"It's a team if you use 'reply all'": An Exploration of Research Teams in Digital Humanities Environments

  1. 1. Lynne Siemens

    University of Victoria

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This proposal reports on a research project exploring the
nature of research teams in the Digital Humanities community.
It is a start to understanding the type of supports and research
preparation that individuals within the fi eld require to
successfully collaborate within research teams.
Traditionally, research contributions in the humanities fi eld
have been felt to be, and documented to be, predominantly
solo efforts by academics involving little direct collaboration
with others, a model reinforced through doctoral studies
and beyond (See, for example, Cuneo, 2003; Newell & Swan,
2000). However, Humanities Computing/Digital Humanities is
an exception to this. Given that the nature of research work
involves computers and a variety of skills and expertise, Digital
Humanities researchers are working collaboratively within
their institutions and with others nationally and internationallly
to undertake the research. This research typically involves the
need to coordinate efforts between academics, undergraduate
and graduate students, research assistants, computer
programmers, librarians, and other individuals as well as the
need to coordinate fi nancial and other resources. Despite this,
there has been little formal research on team development
within this community.
That said, efforts toward understanding the organizational
context in which Digital Humanites research is situated is
beginning in earnest. Two large-scale survey projects (Siemens
et al., 2002; Toms et al., 2004) have highlighted issues of
collaboration, among other topics, and Warwick (2004) found
that the organizational context has had an impact on the manner
in which Digital Humanities/Humanities Computing centres
developed in the United States and England. Other studies
are underway as well. In addition, McCarty (2005b) explores
the ways that computers have opened the opportunities for
collaboration within the humanities and has explored the
associated challenges of collaboration and team research within
the HUMANIST listserve (2005a). Finally, through efforts such
as the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities/Humanities
Computing Summer Institute and other similar ventures, the
community is working to develop its collaborative capacity
through workshops in topics like community-specifi c project
management skills, which also includes discussion of team
development and support.
This study draws upon these efforts as it explores and
documents the nature of research teams within the Digital
Humanities community to the end of identifying exemplary
work patterns and larger models of research collaboration
that have the potential to strengthen this positive aspect of
the community even further.
This project uses a qualitative research approach with indepth
interviews with members of various multi-disciplinary,
multi-location project teams in Canada, the United States, and
the United Kingdom. The interview questions focus on the
participants’ defi nition of teams; their experiences working in
teams; and the types of supports and research preparation
required to ensure effective and effi cient research results. The
results will include a description of the community’s work
patterns and relationships and the identifi cation of supports
and research preparation required to sustain research teams
(as per Marshall & Rossman, 1999; McCracken, 1988).
Preliminary Findings
At the time of writing this proposal, fi nal data analysis is being
completed, but clear patterns are emerging and, after fi nal
analysis, these will form the basis of my presentation.
The individuals interviewed currently are and have been a part
of a diverse set of team research projects, in terms of research
objective, team membership size, budget, and geographical
dispersion, both within their own institution, nationally, and
internationally. The roles they play are varied and include
research assistant, researcher, computer programmer, and lead
investigator. There are several commonalities among these
individuals in terms of their skill development in team research
and their defi nition of research teams and communities.
When fi nal data analysis is complete, a series of exemplary
patterns and models of research collaboration will be
identifi ed and outlined. These patterns and models will include
the identifi cation of supports and research preparation which
can sustain research teams in the present and into the future.
The benefi ts to the Digital Humanities community will be
several. First, the study contributes to an explicit description
of the community’s work patterns and relationships. Second, it
also builds on previous efforts to understand the organizational
context in which Digital Humanities/Humanities Computing
centres operate in order to place focus on the role of the
individual and teams in research success. Finally, it identifi es
possible supports and research preparation to aid the further
development of successful research teams. References
Cuneo, C. (2003, November). Interdisciplinary teams - let’s
make them work. University Affairs, 18-21.
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative
research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE
McCarty, W. (2005a). 19.215 how far collaboration? Humanist
discussion group. Retrieved August 18, 2005, from http://lists.
McCarty, W. (2005b). Humanities computing. New York, NY:
Palgrave MacMillan.
McCracken, G. (1988). The long interview (Vol. 13). Newbury
Park, CA: SAGE Publications.
Newell, S., & Swan, J. (2000). Trust and inter-organizational
networking. Human Relations, 53(10), 1287-1328.
Siemens, R. G., Best, M., Grove-White, E., Burk, A., Kerr, J.,
Pope, A., et al. (2002). The credibility of electronic publishing: A
report to the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of
Canada. Text Technology, 11(1), 1-128.
Toms, E., Rockwell, G., Sinclair, S., Siemens, R. G., & Siemens,
L. (2004). The humanities scholar in the twenty-fi rst century:
How research is done and what support is needed, Joint
International Conference of the Association for Computers
and the Humanities and the Association for Literary &
Linguistic Computing. Göteborg, Sweden. Published results
forthcoming; results reported by Siemens, et al., in abstract
available at http://www.hum.gu.se/allcach2004/AP/html/
Warwick, C. (2004). “No such thing as humanities
computing?” an analytical history of digital resource
creation and computing in the humanities, Joint International
Conference of the Association for Computers and the
Humanities and the Association for Literary & Linguistic
Computing. Göteborg, Sweden. (Prepublication document
available at http://tapor.humanities.mcmaster.ca/html/
Doing Digital Scholarship
Lisa Spiro
Rice University, USA
When I completed my dissertation Bachelors of Arts:
Bachelorhood and the Construction of Literary Identity in Antebellum
America in 2002, I fi gured that I was ahead of most of my peers
in my use of digital resources, but I made no pretense of
doing digital scholarship. I plumbed electronic text collections
such as Making of America and Early American Fiction for
references to bachelorhood, and I used simple text analysis
tools to count the number of times words such as “bachelor”
appeared in key texts. I even built an online critical edition
of a section from Reveries of a Bachelor (http://etext.virginia.
edu/users/spiro/Contents2.html), one of the central texts of
sentimental bachelorhood. But in my determination to fi nish
my PhD before gathering too many more gray hairs, I resisted
the impulse to use more sophisticated analytical tools or to
publish my dissertation online.
Five years later, the possibilities for digital scholarship in the
humanities have grown. Projects such as TAPOR, Token-X, and
MONK are constructing sophisticated tools for text analysis
and visualization. Massive text digitization projects such as
Google Books and the Open Content Alliance are making
it possible to search thousands (if not millions) of books.
NINES and other initiatives are building communities of digital
humanities scholars, portals to content, and mechanisms for
conducting peer review of digital scholarship. To encourage
digital scholarship, the NEH recently launched a funding
program. Meanwhile, scholars are blogging, putting up videos
on YouTube, and using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2008

Hosted at University of Oulu

Oulu, Finland

June 25, 2008 - June 29, 2008

135 works by 231 authors indexed

Conference website: http://www.ekl.oulu.fi/dh2008/

Series: ADHO (3)

Organizers: ADHO

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