The time commitments of library and archives staff, who are already often overwhelmed and under resourced, will need to be committed to the goals of the program; and, policies concerning how and when archival materials can cross the transom of the brick-and-mortar collection building (both physically and virtually due to copyright and privacy restrictions) will have to be reconsidered. There is reason to believe that faculty, used to “stretching” their area of expertise to teach classes, would be willing to commit their considerable effort in teaching classes in these new directions. There is equal reason to believe that staff members, committed to the goals of the institution to make their collections more accessible will also be in favor of such a program. Yet, in order to make this program sustainable, both faculty and staff will need support from upper administration. Commitment at the university level for innovative teaching and research remains imperative for changing the praxis of pedagogy. This talk will discuss our progress in these endeavors.

Alison Booth

Technological literacy is a stated educational goal for all students at the University of Virginia, and various existing groups in the Library and schools such as Arts and Sciences support teaching with technology and short assignments in courses (maps; e-portfolios, etc.; Learning Design Technology). But many would agree that digital humanities is something distinct from teaching with technology; there is more to be gained from student participation in open-ended projects (exceeding the timeframe of a single assignment) that reflect upon their tools and methods as well as on the specific data of a discipline. Considerable international discussion of DH pedagogy has advanced the field (Digital Pedagogy), and several textbooks serve courses that introduce students to DH (e.g. Gold and Klein). Certificates in DH (e.g. at Northeastern University and University of Maryland) provide models, as do departments of Digital Humanities (as at King's College, London). CenterNet presents a directory of DH centers on every continent, some like UCLA's Center for Digital Humanities offering a program with an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate.

What are the best models? How should we build an infrastructure for DH education at the University of Virginia, based on what we already have? The University of Virginia has longstanding centers practicing DH: the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, SHANTI, Scholars' Lab. Advanced research projects and courses or workshops in methods and tools are supported as well in Research Data Services, Data Sciences Institute, Makerspaces in arts, architecture, and engineering, among others. And yet the curricular offerings in DH have remained dispersed among a few academic departments and the Scholars' Lab's Praxis Program and fellowships, along with some digital fellowships for undergraduates working in art and archeology. I suggest a model: the Pedagogical Pyramid, which can be multiplied within one or many institutions in communities of interaction.

Is a Pedagogical Pyramid a menacing structure, an image of hierarchy and exploitative labor? Instead, it is intended as a metaphor and visualization (equilateral triangle in multiple dimensions) of a graduated structure of collaborations, potentially across institutions as well as UVA schools, on advanced research in the humanities, arts, and social sciences: more undergraduates, fewer graduate students, and fewer faculty. The numbers, limited only by practicable scales of collaboration, are flexible, but based on likely proportion of an institution's personnel in these ranks. The paid internships, fellowships, and mentorships proposed in this structure would be available in smaller numbers for team members who are at later career stages, but there will be no idle supervisory roles for those figuratively at the top. Participants would develop a charter in keeping with the Collaborators' Bill of Rights. With sufficient resources for faculty as well as students (stipends, wages, facilitators and spaces), we would run concurrent Pyramids.

We have developed parts of such a vision. IATH supports two residential fellows per year for two years each, with some course release and research funds. The Scholars' Lab under Bethany Nowviskie created a custom-built, annual cohort of six doctoral fellows who collaborate on a project. Praxis flourished under Purdom Lindblad and current members of Scholars' Lab, and has generated a Praxis Network connecting various institutions. Each year in addition there are 23 dissertation fellows in the Scholars' Lab, and we have had graduate fellows jointly in Data Sciences and Scholars' Lab. Undergraduates and graduates are employed in the Scholars' Lab Makerspace, and any students or faculty may work on any projects in that innovative research laboratory. We collaborate with a liberal arts college in Virginia, Washington & Lee, that adopted the Praxis model in its library-centered DH Studio; UVA and W&L hold exchanges among both institutions' Library staff, UVA's Praxis and DH fellows, and W&L's undergraduate students. Scholars' Lab has also led two summer programs for 4-6 Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative (LAMI) undergraduate students from HCBUs and Puerto Rico, introducing DH and other research methods in preparation for graduate school applications. Collective Biographies of Women, an IATH and Scholars' Lab project, each year trains small groups of graduate research assistants (primarily MA) and a few paid undergraduates; LAMI students each summer have added research on African American and Latino cohorts.

