Kickstarting the GO::DH Minimal Computing Working Group

workshop / tutorial
  1. 1. John Edward Simpson

    University of Alberta

  2. 2. Jentery Sayers

    Department of English - University of Victoria

  3. 3. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

    University of Lethbridge

  4. 4. Alexander Gil

    Columbia University

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What is the purpose of this workshop?
Establish a mandate for the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH) Minimal Computing Working Group so that it can serve the DH minimal computing community as it wants and needs to be served.

What questions will the workshop answer?
What is the current state of minimal computing in the DH community?

What will be done to further support minimal computing users within the DH community?

Why this workshop? Why should the DH community care about minimal computing?
With machines like the Tihane­2, a 33.86 petaflop computer featuring 3.12 million cores and only the most recent machine to best the high­performance computing (HPC) Top 500, the current push within large parts of the DH community to get access to and ultimately use such machines (cf. Bonnett 2009; Leetaru 2012; Terras 2009; The NEH High Performance Computing Collaboratory), and the desire to do big things with a whole lot of data and slightly less powerful machines (cf. The Digging into Data program; HuNI; ARC; CWRC; various OCLC initiatives; <insert acronym of your choice here>) why the DH community should pay any attention to minimal computing certainly needs to be addressed.

The GO::DH Minimal Computer Working Group uses “minimal computing” to capture both the maintenance, refurbishing, and use of machines to do DH work out of necessity and the use of new streamlined computing hardware like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino microcontroller to do DH work by choice. This dichotomy focuses the group on computing that is decidedly not high­performance and importantly not first­world desktop computing. By operating at this intersection between choice and necessity minimal computing forces important concepts and practices within the DH community to the fore. In this way minimal computing is also an intellectual concept, akin to environmentalism, asking for balance between gains and costs in related areas that include social justice issues and de­manufacturing and reuse, not to mention re­thinking high­income assumptions about "e­waste" and what people do with it.

Interest in minimal computing can already be seen via workshops at places like Princeton, Carleton, McGill, MITH, Victoria, and HASTAC, each of which is just a small drop in the bucket compared to the growing Internet resources available for such project. But this is just the side of minimal computing that currently has enough cache and geek­chic to have caught the momentary attention of a sliver of the Internet. As became apparent to the participants of the INKE conference held in Cuba in 2012, for roughly 60% of the world minimal computing is a fact of life rather than a tweet­worthy hobby and very little is known about this Still, DH practitioners facing these conditions are finding ways to overcome these barriers in ways that are at once smart and sensible.

Bringing together those who do minimal computing by necessity with those who do it by choice stands to benefit not only those with a stake in minimal computing by facilitating knowledge and expertise exchange but the DH community as a whole by shining a spotlight on a large portion of humanities work that is currently going unnoticed, enabling further research to take place in these areas.

Why a DH2014 workshop?
The Minimal Computing Working Group will operate as an extension of GO::DH, which is in turn a special interest group of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations. Given this pedigree holding the workshop that will craft the overall direction of the working group at the annual conference of ADHO makes good sense.

Who is the target audience and how many attendees are expected?
The workshop targets two audiences: those who do DH related minimal computing by choice and those who do it of necessity. Those who do it by choice are by far the smaller portion of the global DH community but are also the most likely to be able to attend the event and we would be delighted if we were able to achieve a 50/50 split amongst the attendees across these two groups. Given that this workshop has a broad general appeal and offers a greater opportunity for participation both at the workshop and afterwards we’re hopeful that we will be able to draw 40 participants and allow about half of these to present a lightning talk.

What will be the format of the workshop?
The workshop will be divided into three distinct components arranged in an order that will allow all attendees to build their background knowledge and contribute:

A series of lightning talks (2­5 minutes) about current research or work being done with or in a minimal computing environment. These would be drawn in advance with a CFP. Those unable to attend the workshop but wishing to present would be invited to share videos.
A focused brainstorming session directed at collecting ideas and projects that the Minimal Computing Working Group or its members should consider pursuing. It is hoped that some form of participation will be open to those not on site, but this will depend or the infrastructure that is
The selection of a set of tasks, directives, and/or projects that the minimal computing working group will coordinate and support. These will follow directly from the previous stages but these might look something like programs to:
provide training to the DH community to use minimal computing tools
share/ship computing resources to areas that might better use them
track hardware and software use in the humanities on a global scale
provide or recommend packages of hardware and software that are effective and proven
How long will the workshop be?
We are asking for for a half­day workshop on the assumption that this will allow three hours plus breaks to complete the outlined program by roughly dividing it into one hour sections.

