Blog Post

My current set of questions about scholarship in the digital humanities

I am so pleased and excited to be the HASTAC scholar affiliated with Vanderbilt's Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities for 2013-2014!  

In anticipation of the opportunities I'll have this year both to think about digital humanities and to work to foster digital humanities on Vanderbilt's campus, I thought it might be helpful for me to lay out a few of my current questions.  Perhaps this will turn into something of a framework for my year, and perhaps it will simply be a thought exercise and launching pad for other ideas...either way, here goes:

My current set of questions (as of September 2013) about scholarship in the digital humanities:

  1. What are the best strategies for spreading the word about digital projects?  I'm constantly discovering new digital projects that interest me and that might be of use to my scholarship in early modern English religious history.  I know this is true for scholars in other fields, as well.  How can I--as both a user and a developer of digital projects in the humanities--effectively help students and scholars locate and use the many fantastic resources that are available?
  2. How can users most effectively incorporate what we gain from digital projects to our own research?  It is easy to see how certain resources, such as digital archives, can contribute to a variety of scholars' different research questions.  For instance, in my work I've made great use of Early English Books Online and the Clergy of the Church of England Database.  Yet what about projects that don't have such a close resemblance to traditional archives?  For example, I am fascinated by, and have learned much from the excellent Virtual Paul's Cross Project, but I have not yet quite found a way to incorporate the aspects of its more experiential format into my research and writing.  I'm working on it!
  3. How can developers of digital projects plan for and foster the use of their tools in a variety of ways?  This is sort of a corollary to the preceding question.  In addition to scholars working to imagine ways that various digital tools can enhance their work, how can developers plan, from the beginning of a project, to provide tools that can be of use to a variety of scholarly questions and approaches?
  4. What about social media? For all my enthusiasm and interest in digital projects (I use digital humanities resources on a daily basis, have some programming background, have worked to enhance or construct several web sites, and am currently learning GIS) I am not--yet--a big user of social media.  HASTAC has prompted me to begin blogging and tweeting, so I'm looking forward to learning more about how this aspect of digital communications can foster collegiality, scholarship, and teaching.
  5. What is the current state of field of digital humanities?  Together with Mona Frederick, my HASTAC mentor from the Robert Penn Warren Center, I will be reading through Debates in the Digital Humanities edited by Matthew K. Gold (University of Minnesota Press, 2012).  I look forward to reading, discussing, and blogging about the issues raised in this volume by several key scholars in the digital humanities.
  6. How do I make a GIS map?  The above questions are largely theoretical; this one is eminently practical.  Over the course of the year, I have the opportunity to work to enhance the Robert Penn Warren Center's digital archive, Who Speaks for the Negro?  As I learn to use the new-to-me technology of GIS, I will be developing an interactive map that will appear on the site.  I'm really looking forward to being part of this project!

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list--but it is a start.  I'm eager to see what the year holds and how I will develop my thinking and abilities in each of these areas over the coming months...and beyond.

[Update Oct 1 2013: I added this to the 2014 Scholars group.]


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