Which brings us to planning the future of a DH community at UVA. Recent developments have focused on coordinating the community in a DH@UVA website and the DH@UVA 2016 conference, at which the open discussion came to a consensus on a certificate or program in DH. We do not want to build a DH department, as that may be less adaptable for future technological and curricular change.

Desirables: early introduction to digital research methods in interdisciplinary courses, workshops, and bootcamps suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, or both; engagement of undergraduates (for credit or pay) in faculty or graduate-student research projects in humanities, arts, and social sciences, beyond the classroom assignment; opportunities for graduate students to mentor and teach these undergraduates; paid graduate interns and project managers mentored by Library-affiliated faculty and staff who can work with faculty projects from many departments; different models of support for faculty digital scholarship beyond the IATH fellowships; expansion beyond the six Praxis students and 2-3 DH dissertation fellows per year that we currently support in Scholars' Lab.

Challenges for building such alliterative pyramids: persuading more faculty to participate and encourage their students in these opportunities; luring the CS faculty and students, the Data Sciences Institute, and the Library's Research Data Services group to collaborate with humanistic computational research, increasing broad interdisciplinarity; coordinating with the Graduate School and other schools to fund graduate fellowships, encourage dissertation advisors' participation, and monitor time-to-degree; securing additional resources for wages and faculty stipends as well as graduate fellowships and teaching release; negotiation with Directors of Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies as well as the Graduate School regarding requirements, credit courses and a certificate or program, which would have to be maneuvered through the channels of educational policy at university and state levels. Curriculum would have to be designed that allows discipline-specific units to be added to shared units on generally applicable tools, methods, and issues. The structures would have to ensure that all contributors are compensated and acknowledged, including in presentations and publications. UVA already has ample evidence of the enhancement of research and the advantages in students' learning and placement that come from the existing activities in DH groups. We look forward to giving these aims more substance and structure.

Ryan Cordell

During MLA 2013, Natalia Cecire wryly observed on Twitter, “1. DHers usually don't see dh as panacea. 2. Admins often do. 3. DHers often need for admins to have this erroneous belief.” Our experiences building a graduate DH curriculum at Northeastern in many ways illustrate this rhetorical tension. We benefit from substantial administrative support for curricular ingenuity while struggling to reconcile that support with increasing disquiet in the departments that must underwrite any substantive changes we seek to make.

We are enormously fortunate at Northeastern and the NULab. Our administration has funded several years of cluster hires, which have allowed us to bring DH faculty into the English; History; and Cultures, Societies and Global Studies departments, as well as DH faculty and staff in the library. Over the course of four years we have founded a new center, integrated introductory and advanced DH courses into our curriculum, launched a DH graduate certificate program, and trained many students through work on locally- and grant-funded projects. This in turn has led to an increased number of students applying to our graduate programs seeking DH training.

This rapid, whole-cloth invention of a DH program, however, has been attended by pressures, fissures, and tensions with existing programs. For example, NULab faculty are proud of the robust coursework required for the DH certificate program: the equivalent of 3 courses out of the 10 required in our English MA program or 14 required in our English Ph.D., plus the development of a small scale DH project. Our students take not only an introductory DH course, but also advanced methods courses (data modeling, text analysis, etc.) that prepare them to integrate DH methods into their theses and compete for DH positions after graduation. Within English, however, completing this requirement requires students to decide their path almost immediately upon admission, and the decision to pursue the certificate dictates very particular paths through the larger Ph.D. program. While our DH faculty are a larger group than at most institutions, even so we cannot practically mount more than two courses per year: an introductory course each fall and an advanced course each spring. These advanced courses rotate among NULab faculty and thus have very distinct foci. Thus students' options for completing coursework remain relatively constrained over two years of full time coursework in ways that sometimes mitigate against the particular training individual's need. A student primarily interested in digital archive creation, for instance, might by necessity take their advanced course in Humanities Data Analysis rather than Data Modeling; while the latter would be more appropriate to their interests it can only be offered every three years or so, when a particular faculty member is on rotation for the advanced seminar.

