Introducing The SLAS Digital Humanities Working Group
In September 2021, the SLAS Digital Humanities Working Group held the first of what we hope to be many collaborative workshops to explore some of the key challenges faced by researchers in the area of Digital Humanities. Our hope, in the near future, is to create a network of projects and bank of resources to support members and friends of the SLAS community who are discovering, exploring, or reflecting on the ins and outs of Digital Humanities.
Among other things, the workshop raised three key areas of debate: the ethics of knowledge creation, sustainability and timeframes, and the increasingly nebulous matter of impact. Here, we summarise these key points and the questions they raised.
Ethics & Knowledge Creation
Digitising data and making it openly accessible comes with its own ethical challenges. First, researchers have a responsibility to the artefacts and individuals that are providing the data, both of which the researcher is responsible for protecting from over-exposure. Second, given the transient nature of online content, it is important to maintain a dialogue between the physical and the digital, such as through workshops and feedback cycles.
How do we maintain a two-way dialogue with the data provider?
How do we ensure accessibility, in particular relating to multiple languages?
How do we integrate crowdsourcing mechanisms into data collection? And how might we ensure the reliability of crowdsourced information?
Do digital resources need quality oversight akin to traditional peer-review procedures?
How do we balance academic rigor and accessibility?
Sustainability & Timeframes
It is important to keep in mind that the digital archives, outputs, and tools we create as researchers are not permanent. No data host can ensure their permanence; there may even be expiry dates. It is important to think of them as something constantly in flux, in need of updating and reshaping. If digital projects are constantly in flux, it can be hard to know when a ‘finished product’ has been achieved. The nature of online or digital data means that the timeframe and end point of the research process - a rabbit hole in some cases - can be difficult to define. Even then, it is important to be open to feedback from users which can also lead to further adaptions.
How do we design and ensure the legacy and lifespan of digital materials?
How we you ensure that the lifetime of resources is compatible with the capacities and interests of sponsors and data hosts?
As impact increasingly becomes a measure of ‘success’, and the potential for impact becomes an important criteria for funders, it is important to ask how impact can be measured and communicated when it comes to digital methods, tools, and the presentation of data.
How do we make digital resources fit for academic referencing? How do we store and present data in ways that is most useful for both academic and non-academic users?
How do we ensure and measure the “impact” of a digital resource? What are the tools and means of integrating evaluation into the project?
How can we make a digital repository visible to others? How might we engage potential users and encourage user feedback as part of the project?
We are also aware that ‘Digital Humanities’ can encompass analysis of ‘born-digital’ objects, the use of digitally-available archives and even digital ethnographies. We sought to encourage dialogue and opportunities for shared reflection from those creating and analysing digital objects.
To support the wider community in contemplating some of these topics, the SLAS Digital Humanities Working Group is working to collect and share reflections from those who have been there. From proposal writing and costings to lessons learned along the way, we are inviting colleagues to share their experiences of digital project management. We are also hoping to organise a Digital Humanities Roundtable during the SLAS Conference in April 2022, which you can register for here.
Jo Crow, Jo.Crow@bristol.ac.uk
Anna Grimaldi, email@example.com
Patience Schell, firstname.lastname@example.org