What will be the cost of the workshop?
There should be no cost to the workshop or the conference as a whole beyond the provision of audio­visual resources requested below. If it turns out that there is a cost for those that this workshop would need to bear then we will look for funding or go without.

What timeline will the workshop be organized around?
Notice of acceptance. Announce workshop on GO::DH listserve, Humanist, Twitter, and via the various member organizations of ADHO.
May 1 Camera ready, single page, submissions that outline current work or research with minimal computing. Since we are looking to provide a synopsis of current activity in the field and around the world our preference will be to accept or accept with revisions as many submissions as possible.
May 15 Acceptance notifications.
June 16 Submission of slides/videos and final one page summaries.
June 23 Distribution of PDF bound summaries.
July 25 Distribution of lightning talk videos on GO::DH site.
Who are the workshop organizers?
John Simpson will be the principal organizer and facilitator of the workshop. His work will be supported by Jentery Sayers, who is the other Minimal Computing Working Group co­chair, and Dan O’Donnell, current chair of GO::DH, and Alex Gil, GO::DH vice­chair.

John Simpson

Co­chair of the GO::DH Minimal Computing Working Group, John is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. He works with INKE and Text Mining & Visualization for Literary History doing research into the intersection of the Humanities with the Semantic Web. His research interests include Philosophy of Science & Technology, Game Theory, and the exposure and expression of difference in digital media. He is an instructor at DHSI 2014 on programming for humanists who have never done it before.

Jentery Sayers

Co­Chair of the GO::DH Minimal Computing Working Group, Jentery is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Victoria. His research interests include comparative media studies, digital humanities, Anglo­American modernism, computers and composition, and teaching with technologies. He is a member of INKE and is the founding director of the UVic Maker Lab. He is a past instructor at DHSI and will again be part of Physical Computing and Desktop Fabrication for Humanists in 2014.

Dan O’Donnell

Chair of GO::DH, Dan is Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge. His research interests include Old English language and literature, the history of the book, editorial and textual scholarship, humanities computing, and reception­oriented criticism.

Alex Gil

Vice­Chair of GO::DH, Alex is Digital Scholarship Coordinator, Humanities and History Division, Columbia University Libraries. His research interests include twentieth­century Caribbean literature, critical theory, digital humanities, textual studies, book history, new media theory.

Bonnett, John (2009). “High­Performance Computing: An Agenda for the Social Sciences and the Humanities in Canada.” Digital Studies / Le Champ Numérique 1, no. 2 (June 16, 2009).

“Digging Into Data > Home.” Accessed February 19, 2014.

“High Performance Computing Collaboratory | National Endowment for the Humanities.” Accessed February 19, 2014.­performance­computing­collaboratory.

“Home | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites.” Accessed February 19, 2014.

Leetaru, K.H. (2012) “Towards HPC for the Digital Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Needs and Challenges of Adapting Academic HPC for Big Data.” In 2012 IEEE 8th International Conference on E­Science (e­Science), 1–6, 2012. doi:10.1109/eScience.2012.6404439.

“Personal Computers (per Capita) Statistics ­ Countries Compared ­ NationMaster.” Accessed February 14, 2014.­media­personal­computers­per­capita.

Terras, Melissa M. (2009) “The Potential and Problems in Using High Performance Computing in the Arts and Humanities: The Researching E­Science Analysis of Census Holdings (ReACH) Project.” 3, no. 4.

“Statistics.” Accessed February 19, 2014.­D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.­gallery/tweeting­the­digital­humanities­with­arduino­and­raspberry­pi­turkel­arduino­for­humanists­workshop­pi

Instructables, a popular DIY website made up almost entirely of contributions from its user community, features over 2370 arduino projects and over 270 Raspberry Pi projects.

We make the claim that the majority of humanists have only limited access to computing power by looking at the website NationMaster (“Personal Computers...” 2014) and noting that roughly 60% of countries have less than one computer for every ten people. It should be noted that while this information is drawn from 2005 the most recent report from the International Telecommunications Union (“Statistics” 2014) which covers from 2005 to 2013 presents a picture of slow growth since then resulting in a picture that isn’t all that much brighter.

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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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Conference website:

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO

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