Part of my meta-DH series documenting DH/DS infrastructure: the hows & whys of treating a project team, lab, department, or campus as itself a DH project.
Caveat: This post consists of notes taken during my former DH Librarian role at Purdue (2015-2017), rather than my latest thinking at Scholars’ Lab. I’ll be sharing that updated thinking here soon!
This post (everything below) is from a post I was drafting back when I was designing Purdue Libraries’ DH initiative; some parts weren’t completely fleshed out, and the “values” list doesn’t reflect my current thinking.
The stuff below—identifying what our values are, and stating that we mean to prioritize them—doesn’t mean that prioritizing or “doing the work” of those values will happen. This isn’t the work. The work is doing stuff that performs, amplifies, shares, teaches, argues for these values.
As with a code of conduct, it’s more dangerous to say you’re going to do (or are doing) something and then not stand by that promise, than to not make the promise at all. Lots of institutions say they value diversity, but either they don’t follow up on that claim at all (or enough), or they define the term so broadly as to neutralize any benefits.
It’s easy to say you’re going to do a thing, and harder to imbue your work with the values you think you care about. I’m sharing this publicly now for a couple reasons: I want to be held publicly accountable to show I value these things. As we get deeper into specific projects, I hope to post what each project aims for, and to follow up with periodic analysis of whether we’ve held to those goals.
My dissertational Infinite Ulysses work, for example, has failed at doing its best to support all the values I list below—but stating my values at the beginning of that project was essential to helping me realize the project’s shortcomings later on, and to build my knowledge so my future work can do better. (You can read about the most obvious problem from a mid-dissertation post here, the conclusion of which I no longer agree with.) I also want to encourage others to document and self-reflect on their work, by contributing to the existing pool of statements and charters holding scholars to their values—just as I’ve been encouraged by work like Scott Weingart’s Pledges page and the Scholars’ Lab charter.
I built on past mission statements and charters I’ve encountered (DH or otherwise). On my dry-erase board, I made a list of things I think I care about and/or I think our DH initiative should value, given our experts, resources, and department and campus mission and strategic statements:
This was originally the abstract for my first proposal to the Purdue Libraries on where our DH initiative should go. I’m thinking it will evolve into charters for major projects here (like a possible DH space, and a DH team-taught course), so I’m capturing each version in a GitHub repo so we can track changes over time.
I propose we initially focus our digital humanities initiative on a collaboration among DH, the ASC (note: Purdue Archives & Special Collections, a Libraries unit), and the University Press & Scholarly Publishing Services (also located in the Libraries!), with a focus on co-evolving these units while developing infrastructure toward a more open (diverse, inclusive, accessible, participatory, real-time, relevant) humanities.
I envision a DH Center for the Open Humanities in the Purdue Libraries, serving as the hub of the campus DH community. We will build a culture of digital scholarship, assisting through incubation rather than service: connecting potential collaborators, recording DH work for institutional memory, modeling best practices and inspiring other DH work with our own experiments, showcasing the Libraries’ strengths, and raising visibility for Purdue’s digital humanities successes through diverse publication forms and audiences.
I take the Libraries’ valuing of diversity, inclusion, and access as core motivating ideals, and plan strong demonstrations in all three areas of the latest (2016-2019) strategic plan (particularly 1:3, 2, and 3:2-4). We should proactively develop what we want the digital humanities to be, by pursuing and publicizing projects that advance all our strategic values.
In practical terms, our activities will include modeling DH research and publication best practices through collaborative internal projects, cross-campus collaboration and outreach, consultations and mentorship, and hosting events including a DH visiting speaker series, a day of talks by DHers from all over campus (co-hosted with the CLA), and intensive methodological training workshops. We will additionally maintain an information-rich “DH @ Purdue” website (including a campus DH directory), and design and co-teach pilot DH+ASC+Press courses giving students theoretical, technical, and alternative academic experience in building a DH project as a collaborator. Our work will emphasize collaboration and mentorship, value a more public and inclusive humanities, and lead by modeling effective DH research and teaching for other departments. Because we currently have limited staff time and resources, we’ll focus on building a sustainable funding model, doing a few specific pilot projects extremely well, and DH networking on campus through events and consultations.
I propose a two-phase approach:
During Phase 1, [paragraph on specific major grant project idea].
The rest of this document offers details on specific activities we could pursue, longterm goals for the initiative, reasoning for requested funding and hiring, and more.