Digital Humanities and the Solitary Scholar

  1. 1. David J. Birnbaum

    University of Pittsburgh

  2. 2. Michael L. Norton

    James Madison University

  3. 3. Linda E. Patrik

    Union College

  4. 4. Dorothy Carr Porter

    University of Kentucky

  5. 5. Geoffrey Rockwell

    McMaster University

  6. 6. Helen Aguera

    National Endowment for the Humanities

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"The process of creating new knowledge -- of research and
scholarship -- is also evolving rapidly away from the solitary
scholar to teams of scholars, perhaps spread over a number of
(James J. Duderstadt, "Transforming the University to Serve
the Digital Age," CAUSE/EFFECT 20.4 (Winter 1997-98):
In the epigraph for our session, Duderstadt succinctly
describes a major challenge facing the humanities –
specifically the scholars who make the practice of humanities
research their own – as they head into a digital future. The
typical scholar in the humanities is generally perceived as a
loner, an individual working more or less in isolation towards
publications that will be his or her sole responsibility. Scholars
are not completely isolated, of course. The sharing of
pre-publication knowledge is common, and workshops and
conferences abound in all fields to give scholars the opportunity
to find out what others are doing, to present their own work to
the community, and to talk with others whose interests and
research overlap their own. However, as a glance at the contents
pages of the most recent issue of any historical or literary
journal will suggest, it is not common for more than one
humanist to claim authorship for a single piece of scholarship.
There is contrast here with scholarship in the hard sciences and
engineering, where much work is done by groups, collaboration
is the norm, and where several people usually claim authorship
to any one publication. Digital humanities inherits from both of these traditions, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration
within a community that has traditionally valued independence.
This short paper session will present the experiences of three
scholars working more or less in isolation within the context
of this collaborative environment. These individuals are alike
in that they are all actively involved in the development of
digital projects, but their experiences vary widely with regard
to time available for working on these projects, their own
technical/programming skills and like support available from
their institutions, and the availability of funding to support their
projects. In addition to these three scholars, we also welcome
two others whose work exists to support the efforts of solitary
scholars. However, it may be seen that even "solitary" scholars
are not so alone in the digital humanities.
"I'm ready to start a project! What
do I need to know?"
Our first two speakers represent the technically skilled
Birnbaum has developed two XML-related projects on his own
and he will report on the logistics of these projects. Funding
and support for both projects is light and he is responsible for
all the technology, although his colleagues provide philological
Norton will discuss his experience as a computer scientist with
a PhD in Music History developing a project on digital
representations of medieval liturgical manuscripts. He is
working on the project independently, and while he has the
programming and design skills necessary for success, he is
facing limitations of time (as he is also trying to write a book,
a familiar problem for many).
"Well, how do I learn?"
Our third speaker will discuss alternatives for solitary
scholars to learn how to take steps towards developing
digital projects.
Rockwell will talk first about how to take advantage of
university resources. Many universities have Teaching and
Learning Centers and Digital Library Services that you can
draw on for help. Some universities have special Humanities
Computing units that specialize in supporting digital projects
in the humanities. Rockwell will summarize some of the
services you can look for at your university.
In addition, Rockwell will speak as a the project leader of the
Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPoR) project (<http:
//>), which makes text analysis tools
available to scholars for integration into their electronic text
projects. Rockwell will discuss the TAPoR tools, and will
discuss how scholars working in isolation can take advantage
of them without the need for programming experience or access
to programming support.
"I have the skills, I have a great
idea... what about funding?"
Our final two speakers will present two different aspects
of acquiring funding for digital humanities projects.
Patrik will discuss issues that she has encountered while
attempting to organize a TEI encoding project at a liberal arts
college. Although Patrik's institution is supportive of her digital
endeavors, she has not had success applying for funds from the
major funding agencies. Unfortunately, without access to
graduate student labor and a dedicated support staff and with
the lack of time that comes from being a full-time professor in
an institution where the focus is on undergraduate teaching,
Patrik is at a disadvantage. She is interested in exploring the
possibilities of collaborating with larger institutions, moving
from isolation to collaboration.
Winter will discuss the NEH Digital Humanities Initiative, and
how the initiative can support the work of solitary or
independent project directors. He will focus on two of the new
DH-specific grant initiatives: Digital Humanities Start-Up
italhumanitiesstartup.html>) and Digital
Humanities Fellowships
Each of our speakers will have seven to ten minutes to discuss
his or her work, making reference to limitations of time,
technical support, and funding, and how those limits impact
their projects. The remainder of the session will be a roundtable
discussion, and the audience will be encouraged to ask questions
of the panel and to discuss their own experiences working in

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2007

Hosted at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States

June 2, 2007 - June 8, 2007

106 works by 213 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (2)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None