Interview with the Editors: Digital Humanities Workshops

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

January 03, 2023

Laura Estill and Jennifer Guiliano co-edited Digital Humanities Workshops: Lessons Learned. The book will be available for pre-order from Routledge on January 20, 2023. My interview with them is below.

Lauren: Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

We’re Laura Estill and Jennifer Guiliano. Laura is an Associate Professor of English at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada; Jennifer is an Associate Professor of History at IUPUI in Indiana. Our first major collaboration was as program committee chairs for the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organization’s international digital humanities conference, DH2020; since then, we’ve enjoyed collaborating on multiple journal articles and this book collection together. Our backgrounds complement one another: Laura is a literature scholar specializing in Shakespeare and Jennifer is a historian who studies culture and identity in America, yet, we are both together in the capacious field of digital humanities, where scholars apply digital tools to answer humanities questions.

Lauren: Briefly summarize Digital Humanities Workshops: Lessons Learned.

Despite the growing number of formal digital humanities degrees, the vast majority of digital humanities training has long occurred outside traditional curricula as complementary initiatives. In part, this is a function of the wide variety of digital humanities training an individual might need and the relative paucity of local training opportunities due to limitations in faculty, staff, and institutional resources. But it is also a result of the interdisciplinary nature of the field where contributions to training might be made by technologists, librarians, cultural heritage professionals, and others beyond faculty or digital humanities staff. Digital Humanities Workshops: Lessons Learned is organized by three key questions: where do digital humanities workshops take place? who participates in and contributes to digital humanities workshops? and how do digital humanities workshops occur? Taken together, the chapters in this volume answer the important question: why are digital humanities workshops so important and what is their present and future role within research and teaching in the humanities and digital humanities?

Lauren: What sparked your interest in editing a book on this topic?

Laura and Jennifer each have lots of experience as both instructors and workshop attendees. We each have been involved in building our national community’s respective capacities (Canada and the US) as well as part of the international digital humanities training network. As part of our ongoing collaborative process, we talk a lot about our experiences and how much we’ve learned from the writing and pedagogical collaborations we’ve been involved in. So for us, an edited collection offered us the best of both worlds: we could learn from our peers who themselves are experts in workshop pedagogy and also, by making the book open access, help our peers learn about the wide variety of workshops and practices that the digital humanities encompasses. It felt like a win-win professionally.

Lauren: How do you see workshops on Digital Humanities changing over time?

Twenty years ago, digital humanities workshops were relatively scarce; they generally were affiliated with digital humanities conferences or the few organized centers in the academy. Now, it isn’t just a broader variety of technology and methods and contents that digital humanities workshops include, it is also the evolution of who serves as instructors and where workshops happen. On any given day, you can now choose from virtual and in-person workshops around the globe taught by librarians, archivists, technologists, humanists, and more. Importantly, many of those events are free and open to the public so part of what we’ve seen in digital humanities is a much more inclusive stance that welcomes those outside of well-resourced institutions and countries. Some of the chapters in this volume reflect on how digital humanities workshops have changed in different national and institutional contexts over time.

Lauren: How does this book help prepare librarians for the current landscape and potential changes?

Digital humanities workshops take place in many areas of the university, including libraries. Our volume includes contributions from librarians including Sarah Simpkin at the University of Ottawa, John Russell from Penn State University, Mia Ridge at the British Library, and Eileen J. Manchester from the Library of Congress. As the wide-ranging contributions in the volume attest, there is no unified current landscape of digital humanities training workshops, which can be both unsettling and exciting. The potential changes that are happening include opportunities like this collection, where organizers and workshop leaders can learn from other workshops and not try to start everything from scratch.

Lauren: What are three practical takeaways you hope all readers apply after reading the book?

The chapters in Digital Humanities Workshops aim to help those who teach, organize, and attend digital humanities workshops make the most of their experiences. Here are three practical takeaways that run through multiple chapters:

  1. Planning carefully and critically (applying, for instance, design justice and user interface lenses) to workshop organization can help create inclusive environments for learning where participants are able to deeply engage with the material
  2. You should always have in mind who the audience of the workshop is and design your workshop to address their specific interests and concerns.
  3. The best workshops aren’t necessarily the ones that follow teachings step by step but instead encourage the attendees to dig into exercises and principles. Make learning fun, not just a “sage on a stage.”

Lauren Hays: Is there anything else you would like to share?

We are proud of this volume’s international coverage: our contributors come from around the world. Likewise, the contributors to this volume are at different career stages, from students to established scholars, from museum professionals to alt-ac (alternative academic) experts. We can all learn by listening to this range of voices, who bring different experiences and expertise to the table. We hope that this volume is the first of many about digital humanities workshops in order to bring to the fore discussions of how and what we teach–not to mention why.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education.  Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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