Undergraduate Journal of Humanistic Studies

The very first issue of the Carleton Undergraduate Journal of Humanistic Studies is officially out! To access the journal, go to go.carleton.edu/ujhs. We are very excited to present eight pieces of scholarship from across the humanities disciplines. This project was the result of many hours of hard work and collaboration.

As a digital humanities project, this endeavor taught me many lessons about organization, collaboration, and planning. This journal has been a long time in the making, starting in the middle of last summer. Since that time, the project has taken on new members and grown significantly. We are currently accepting applications for next year’s editorial board and planning for the future.

Some of the greatest lessons I have learned from this project are as follows:

1. Organize, organize, organize! All projects must walk that fine line between details and the big picture. However, keeping documentation and having consistent policies made a huge difference in our process. We created a Google drive folder for our journal and started taking weekly meeting notes. This makes it easy to review what we have discussed and find our old notes.

2. Know when to set details aside. There were times when discussions about very specific points set our meetings back and we ended up spending a long time thinking about a minor issue. It’s important to keep these issues in mind but sometimes necessary to abandon them in order to keep things moving.

3. Seek help. We had lots of extremely productive conversations with our faculty advisors and research librarians. These conversations helped us better understand the process and provided us with valuable insight.

4. Communication is key. We experimented with different ways of communicating with our guest editors and making sure that all of our papers were edited on time. We are still trying to figure out the best way to ensure that deadlines are met.

5. Delegate. When we divided the work amongst ourselves, we had much greater success. Particularly with the copy editing process at the end of the project, delegation proved extremely helpful.

This project has proved to be an exciting part of my undergraduate career and I am so excited to see where the journal goes in the future!

ARLD Day 2015

One of the most exciting pieces of the digital humanities is the chance to engage in scholarly discussions about the future of digital scholarship. I had the amazing chance to take part in some of those discussions at the 2015 Minnesota Academic and Research Libraries Divisions Day (ARLD Day). This experience definitely gave me some food for thought about the future of DH at Carleton. The theme of the conference was the open library and was integrated in a variety of different ways throughout the day.

The beautiful Minnesota Landscape Arboretum where the conference was held


The day began with a keynote address by Stephanie Davis-Kahl. She discussed the need for academic libraries to be open and accessible to encourage intellectual entrepreneurship. A spirit of entrepreneurship manifests itself when students, faculty, and staff take risks in order to seize opportunities. For us as DHAs, I think this is particularly important. Most of our work falls directly in the category of intellectual entrepreneurship and it is the element of the unknown that makes our work both exciting and difficult.

Davis-Kahl’s talk was organized around three key processes that make up the endeavor of intellectual entrepreneurship: imitation, assimilation, and innovation. Each of these pieces of the entrepreneurial process is important. However, I think innovation is probably where the most excitement as DHAs lies, for it is in innovation that we have the most opportunity to create and put our own ideas into the process.

I also attended a breakout session. The first focused on the future of the role of academic libraries and definitely gave me insight into the challenges academic librarians are currently facing. After a quick wander through the arboretum (how could I go to a garden and not take a walk?) I presented together with other staff and students from Gould Library. Our presentation highlighted the importance of involving students in the work of the library and how both students and the library benefit from this collaboration.

Students and staff celebrating a successful presentation at ARLD day


Writing for the Web

Keep it simple, interesting, and brief. These are three key points on writing for the web, as delivered by Carleton’s own Doug Bratland last Thursday.

This talk was particularly applicable to our blog, as we are obviously writing for the web here. In this post I am trying to apply some of the key points from the talk, such as:

  1. Use lists to highlight key points
  2. Employ bolding to make posts scannable 
  3. Keep writing clear and engaging
  4. Remember your audience

As students at Carleton, it is particularly difficult to transition out of academic writing into writing for the web. Looking back at some of my previous posts, I can see that I sometimes struggled to keep my posts concise and focused.

Writing for the web is particularly important for digital humanities. Oftentimes DH projects occupy a fine line presenting complex scholarship online and making that scholarship accessible and interesting for the web. This is one of the greatest challenges but also one of the most exciting areas of DH work.

Carleton Undergraduate Journal of Humanistic Studies

I have been part of an initiative on campus to set up an online research journal for the humanities and our website just recently went live! We are soliciting papers that present original, polished research. This is a fabulous opportunity for students at Carleton to get their work published, as well as to engage with and practice the peer review process. I recently spoke at the Language and Teaching Center lunch about our project and I thought I would share some of my presentation here.

