When I got my HASTAC Scholars email on Friday, I immediately wanted to share the news not only on twitter, where people ‘got’ it, but also with my family back home in Pittsburgh:
“Hey, mum! I have some good news: I got this fellowship-thingy!”
“Oh, cool!...What is it?”
“It’s for this group called HASTAC that looks at the convergence, essentially of the old world and the new world.”
“Speak English, please.”
“It’s like, putting bodies of research online in an innovative, accessible way that enhances the content.”
“So making websites? You already do that.”
It immediately became clear to me that I had almost no idea how to explain the Digital Humanities to the woman who brought me into this world. My mother, brilliant though she may be, cannot find the “Start” button on a PC interface, much less utilize a collaborative DH tool to analyze data.
Since one of the main precepts of the growing DH field is to make vast repositories of information accessible to a large audience, I think that this question of how one ought to go about describing it to those unrelated is important.
Only a year ago, I was one of those entirely unrelated; it wasn’t until one of my mentors invited me to sit on his faculty advisory board for pedagogy and technology that I even heard the words in the same sentence.
As it turns out, Penn State’s French and Francophone Studies department was not acquainted with this movement, either; when I included in my honors undergraduate thesis proposal that I would like to submit my work on Alphonse Mucha’s menu illustrations in an interactive, sensory, multi-layered online format, le département scoffed, dismissing my proposal as “quelques images dans un site-web” (“A few images on a website”).
Luckily for me, my thesis advisor is willing to go with the flow and let me do the online component of my presentation so long as I still submit a physical paper to keep le département from sacre bleu!-ing in my face!
So, I turn to you, my fellow Nerd Herders: how do you explain what it is that you do to your loved ones and your academic units?
As someone who only wants to dig deeper and deeper into the world of DH, I’d like to get this straight sooner rather than later!