These pressures are compounded for MA students in English or Public History; in the latter case we find there is really only one viable set of courses that can result in both a DH certificate and Public History credential within the timeline of the program. Due to these challenges, NULab faculty are currently reevaluating how to align our high expectations for DH training with the practical realities of a certificate program, which must exists alongside and in harmony with the primary curricular structures of humanities departments.

In addition to pressures on students, the popularity of the DH certificate among its first two cohorts of students has led to growing worry among departmental faculty that DH is driving down enrollments outside certificate program courses. We might be tempted toward market explanations (“we cannot dictate which courses students are interested in” or, less generously, “if our colleagues made their courses more enticing”) but these are neither sufficient nor reflective. The NULab has created a certification that students perceive as necessary in a competitive job market, despite ambiguity about the role of DH in securing jobs (Risam 2013). Thus we have institutionalized a hierarchy of graduate course offerings that does privilege DH courses over others in the curriculum, in ways that partially reflect students' interests but partly reflect their anxieties. Moreover, the administration's vision for graduate education in the future clearly emphasizes digital humanities in ways that worry even NULab faculty. We cannot, in other words, entirely dismiss our colleagues' worries about how digital humanities, which belongs to no department in particular, has shifted the character and priorities of graduate programs in the particular departments of English and History.

In my presentation, then, I will think through what constitutes a successful DH graduate curriculum in an institutional culture of abundant top-down support and atrophying bottom-up enthusiasm. Can we structure robust DH training in ways that integrates with rather than competing with departmental training? Can a DH program be partner rather than usurper?

Miriam Posner

UCLA's Digital Humanities graduate certificate, founded in 2011, now enrolls 24 Ph.D. and master's degree students from across the university. Initially, the certificate was conceived as a means of providing an imprimatur for work that was already taking place at the graduate level. UCLA's humanities graduate students were already apprenticing on a wide range of faculty-led digital humanities projects, such as HyperCities and RomeLab, and developed a great deal of discipline-specific expertise through these experiences. The university, moreover, has a strong community of faculty DH practitioners and an established tradition of integrating graduate students into projects as collaborators. But as formal DH curricula grew at other institutions, UCLA graduate students and faculty began to feel that a formal credential might be useful to graduates as they entered the job market.

Even as students clamored for it, the introduction of an official graduate certificate has also had the effect of surfacing some challenges and dilemmas for graduate education in the digital humanities: how much of the graduate curriculum should be formal, and how much should come in the form of project work; how to provide the time- and resource-intensive instruction graduate students require; how to help students balance traditional dissertation work with digital work; how to accommodate the very distinct needs of Ph.D. students and professional master's degree students; and how to prepare graduate students for an unpredictable job market. Alexander

Reid identified many of these dilemmas in a 2012

essay for Debates in the Digital Humanities, observing

an uptick in digital humanities activity and arguing

that we would soon witness a widespread shift in the education of scholars, toward an understanding of digital literacy as fundamental to graduate training

(Reid 2012).

From the vantage of 2016, the picture seems less clear. Digital humanities continues to thrive as a field, but we have yet to see the searching, widespread reevaluation of graduate education that some observers expected. While a number of standout programs, such as the City University of New York's

Graduate Center, the University of Virginia's Scholars' Lab, and the University of Victoria's Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory, have seemed to forecast change on a larger scale, most humanities graduate programs still deal only gingerly, if at all, with digital technology.