We chose an online journal format because we want to ensure ease of access to our journal and we are also excited to eventually collaborate with other undergraduate institutions. We are currently working on the formatting and production of a standardized PDF template in LaTex. We are hoping to have high-quality, uniform PDFs that can be downloaded from the web site. But we also want to retain the online reading experience and keep full text of the articles online. Some of the biggest challenges I foresee in this project are dealing with citations and footnotes, particularly as we are accepting papers from a wide variety of disciplines.

Right now our team consists of six editorial board members. We are in the process of accepting submissions and are excited to produce our first issue. Our goal is to get out of the first issue by midterms Spring term.

Online Journals and DH Work

Yesterday I attended a Learning Communities meeting focused on the rise of online journals and what they mean for digital scholarship. The meeting raised many interesting issues surrounding the scholarly record. One of the most important issues discussed was the idea of open access publishing. Previously I had very little knowledge of the idea of open access. I decided to do a bit of research. The idea behind open access publication is to give everyone equal access to scholarly work. Open access is a reaction to the increase in price of subscriptions to academic journals. If an author writes an article and wishes it to be open access, they must either deposit it into a digital repository or publish it with an open access journal. The first option is known as “green” open access and the second “gold.” Digital repositories can be associated with an academic institution (institutional repositories) or can be independent of an institution.

Another exciting concept discussed at the meeting was the use of digital object identifiers (DOIs). DOIs are kind of like ISBN numbers with tons of metadata attached to them. DOIs can be imbedded into online publications to make it incredibly easy to jump from an article to its cited material. They are an exciting new way of organizing information online and provide one extremely concrete benefit of online journals.

One important piece of the discussion surrounding digital publications is the very nature of the publications themselves. Are online journals to serve merely as web-based content, in essence simply putting the print journal into a new, online format? Or is it the role of online journals to transform traditional methods of scholarship, creating new formats for displaying research? With digital humanities projects, this question is particularly poignant. Most DH projects are not suitable for showcase in print or even online journals, as most DH research extends beyond the journal article (indeed, that is, some would argue, the point of DH work). However, DH projects still deserve to be highlighted and included in the discourse of scholarship. How can digital publications serve DH projects? One idea is the project gallery, an online collection of DH projects, such as we have created on our blog. However, this gallery serves only to present projects and really does not offer the opportunity for peer review or scholarly discussions.

As DH progressives, there are many new questions to answer about how scholarship will be preserved and presented. There are lots of new and excited things to think about, as well as some large challenges to tackle.

Steve Hindle and Digital Scholarship

“The computer screen has provided a shaft of light that will illuminate, not eliminate, the book.”

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a joint A&I class session with guest Steve Hindle, the W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at the Hutington Library in California. The purpose of the class was to encourage students to think about the nature of digital scholarship today, conceptualizing both its incredible value and some of its shortcomings. For the digital humanities, there are a few points from the class that I think are particularly valuable.

1. Digitization as Means of Conservation: Steve made some very interesting points about the incredible value of digitizing a document as a means of preservation. However, he also pointed out the potential damage that can be caused by high power cameras, as well as the limited guarantee of readability of digital formats in the future.

2. Democratization of Resources: One of the areas of DH that most excites me is the opportunity DH provides to open resources to broader audiences, providing nearly instant access across the world. Here Steve touched on one of my favorite topics, the dominance of English language sources in digital collections (see my post on DH around the world) and the necessity to encourage the digitization of materials in other languages.

3. Monetization of Resources: Along with the rise of access to materials comes the complex question of paying for those sources. Certainly, many of the resources that are currently being digitized are not available to all and require either affiliation with a university or money to access. This raises the interesting question: who should be able to access what? and who should make those decisions?

4. Materiality of Resources: How do we preserve the reading experience of a print text in an online format? Certainly, there are aspects of digitization that enhance reading experience. For example, with digital technology, we can get closer to resources than ever before. High resolution images allow us to zoom in on specific areas of a map and we can handle documents over and over again without damaging them. However, it is crucial to recognize that a 17th century manuscript was created to be read as a manuscript, to be held in someone’s hands, to be leafed through. Preserving that experience is one of the biggest challenges of digitization.

5. Digital Methods of Scholarship: One of the biggest debates currently waging in DH is the question of DH’s role in creating scholarship. Should all projects that use digital resources be classified as DH? Or should projects be required to use digitization as part of the methodology for the research? In other words, is a digital representation of humanities scholarship DH? Or does DH require digital resources as the main tools for creating that scholarship? I think Steve did an excellent job of addressing this question in discussing digital technology in terms of means and ends. Digital technology should be a means to an end, not the end itself. Thus, scholarship must actively engage with digital technology but should not abandon traditional research methods. Merely employing digital technology without critically accessing the results does not create a valuable DH project.

This was a very memorable talk and I greatly enjoyed thinking about some of the questions associated with the digital humanities and scholarship. I think such conversations about the role of digitization in the future are crucial.


