by Tawnya Ravy
As part of our continuing journey into the world of Digital Humanities, a bunch of us attended THATCamp DC 2014 hosted by the GWU History Department. THATCamps are unconferences with unique formats designed to address the needs and ideas of the participants – they are also amazing entries into the complex world of DH. These conferences not only help you learn about important DH issues and useful technologies, but also enable you to make valuable contacts with other DH enthusiasts and experts. I know that I personally always get a lot out of attending THATCamps. And they are fun! This time around we decided to take good notes and share with each other and the world what we learned in the sessions which we attended. Below are the sessions we attended and our impressions and notes. Interested in going to a THATCamp or hosting one? Visit ThatCamp.org.
We initially began a discussion on how to enable international and multi-lingual bibliographic work to address gaps in scholarship, but this then lead to a conversation about the value of certain kinds of work in the academy. As one participant pointed out, it used to be considered a valuable contribution to scholarship to put together a bibliography in a given area, but now similar efforts to curate data (especially digital data) are “off the menu” as legitimate scholarly work for many. This of course sparked a larger conversation about legitimizing digital humanities work in the academy. Open access journals, many of which embrace the scholarly potential of digital humanities, are not considered to be legitimate forums for scholarship by Deans/Provosts and departments even when they are peer reviewed. We talked about impact factors, and the difference between science and the humanities when it comes to collaborating and co-authoring– something we agree needs to happen more in the humanities. We also discussed these two journals for digital humanities scholarship: Journal of Digital Humanities and Itineration: Cross-disciplinary Studies in Rhetoric, Media, and Culture (feel free to leave more resources and ideas in the comments below!).
The presenter started off with creating lists of very helpful funding sources and resources. To find grants, consider visiting Grants.gov, Foundation Center, Giving USA, and Guidestar. But the first step, as everyone agreed, is to seek out funding and resources at your home institution. Consider beginning at your local Grants office to not only find appropriate grants for your project, but to discover if your institution has former experience or existing relationships with grant groups, and even how to draft your grant materials. Basically you have Private Foundations (like MELLON, FORD, KNIGHT, MACARTHUR, SLOAN) and federal funding like the National Endowment for the Humanities; although we also considered alternative sources of funding like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There are advantages and drawbacks to consider for each type of funding. We talked a lot about NEH because they are an excellent source of funding for DH projects, but also because they offer a lot of valuable resources like samples of grant proposals, and previous grant data on data.gov. We also discussed basic steps in getting funding for your project. First, do your research – learn about all of the rules and regulations for the different funding sources, research former grants and look up old proposals, and take advantage of what your institution offers in the way of funding as well as grant guidance. The Grants office can be immensely helpful in helping you draw up a budget for your project (what with their knowledge of on-site costs). Try, try again – one thing that stemmed my personal anxiety about this arduous process was this refrain to be persistent. Finally, make sure you are thinking about the question of sustainability – how will your project survive for posterity? Consider digital preservation requirements in your project proposals. Most grants will be for projects (with end dates), not programs, so think about this as you draft your project charter. Speaking of which, they recommended to draw up a 1 page project charter to begin a conversation with your institution as a starting point. Consider collaborating with others on your project, and learn about project management as part of developing the parameters and details of your projects.
In this session we tackled the question of how to work with born digital materials. We talked a lot about our own projects, but also about methods of archiving digital born materials. If you have never visited it, check out Archive It which basically offers a subscription service to institutions wanting to archive digital materials, but it also hosts the world’s largest public web archive. The WARC is the web archive file format to save web pages, but Zotero also saves copies of whole web pages (and you can tag them). Also check out The Wayback Machine to view changes to web pages over time – it is very fun to play around with this tool. With all this talk of web archiving, we also addressed best practices for use – consider the code which libraries use. Our broader concern was with preserving certain virtual worlds – and then issues of control, maintenance, and access. I certainly came away with a lot of answers and new ideas, but we also left it with a lot of valid questions about how to handle digital born materials.
Tawnya Ravy is a PhD. candidate at The George Washington University and a member of the GW English Digital Humanities Working Group. Her interests are in postcolonial theory and diaspora literature. She is the architect of the Salman Rushdie Archive.