During the first week of June I had the opportunity to participate in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, BC. As a graduate student with (very) basic knowledge on digital humanities, the DHSI with its bootcamp atmosphere proved to be a great place to start exploring the field and learning more about how to connect my research to technology. I took a course called "[Foundations] Making Choices About Your Data," with a group made of grad students and scholars in various moments of their careers. The instructors were extremely nice and experienced. The fact that they prepare an entire course and work for free with us is certainly impressive. What made me enjoy the DHSI even more was its collegial and friendly atmosphere. Despite being a large gathering of digital humanists, it did not feel overwhelming. It also made networking quite easy, as for instance, my class did not have more than fifteen people and I got to meet them everyday as we worked collaboratively.
Despite the bootcamp itself being the main reason to go to the DHSI, the entire week was packed with activities. From get-togethers with first time participants and graduate students, to unconferences (my first time participating in such a 'conference' format) with varied topics, it really opened my mind to the amount of work, tools and also challenges involved in digital humanities. Some of our class readings involved the ethics and concerns regarding the use of technology in humanistic research. A few of the questions the readings raised for me include: what technological tools are we using to examine people's cultures and experiences? To what extent is our work affecting the communities we study? How can we make sure technology does not hurt those who inspire our projects? I left Canada (also my first time in that beautiful country) reflecting about all these questions.
For students who decide to go next year, the DHSI offers tuition discounts if you apply in advance. I suggest checking their website in the fall (http://dhsi.org/) to see what the requirements are for it. Costs are likely not possible to cover with a grad student stipend (I believe some discussions were raised this year at the conference about accessibility because of costs, especially for grad students and part-time instructors). If your work involves technology the DHSI is definitely a great place to learn more about tools, software and programming languages available for humanities scholars and students. It also provides a good environment to meet friendly humanists, learn more about their projects and hopefully expand your research questions and/or methods of data analyses.