The example of UCLA might help to illuminate some reasons for this very piecemeal rate of change. UCLA's graduate students, like most graduate students, are under enormous pressure and feel pulled in multiple directions by an erratic and whimsical job market. Assailed by advice to publish in top journals on the one hand, and to develop digital skills on the other, they often come to the DH program ready to perform a cost-benefit calculation about how this training will position them on the job market -- not exactly the spirit of embracing failure and creative experimentation that many DH experts advise (Ramsay 2010, Drucker 2009, Sample 2012). Devising a curriculum that makes sense for them in this climate, then, is constantly demanding and resource-intensive. Among the questions UCLA faculty has faced:

• Should a digital humanities program for graduate students emphasize collaborative scholarship, as many practitioners advise, or

should students' DH work advance the

individual dissertation?

• What is the program's responsibility toward preserving and archiving student digital work, and particularly digital dissertations?

• If a graduate DH program remains interdisciplinary, how can it assemble and retain the necessary core faculty to staff the program?

• How can an interdisciplinary program retain a “center of gravity” sufficient to enable graduate students to feel as though they are part of a community?

• How can a graduate DH program communicate its value to students' advisers, many of whom do not engage in digital work themselves?

• Given the highly individualized nature of dissertation-level work, how can graduate DH programs provide sufficient resources (staff time and technical assets) to help students advance their research meaningfully?

• How should a graduate program in DH balance the distinct needs of professional master's degree students (in UCLA's case,

MLIS students) with Ph.D. students?

In this presentation, I will discuss the ways in which we at UCLA have attempted to develop a graduate curriculum that makes sense for a program that faces challenges familiar to most universities: lack of resources, little centralized support, and overtaxed faculty. I will also raise some questions about the sustainability of a digital humanities graduate curriculum without answering some searching and difficult questions about what a graduate program should be and do. Finally, I will propose some infrastructural and institutional solutions to help address some of the most pressing needs of graduate DH programs.

Maria Sachiko Cecire

At Bard College, we don't have a formal Digital Humanities center. Instead, we have an interdisciplinary curricular initiative and hub for faculty collaboration that we call Experimental Humanities (EH). DH scholarship at its most visible typically creates and employs digital tools to pursue project-based humanities research. While EH does some of this, our program was designed to align with the mission of our undergraduate-focused institution, and to be flexible enough to bring together faculty from diverse intellectual and personal backgrounds. We say that Experimental Humanities is Bard's liberal arts-driven answer to the Digital Humanities: it uses a network of courses and faculty-identified research clusters to variously interrogate how technology mediates what it means to be human. EH engages with media and technology forms from across historical periods, including our own, and combines experimental research methods with critical thinking about way media and technology function as a part of cultural, social, and political inquiry. We encourage the reconsideration of older media in light of today's technologies, and look ahead to the developments on the horizon.

The decision to name our program Experimental Humanities instead of Digital Humanities was grounded in the unique character and history of Bard College, which has developed an international reputation for its commitment to the arts, humanities, and the notion that access to a liberal arts education should be a fundamental human right. Although our primary campus in the Hudson Valley of New York serves just over 2000 students, Bard has a much wider reach that includes degree-granting programs in state prisons, early college programs at high schools that serve low-income youth in cities around the U.S., and in international university partnerships that bring liberal arts curricula to countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, and Russia. In this context of passionate liberal arts advocacy, we wanted a title that would leave room for DH but not exclude non-digital forms of artistic and scholarly production. As Wendy Chun has suggested, terminology that draws hard lines between “old” and “new” technologies runs the risk of excluding (or at least seeming to exclude) the lessons, theories, and knowledge of the past from the practice and study of “new” media. The notion of the “experimental” embraces both digitality and previous moments of technological change, invokes the practices of both the sciences and the arts, and has the kind of hands-on and countercultural associations that align with the Bard ethos.

