Seminar on DH / Seminario de Humanidades Digitales

On Monday the “Seminario de Humanidades Digitales” will begin. It is organized by the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras here at the UNAM by Miriam Peña. I am pleased to be giving, together with Ernesto Priani, the first talk next Monday.  Spent the afternoon reading and working on this talk (and another that I have to give in June along the same lines at the UAM – Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana). As we discussed with Miriam, we are going to start very general. What is Digital Humanities? Unfortunately the general is not always the simple as there is an enormous proliferation of articles on this subject. In the end I like the approach of describing what we do, rather than what we are. It works for me now that we are basically just trying to introduce the concept of DH.

I am also going to talk about the Red de Humanidades Digitales, a DH association we founded here in Mexico over a year and a half ago. I was actually interviewed on national TV about the RedHD a couple of days ago. In general it seems that DH is definitely generating a lot of interest around here. We shall continue to work so that more people know about what is being done and also to find those out there who are doing DH but just don’t know it yet!

Ages of the Book

Second part of the day I was in another meeting, this time with the computing department of our Institute. Last year we organized Ages of the Book (Edades del Libro) international conference. The aim of the conference was to bring together specialists from diverse fields of study, such as written and printed culture, visual design and communication, editing and the publishing industry, history, literature and new technologies, for discussion of academic, scientific, technical and economic issues that will advance our knowledge on the written word throughout history. The conference was successful and we were really pleased with the response and the program in general. What was not successful were the digital tools that we had to support the organization of the conference. Basically we did it all with email (squirrel mail!) and Excel sheets. It was a nightmare!

So for Edades del Libro 2014 we insisted on a system to help us. In the end the computing department chose OCS (Open Conference System) which I am happy with. The meeting was to look at how they had set it up and discuss if we are ready to go. Looks like it is working ok and the CfP will be issued in September of this year and the conference held in October 2014.


Digital Humanities and Humanidades Digitales

I enjoy Day of DH. It always reminds me of getting back to school and being asked “what did you do over the holidays?”. You won’t have enough time to detail everything so whilst still remaining truthful you make a selection. The choices that you make represent you and your holiday to your classmates.The same is the case for Day of DH. There is no time (especially when you just looked at the clock and realized that is is quarter to four in the afternoon and you have still not posted) nor would it be of particular interest to detail every aspect of your day at work. And yet I am extremely interested in answering the question: what is it that Digital Humanists do? What do I select from my day that I believe is DHish activity?

Morning started off with a meeting of the Appraisal committee. We are currently designing something called a “Especialización”, a one year course for last year undergrads that allows them to specialize in a particular area. Ours is on Textual Collections and Heritage. This in turn is divided into four specific branches. How and why I ended up on the Appraisal committee is a very long story but what is important to mention now is that I am also on the Digital Humanities committee. Yep, I somehow managed to convince other members of the Institute that we should offer Humanities undergrads specializing in Textual collections and heritage a DH option. The great thing is that it happened almost organically.

The committee was originally called digital preservation and the objective was for students to specialize in digital textual collections. However, as we got started on the proposed curriculum it became clear that what we wanted to teach was so much more than just digital preservation. We wanted students to understand the whole process, from conception and implementation to dissemination of the digital textual collection. But we also wanted them to know what tools could be used to make these textual collections more useful. This also led to discussions about what constitutes an edition? How do we evaluate it? How do we keep it over time? How to combine technical and editorial decisions? When if ever, is this project finished? Long term sustainability? The committee soon realized that we needed a new name.

The difficulty was convincing them that Digital Humanities was the correct one. I spent a long time citing articles, established journals, naming centres and available MAs. In short, trying to prove that Humanidades Digitales was not a term that I had conjured up all by myself but that there was a serious and dedicated scholarly community behind it. The thing that finally tilted the balance in favour of DH was the fact that there will be a conference organized by the Humanidades Digitales Hispánicas, a newly formed primarily Spanish (as in from Spain) DH association. So although there was exists a very strong history of DH it is mainly in English and the committee it seems to me, felt more comfortable with the term when other Spanish speaking colleagues were using it to. Food for thought anyway.

This Especialización which includes the DH branch will in a few weeks be sent off to UNAM authorities. Let’s see what they think of the term.