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.