DCW Volume 1 Issue 10 – Conference Roundup: DH & SHEAR

by Korey Jackson on July 27, 2012

This week’s DCW offers field reports from two key humanities and DH conferences: the Digital Humanities annual meeting in Hamburg and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAr) meeting at UC Santa Barbara.

Please join the conversation by adding comments and questions below!

DH Convenes in Hamburg
Miriam Posner

I’m still reeling a little from jet lag, having recently returned from the big annual digital humanities conference, called simply Digital Humanities. This year DH was in Hamburg, good news for the currywurst-lovers among us.

DH is big, at least for a DH event; this year’s conference hosted about 500 attendees. It’s much more conference-like than most digital humanities events, with your standard concurrent presentations and plenaries. As is the DH Way, however, it’s a very friendly event, with little of the grandstanding or jockeying for position often in evidence at academic conferences. Reflecting its roots in literary and linguistic computing, presentations at DH tend toward the, well, literary and linguistic, but the conference is large enough that there’s something for everyone. And importantly, it’s a truly international event, with attendees from all over the world. DH2012 was, I must say, a beautifully organized event. Our tote bags featured universal power adapters and umbrellas (much appreciated on rainy Hamburg days), and videos of presentations went up on the website head-spinningly quickly.

Those amenities, however, come at a price. As the Alliance for Digital Humanities Organizations, the umbrella organization associated with the event, is well aware, cost is a big issue for DH. Registration ranged from €50 for student members to €380 for non-members. Bursaries are available to help defray the cost of travel for students, but of course they’re limited in number. The price tag and the location may have had something to do with the disjunct between the conference’s theme, “Digital Diversity,” and the racial makeup of the crowd. As I learned later, I wasn’t the only one squirming uncomfortably as speakers praised the conference’s theme.

Fortunately, you can judge the conference yourself, since the ever-diligent organizers have posted videos of most of the presentations on the conference website. You might particularly enjoy the Fortier prize-winning (and much buzzed-about) “Patchworks and Field-Boundaries: Visualizing the History of English,” a presentation by University of Glasgow professor Marc Alexander.

And a link round-up of reactions to DH 2012:
Jennifer Giuliano, “DH Internationally: Dispatches from Hamburg
The DH2012 Student Assistants’ Blog
Peter Dängeli, “Some Thoughts on the Diversity of DH 2012
Josh Honn, “#DH2012
Enrico Natale, “Digital Humanities 2012 Hamburg – Poster session” (in French)
Thomas Thiel, “Eine empirische Wende für die Geisteswissenschaften?

Historians Go Digital, Again
Kathryn Tomasek

At last week’s annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR), outgoing and incoming Presidents Andrew Cayton of Miami University and Patricia Cline Cohen of the University of California, Santa Barbara, hosted a session on SHEAR and Social Media. They had been prompted to hold a discussion on the topic when a group of young historians brought forward a proposal about improving the web presence of the organization.

H-Net book review editors W. Caleb McDaniel of Rice University and Brian Luskey of West Virginia University spoke for the authors of the proposal. They noted that a number of people had tweeted sessions from last year’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. Beginning last year, a group collected the tweets in a Google spreadsheet, and they did so again this year.

Cayton, who is now the immediate past president, spoke in support of bringing the organization into the twenty-first century, and the audience agreed. I tweeted the session, and the tweets are collected in a Storify I’ve called “Organizational Adaptation.” (I’m less than thrilled with the result since I was the only person tweeting the session. @dpmckenzie bowed out, much to my chagrin. I hope I’m not a Twitter bully in conference sessions. Should we have a discussion on this?)

As you can see from the Storify, the narrative of SHEAR’s move to a broader web presence definitely speaks more to adaptation than it does to any kind of first step towards the digital. The organization has had a website for some time, and most of the members use email and read the book reviews on H-Net.

And yet, social media seems a bit like uncharted territory to the folks senior enough for the presidency of the organization. Cayton made self-deprecatory comments about age more than once, noting that the presidents will need guidance from younger historians more comfortable with Twitter and Facebook.

I’m interested in a few things about these discussions. First, the leaders of the organization are happy to adapt as digital tools change. Second, they are marvelously open to sharing leadership with colleagues who are more adept at using new methods of communication. And finally, they are interested in new interactions that might open up as a result of an intentional adaptation to new tools.

Of course, Twitter and Facebook have been around long enough to be old hat to folks who are more comfortable with new media. One of the presidents told me later that they were shocked to hear someone say that Facebook might well be passé soon. I’m interested to see how scholarly organizations will continue to adapt as tools continue to come and go.

And here’s something to look forward to: Agitators on the Program Committee for #SHEAR13 are pushing for pecha kucha, a poster session, and at least a couple of sessions focused specifically on the digital early republic.

Please note that this post is a long way from being the first report about #SHEAR12 to hit the net. A blog post in Common-Place and a Vimeo were definitely there first, not to mention the tweets, of course.

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