Russian 205 Moodle Project

I spent most of last fall and winter working on creating an electronic version of an assignment for Russian 205. The assignment is a long-term task that requires students to watch clips from a Soviet movie, Courier, and then interact with those clips in a variety of different ways, from answering multiple choice questions to writing short answers to interpreting artwork and music. For many reasons, the course as a paper assignment made little sense. From the student perspective, it was difficult for students to access the video clips. From a professor standpoint, it was difficult to grade all of those paper tasks. I worked together with Russian professor Anna Dotlibova and Carleton student James Browning to update this assignment using the Moodle online platform. Moodle gave us an online interface that allowed us to expand the activities students could complete, as well as better adapt the assignment to fit students’ needs.

To get a better feel for the project, see the above video.

This project highlights some of the best aspects of DH at Carleton. As a DHA, I was able to work closely with faculty to develop this project. The collaborative element of the project was one of the most important pieces, as James and I had both taken the course for which we were creating this Moodle assignment and could thus provide feedback about what the best practices would be from a student perspective. Furthermore, this project allowed us to harness the powers of digital technology to create something that not only allowed for ease of access but also changed the way in which students experience this assignment.

I learned from this project crucial lessons about time management and working under a strict deadline (we were trying to finish the Moodle course in time for the winter 2014 term, a goal I am happy to report we met). The project also gave me a wonderful opportunity to further my computing skills. I learned about HTML, Moodle, and creating logical organizational structures for material online. This project really caused me to think about the ways in which DH can be used in the classroom and I greatly enjoyed working on it.

DH Around the World (Part II)

quantifying DH

I shared this infographic last week in its full form (see my post) but I want to devote a little more attention to the interesting issue of digital humanities research around the world. In the above image (cropped from the original to focus on the map), it is easy to recognize the dominance of DH in English-speaking parts of the world. As Isabel Gallina Russell claims in her article in Literary and Linguistic Computing, recent debates surrounding DH have necessarily shifted the line of thought from “what do we do” and “why do we do it” to “who is we” (Russell 2014). Russell argues that, for all its rhetoric of openness and a desire to engage in cross-cultural dialogue, DH remains dominated by a handful of English-speaking countries. She also positively acknowledges that members of the DH community recognize this dominance and are seeking to broaden the scope of DH scholarship. Exactly how digital humanists will go about making DH more inclusive requires some thought.

Russell’s article raises the difficulty of quantifying digital humanities around the world. The above infographic was creating using voluntary submissions and thus may not accurately reflect the breadth of DH work occurring across the globe. As such, Russell first calls for greater attempts to quantify what DH work is being done around the world and to welcome new voices into the DH conversation. Here Russell points to the importance of international DH events and online forums such as Twitter. She also highlights the issue of privileging English scholarship in DH work and the need for native English speakers to recognize their privilege in engaging in academic conversations in their native language.

Why does any of this matter for the DH work we do at Carleton? First of all, we need to recognize that, as we engage in conversations about DH and the changes that are so rapidly occurring in the humanities, we are entering a worldwide discussion that takes place through a variety of platforms and uses a multitude of languages. Second, I think we need to use DH to do more to research across traditional boundaries of time, space, and language. After all, the excitement of DH lies in engaging with the humanities in new and different ways than we have before. Our projects should strive to look at issues in new ways and to harness the potential of DH to ask different questions. Finally, we should not assume that we are alone. While there is certainly a need to develop DH in other parts of the world, conversations about DH are occurring everywhere. The difficultly lies in hearing them. I am so excited to be part of these discussions and to seek out new voices for collaboration.

Note: My interest in this topic came about as the result of research into the development of DH in Russia as an extension of my interest in Russian language and culture. It may be of some interest that conversations about цифровые гуманитанрые науки (DH) are indeed occurring in Russia. A very interesting initiative for Innovative Educational Technologies in Russia and Abroad recently publishing an interesting article looking at the effects of DH on teaching literature at the university level. It is these kinds of discussions that make me so excited about the potential for DH to reach across traditional boundaries and engage in fascinating conversations.

We’re On Twitter!

Much discussion about the digital humanities takes place on Twitter. In fact, here is an info-graphic illustrating the Twitter network of digital humanists, as compiled by Martin Grand Jean. To read the full article in which the graphic appears, click here



To get an idea of the discussion that takes place around DH on Twitter, check out this list of tweets (#digitalhumanities).

If you are so inclined, you can follow us 

Quantifying DH Around the World

While searching for an image to use for our blog home page, I ran across this wonderful info graphic from the University College London  that provides a great way to visualize the work being done in the Digital Humanities across the world. Take a look (or to give it the attention it really deserves, click here to access a PDF version.)