Ash McIntyre is NUPSA President, and a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities and Social Science.
In December, UON is hosting a very exciting series of workshops as part of a program called ‘DH Downunder’, all based within the quickly-growing field of Digital Humanities (DH). Why are we excited? Because DH is an area of study whose uses far exceed the limits of only humanities disciplines. It is a unique blending of digital technologies, IT, texts and media. You can study texts, learn various methods of data visualisation, create bots, build websites or apps, and delve into virtual reality.
If these things sound like fun to you, have a read below. If you find a workshop to your liking and attend, you can even add it to your CV as yet another of your many accomplishments!
We have interviewed Associate Professor Rachel Hendry to tell us more about DH, how it is applied, and how you can get involved.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Western Sydney University, and co-director of the Intergener8 Living Lab there, where we engage community members in co-research about technology. My background is in linguistics and most of my research projects have something to do with language contact and change, but I also work in large interdisciplinary teams where we do all kinds of fun projects. Lately I’ve been getting into Virtual Reality.
What on earth is DH?
Digital Humanities (DH) is kind of what it sounds like – using digital tools and methods to do humanities (and social sciences) research. Some people in DH are also using humanities perspectives to think about the digital world and what it means that we are using digital approaches in research. It’s more of a community than a discipline – a space for people from all kinds of disciplines who might be working in similar ways to join together and share their experiences or learn from each other. Some of the key values in the digital humanities community include democratisation of research, diversity, experimenting with new methods, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and open scholarship.
What kinds of things could I use DH for?
There are lots of different kinds of digital tools and methods being used in DH. For example, making digital maps, making virtual reality experiences or other kinds of multimedia, doing data visualisation of humanities research data, e.g. data visualisations of literature, or of history, creating databases, creating interactive websites or apps to explore topics to do with any humanities or social sciences topic (e.g. history, literature, linguistics, anthropology, education, philosophy…).
What disciplines does DH usually work within?
It’s very broad. There are people from all the traditional humanities disciplines, but also some social sciences (linguistics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, etc), from education, from computer science and engineering, and from cultural institutions, or what we call the “GLAM” sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums).
Associate Professor Rachel Hendry
Are there skills required to get involved in DH Downunder?
The only things required for most classes are enthusiasm and an openness to learning new things!
Many of the classes on offer are intended for people with no technical background at all. For example “Build a simple VR project”, “Introduction to data wrangling with R”, “Bring your spreadsheets to life”, “D3 visualisation”, “Build a full-function research database and a data-driven website in half a day”, “Introduction to Python”, “Introduction to Linked Open Data”, “Web maps and humanities”, “Photo to 3D to augmented reality” and “Ethical Data Visualisation” are all classes where you will learn to do quite technical things even if you have never programmed before. On the other hand, if you have some experience, many of these classes have an “intermediate” or “advanced” session that you can jump into (see the program for details).
There are also classes with much less technical content if you are not so interested in learning to program or use technical software. These include, “From open access to social scholarship”, “Introduction to Project Management” and “Theoretical foundations for open social scholarship”. “Web maps and the humanities” will also be very accessible, with only quite straightforward software and no programming.
So anyone can come along and try a workshop?
Yes! In previous years we’ve had people from undergraduate students through to senior professors, as well as people from outside of the university sector (e.g. librarians or archivists) come along and it’s been a great mix. You don’t have to know anything about digital humanities – if you think one of these classes might be of interest or of use to you, come along and try it out!
Who will I meet there?
We have lots of instructors coming from all over Australia and beyond – for example, a wonderful group of Canadians from the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Ray Siemens, Alyssa Arbuckle and Luis Meneses. We will have keynotes as well as classes by Katherine Hepworth, Professor of Visual Journalism, from the University of Nevada and Erik Champion, UNESCO Chair in Digital Cultural Heritage, from Curtin University.
Then there are instructors coming from ANU, University of Sydney, Curtin, Western Sydney University, Macquarie University, Newcastle University and UTS. We also have participants coming from all over the world, including a group coming from the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources.
Why does DH matter in the 21st Century?
There are so many tools out there that can make your research faster and simpler (and therefore allow you to ask much more interesting and complex questions about your research topic). Every researcher in the humanities and everyone who works with humanities topics outside of academia should know about relevant digital research methods, and about new ways of researching that the digital world has opened up, for example open social scholarship.
Also, when it comes to the workforce more generally, humanities graduates with digital skills are much more employable than those without, and also have a much broader range of career paths open to them.
How do I sign up?
Click here to look at the details, and the program, and decide what courses you are interested in taking. Then click on through from there to the registration page, where you can give your course selections. One more click from there after you have selected your classes will take you to the payment page. (Please note that some classes are filling up very fast, and we can’t reserve your place in the class until you complete the payment.) The whole week only costs $200, no matter how many classes you take!