We saw the rise of DH as an exciting opportunity to establish a program dedicated to reconsidering the methods and subjects of humanistic study in the light of changing material conditions. This is an ongoing project, and one that also allows us to continuously reevaluate our pedagogical approaches: rethinking which tools and methods we use in the classroom and encouraging in-class reflection with our students about the relationships between who we are, what we study, and how we study it. For instance, when faced with N. Katherine Hayles's work on hyper and deep attention, students may put forward arguments for practicing deep attention in their coursework or advocate for a pedagogy that introduces more multimediated and hands-on content, thereby creating the opportunity for jointly designed assignments. Finally, in keeping with the concerns raised by #transformdh (see, for instance, Moya Z. Bailey's essay “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave”) we wanted to keep cultural critique and questions of inclusion central to what we do as humanities scholars.

With these ideals in mind, we set out to design a program that would be critical, inclusive, undergraduate-focused, and also able to participate in wider DH networks. In their essay about whether or how small liberal arts colleges might “do” DH, Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis outline several challenges to establishing DH programs and centers at institutions like Bard. They note a lack of infrastructure to support major research projects, the difficulty of pulling together the human resources to do work that requires a wide range of skills, our limited access to graduate students that can sustain long-term research, and the pedagogical focus at SLACs. However, they argue that models that include curricular elements and partner with existing campus resources like library and IT can still be successful, developing proficiency in select project areas and sending students on to DH graduate programs.

Experimental Humanities does work closely with Library/IT and encourage faculty projects through training opportunities, the guidance of a Digital Projects Coordinator with a PhD in the humanities, and the support of a student Media Corps. But while several successful DH programs at other small liberal arts colleges have grown out of the library, like Occidental's Center for Digital Liberal Arts, or out of faculty research, as with Hamilton's Digital Humanities Initiative, EH was from its first imaginings a primarily curricular initiative, built on the three pillars of history, theory, and practice. All EH students take the core courses “A History of Experimentation” and “Introduction to Media,” which EH faculty rotate teaching, and at least one practice-based course beyond the college arts requirement (this may include Computer Science or one of the visual, written, or performing arts). Students also take at least two more courses from the wide offering of EH-listed courses designed by faculty according to their research interests, and which are available each semester in fields from Music and Anthropology to Medieval Studies and Theater. These classes present the hands-on projects and research that they do at collective Share Events each semester.

At an administrative level, EH is a concentration (like a minor; Bard loves to have its own terminology for everything), which means that our students pair their coursework with a foundation in a major program of study, and that EH faculty also belong to a home program. All Bard students do yearlong senior projects, which allow our students to bring what they have learned in the concentration into conversation with their major discipline in a capstone project. We have seen senior projects that use topic modeling to analyze slave narratives, develop gaming apps with the potential to treat psychopathy, push the boundaries of traditional interview-based ethnography to consider the social implications of conversing via text message, delve into the history of the book and other media forms, and lead to immersive art installations in both digital and analog formats. Our students do not necessarily go into DH programs (though some do), but rather become curators, teachers, librarians, programmers, artists, and work for non-profits.

This kind of breadth makes Experimental Humanities sustainable even on a small campus, providing a hub for a range of interests and methods.

Meanwhile, our regular course and event offerings give the program continuity and create opportunities for faculty and students to meet during the semester as a self-identifying community. We have also worked to bolster faculty research in recent years, beginning with the launch of our faculty-led, topic-based clusters in 2014. The clusters have been very successful in bringing faculty together to share and further their own research across disciplinary boundaries, and have yielded a number of new courses and given rise to a form of experimental symposia that bring together scholars, artists, practitioners, students, and community members around cluster topics such as “Sound” and “Surveillance.” The clusters have become a model in the college for how to foster interdisciplinary collaboration that encourages both new research and student engagement. Other research models in EH include faculty-led humanities labs around individual projects, intensive student sessions with historical societies to create digital repositories and interfaces for the public to access its local history, and courses with embedded digital projects that allow faculty to work with undergraduates to build up layers of data each time that they teach the course.

