Blog Post

HASTAC III Panel Session: Born Digital Scholarship: New Strategies, Projects and Possibilities

Tara McPherson (Universityof Southern California) began by describing her own "escape" from her formeridentity as a literary scholar, emphasizing the need for humanities scholars inthe field of computing. She advocated a more involved approach in which thehumanities scholar moves beyond the role of "content provider" towardscollaborative efforts and new forms of authorship; ideally, the digital humanitiesscholar "should write AND visualize theory" rather than perpetuating oldconventions.

With the multinational potential of scholarship in thedigital humanities, the impetus is on us as scholars to think about what wewant to do and what kinds of audiences we hope to reach. As editor of thejournal Vectors (,McPherson deals with innovative projects that could not exist in traditionalprint formats, such as the collaborative work "Killer Entertainments" byJennifer Terry and Raegan Terry that displays video produced by soldiers inIraq in an interactive interface.

"Killer Entertainments" (

Wendy Chun (BrownUniversity) described her concept of a new theory within media studies, "runningtheory," that modifies Lovink and Wark's argument for "theory on the run" (atheory that travels along the same media vectors as the material it engages)and recasts theory as the site of an alliance in which theoretical andtechnological questions are merged. Her project "Programmed Visions" plays withthe idea of race as origins, as some form of programmability similar tosoftware.

"Programmed Visions"(

Craig Dietrich (Universityof Maine) focused on effective management of resources, including servers,code, server farms, electricity, oil, but also people (programmers, writers andscholars), in his thoughts about digital humanities projects. Collaborationsbetween people in different fields can ideally create projects are distributedand networked in innovative ways. His project "Thoughtmesh" provides a way forscholars to generate their own tags linking their work to the work of others tocreate new networks.

Another project currently being developed at the Universityof Maine deals with the problem of archiving online projects and material; byworking with artists and creators to develop collaboration and documentation oftheir projects, Dietrich hopes to document the ways in which culture can bepreserved.

"Thoughmesh" (

Sharon Daniel (Universityof California at Santa Cruz) views herself as a "context-provider" rather thana "content-provider." Her work on "Public Secrets" and the upcoming project "BloodSugar" expand the definition of who constitutes the public, traversing theboundaries between inside and outside, public and private. "Public Secrets"reveals the secret injustices of the penal system through an interactiveinterface of over 600 linked and interconnected statements by female prisoners."Blood Sugar" is the result of many hours of conversation with drug users whouse the needle exchange offered by an HIV education and prevention program; theconversations are preserved intact, unlike "Public Secrets," and are linkedthrough "parasitic connections and the space they inhabit."

"Public Secrets"(


During the Q&A session that followed, one audiencemember asked about the friction between the work produced and the ways in whichit is evaluated in academia, as well as the idea of scholarship as practicerather than as representation.

McPherson noted that there are fields in which differentmodels for evaluation exist, such as screenwriters who are evaluated forscreenplays that never got produced as well as for those that did, and architectswho are evaluated for their models or plans.  For her, the question of producing newmechanisms is reinforced by humanities' awareness of its own waning relevance.

Daniel mentioned that while she feels lucky to inhabit atype of hybrid space since artists not pressured to publish scholarship, born-digitalworks are rarely exhibited in museums and commercial galleries.

For Chun, collaboration and networking is the key. The ideaof alliance and the need for projects to be in contact with each other ispivotal, since change will not happen from just one group alone.



(Note, reply post edited to correct missing text from the recent HASTAC website migration.)

Thank you Kathleen for your wonderful account of the panel, "Born Digital Scholarship: New Strategies, Projects and Possibilities"!

Following-up on a couple topics discuss both live and here: mentioned above, "Another project currently being developed at the University of Maine deals with the problem of archiving online projects and material; by working with artists and creators to develop collaboration and documentation of their projects, Dietrich hopes to document the ways in which culture can be preserved."  The project being mentioned is the Variable Media Questionnaire, presently in production by the Forging the Future group (


Hi Kathleen, Thanks for the great liveblogs of the conference panels!