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Reframing Digital Humanities: Conversations with Digital Humanists

Reframing Digital Humanities

Reframing Digital Humanities: Conversations with Digital Humanists is an open educational resource (OER) inspired by the Reframing History Podcast.  While I can say much about this project, my comments from the introduction capture the project well (I hope!).

I see Reframing Digital Humanities: Conversations with Digital Humanists as a continuation of my community-centric digital humanities praxis. While there are some big ideas involved, I can trace the podcast at the heart of this project to 2017.  My colleague Scot French and I were approached to rewrite the public history narrative for Winter Park, Florida.  This request, from representatives of several cultural institutions in the city, was the direct result of years of community-based historical work. Understanding the African American experience in Central Florida, which I came to describe as the “Black Social World,” inspired a public digital humanities praxis guided by an ongoing community engagement ethos. Some of the digital projects, such as Advocated Recovered, a digital recovery project that gathers the remnants of a Republican newspaper printed by Gus C. Henderson, an African American printer and community leader, easily fix within a broader set of black digital humanities ideas. As I reflected on the goals of that work, balancing community needs against measurable academic benchmarks was a struggle.  Like many of my colleagues, I came to see my digital work within a generative scholarship model.  I worked with student collaborators to create digital projects that documented, preserved, and presented narratives linked to the black experience. Projects investigating the Black Social World in Central Florida highlighted Zora Neale Hurston’s ties to the region, the strange lynching case of Oscar Mack, and considerations of urban development in Central Florida.

Reframing History was inspired by the idea of providing a public narrative about work rooted in the community and relying on digital practice. Season one of Reframing History documented our efforts to tell that local history story and called my attention to how the challenge of definition around digital humanities, which is understood somewhat within academia, is a worthwhile public scholarship project. Thus, season 2 of Reframing History became a series of conversations with scholars about digital humanities. To create the list of interviewees, I relied on my own digital past and present. As such, I cannot argue that the conversations are encyclopedic or vital actors that might define digital humanities in meaningful ways that were not omitted. If you are coming to this project searching for certainty, you will be disappointed. What I can say is, within the confines of the limitations of my knowledge and experience with digital humanities practice, this set of conversations touched on many of the issues I find to be crucial to understanding the values of digital humanities.

The conversations in Part I: Visioning Digital Humanities were with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Rob Nelson, Sharon Leon, and Kathryn Tomasek and they offer through their experience a framing of the hope for the digital to enhance the public’s engagement with the humanities comes into view.  Part II: Identity and Digital Humanities highlights how recovering voices and surfacing patterns in our collective lived experience can be achieved through digital means. Scholars such as Maryemma Graham, Hilary Green, Dhanashree Thorat, and Roopika Risam are doing that work and offer crucial perspectives on the ideas that drive them and the implications for public knowledge. Part III: Cultural Reproduction and Digital Humanities offer a way to think about how that public knowledge equation manifest as scholars utilize the digital to further their work.  Concluding this work with a conversation with the members of CEDAR seems both appropriate and timely. Our discussion about what DH can do continues the process of visioning we are doing. I think we all recognize the impact of the COVID pandemic will be with us for years to come, and the place digital humanities will play in the future needs to be considered carefully.

As a transcript derived from a recording, I hope you will recognize that we took pains to try to maintain the integrity of the subject’s words while attempting to make a conversation understood in written form. In the end, I think we managed to accomplish the goal of archiving these meaningful conversations.

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