EH is now in its fifth year, and coming to the end of a three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation. In my presentation I will discuss several of the challenges that we face at this crucial stage of transition. These include the ongoing struggle to define what we do and why it's useful to students, parents, and future employers, given our capacious title and mission; how to practically negotiate the need for disciplinary foundations in our students' and faculty's home programs and the invitation to experiment in EH courses and projects; how to move off of a major grant to become sustainable within the existing college structure (and thereby resist the kind of dependence on external grants that is contributing to the neoliberalization of the humanities, as outlined in the widely circulated “Dark Side of the Digital Humanities” papers); and how to better integrate the wider Bard network of underserved high school and undergraduate students both in the US and around the world into the work that we do.


Alexander, B., and Davis, R. F. (2012). “Should Liberal Arts

Campuses Do Digital Humanities? Process and Products

in the Small College World,” in Debates in the Digital

Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold

Bailey, M. Z. (2011) “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave,” Journal

of Digital Humanities 1.1



Burdick, A., Drucker, J., Presner, T., Schnapp, J., and Lunenfeld, P. (2012) Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

centerNet (n.d.). “centerNet: An international network of digital humanities centers”. Web.

Chun, W. H. K. (2006) “Introduction: Did Somebody Say New Media?” in New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, ed. Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan (New York: Routledge), 1-10.

Chun, W. H. K., Grusin, R., Jagoda, P., and Raley, R. (2016)“The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold .

Clement, T. (2015) “The Information Science Question in

DH Feminism.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2.

Drucker, J. (2012) “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, pp. 85 - 95.

Drucker, J. (2009). SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gold, M. and Klein, L., eds. (2016). Debates in Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hayles, N. K. (2012) How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago; London:

University Of Chicago Press.

Hayles, N.K. (2007). “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes,” MLA Profession

(2007): 187-199.

Liu, A. (2016) “Drafts for Against the Cultural Singularity” Alan Liu. 2 May 2016.

Modern Language Association. (n.d.) “Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments”.

MLA Commons,. Web.

Off the Tracks (2011). Collaborators' Bill of Rights. Media Commons Press. Web. http: //

Ramsay, S. (2010). “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books.” (2010). Unpublished presentation delivered at Brown University, Providence, RI 17 (2010): n. Pag. Web. 17 Oct.


Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. (2017).

DH@UVA. Web.

Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. (2008)

“Sciences, Humanities and Arts Networked Technology Initiatives,” SHANTI at the University of Virginia. . Web.

Reid, A. (2012).“Graduate Education and the Ethics of the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Print.

Risam, R. (2013) “Where Have All the DH Jobs Gone?” Roopika Risam 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.

Sample, M. (2012) . “Notes towards a Deformed Humanities.” samplereality. N.p., 2 May 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

Svensson, P. (2012) “Envisioning the Digital Humanities” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 1.

Svensson, P. (2009) “Humanities Computing as Digital Humanities” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 3.

The Leadership Alliance (2016). “Mellon Initiative” . The Leadership Alliance. Web.


UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. (n.d.) “UCLA Digital Humanities”. Univeristy of Claifornia Los Angeles. Web.

University of Virginia. (n.d.) Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Web.

University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (n.d.) “Learning Design Technology, Arts and Sciences”. University of Virginia.. Web.

University of Virginia Library. (n.d.) Scholars' Lab,. Web.

Verhoeven, D. (2016) “‘As Luck Would Have It.” Feminist Media Histories, vol. 2., no. 1. pp. 7-28.

Washington and Lee Digital Humanities Action Team

(n.d.). “DH @ W&L”. Washington and Lee University. Web.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info


ADHO - 2017

Hosted at McGill University, Université de Montréal

Montréal, Canada

Aug. 8, 2017 - Aug. 11, 2017

438 works by 962 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (12)

Organizers: ADHO