Blog Post

Matt Gold and DH Community-Building

Matt Gold and DH Community-Building

If you go to any given Digital Humanities event in New York City, you are likely to hear someone thank Matt Gold for lending his guidance, support, and expertise to their work. And rightly so: Matthew K. Gold, Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), has played a crucial role in empowering digital humanists at CUNY, in NYC, and beyond.

At the Graduate Center, Matt holds teaching appointments in the Ph.D. Program in English, the M.A. Program in Liberal Studies (MALS), and the doctoral certificate programs in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and American Studies. His research and teaching interests center on the digital humanities, scholarly communication, pedagogy, digital rhetoric, and nineteenth-century American literature. Matt is the Director of the CUNY Academic Commons & Co-Editor (with Lauren F. Klein) of Debates in the Digital Humanities (Minnesota, 2012) and he leads a number of digital initiatives at the Graduate Center (roles including but not limited to: Advisor to the Provost for Digital Initiatives, Co-Director of the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative, Director of the GC Digital Scholarship Lab, and Director of the GC Digital Fellows Program). As this list should attest, Matt is deeply invested in establishing DH as an academic field within the university.

I sat down with Matt to talk about his experience in the world of HASTAC and the past, present, and future of digital scholarship more generally. But--we were meeting on the eve of the inaugural NYCDH Week and couldn’t help but talk about the upcoming events. For months, the NYCDH Steering Committee (of which Matt is a member) had been organizing a week-long program of workshops, lightning talks, and social events to take place on campuses and libraries throughout New York City. Participants from each of the area universities and the GLAM community shared their digital research and learned new tools together. Writing about the event in retrospect, I can affirm that it was exactly the kind of multi-level cross-institutional collaboration that is the hallmark of the HASTAC Community.

Of course, Matt was enthusiastic about the upcoming week and was looking forward to having the time and space to build relationships with scholars. Our conversation about NYCDH Week opened up a broader thread about the importance of online community and collaboration in the Digital Humanities. Matt explained that HASTAC emerged as a way to build cross-institutional relationships with scholars invested in digital research and pedagogy. HASTAC, along with the CUNY Academic Commons “enables conversation at all levels and builds community from the ground up.” If you’re not familiar with the CUNY system, it is a public university spread out across twenty-four campuses. Even within the same CUNY umbrella, organizing with like-minded scholars and professionals outside of your university walls could be next to impossible. Matt was frustrated with the way information was siloed within the bounds of each campus. Accordingly, the CUNY Academic Commons emerged as a way to communicate across these campus divides. The CUNY Commons, like HASTAC, combines the "productivity oriented features of social networking" and "collaborative academic work." Beyond enabling communication, these online hubs give individuals a way to organize, collaborate, and share digital research and tools.

Nevertheless, these online communities are susceptible to a kind of de facto segregation; people seek out conversations and resources within their own fields or areas of interest. Matt identified HASTAC’s themed conversations as a way to remedy this kind of line-drawing.

Matt is certainly an established facilitator of the DH community (both on- and offline); moreover, his own scholarship has helped to establish Digital Humanities as an academic field within the university. Notably, his Debates in the Digital Humanities “brings together leading figures in the field to explore its theories, methods, and practices and to clarify its multiple possibilities and tensions [and] delineates the current state of the digital humanities and envisions potential futures and challenges.” Starting as a print volume in 2012, Matt and his team transitioned to a hybrid form of “an expanded, ongoing digital publication stream that the Press plans to draw upon to publish both future editions of collection and other publications on more focused DH topics.” In both form and content, Debates in the Digital Humanities is a foundational text in the emerging literature of the digital humanities.

Matt describes our present as a “hybrid moment” in the humanities, meaning that digital humanities scholarship has a foothold and is challenging traditional academic practices to keep step with new ways of reading and sharing information. More specifically, his current project, Manifold Scholarship, which is supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, builds on the successful transformation of the Debates in the Digital Humanities to reinvent the scholarly monograph using new digital tools. The project proposes to create books that are “dynamic, revised, and expanded to reflect the evolution of academic thought and research, incorporating access to primary research documents and data, links to related archives, rich media, social media, and reading tools.” What is more, Manifold hopes to publish scholarly work iteratively--which opens up allows readers to engage directly with sources and interpretation, ultimately, opening up this process to collaboration. As someone who is currently writing a dissertation in the hope that it will someday be transformed into a book, I am thankful to have Matt Gold at the helm of this project of innovative publishing. Imagine the possibilities of including dynamic maps, interactive network analysis, and other data visualizations at work alongside the more static medium of print! This project has the potential to enliven even the most established practices of humanities scholarship.

If all of this weren’t enough, Matt is also working on an “Intro to DH” book that will serve as a primer for students just dipping their toes into the field. This book would be the perfect tool for an undergraduate course in the digital humanities.  

Throughout our conversation, Matt reinforced HASTAC’s crucial tenet of collaboration and community. Similarly aligned with HASTAC, he uses the digital humanities to change the way we teach and learn. I would be remiss not to echo so many others in thanking Matt for his helpful guidance and support throughout our conversation. Not only was he knowledgeable and willing to share stories from his own path, but he also took the time to offer specific advice related to my digital scholarship and pedagogy. You would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable, networked, and all-around generous DH scholar than Matt Gold.


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