Category: Scholarly Communication

Regional Diversity of ADHO Authors

What's Under the Big Tent? ADHO Conference Abstracts, 2004-2014In you case you’re addicted to the self-definition of digital humanities, here’s a healthy scoop DH conferences analyses! For some time now, I’ve been working with Scott Weingart on a longitudinal study of Alliance for Digital Humanities Organization (ADHO) conference abstracts. Last week, at the DHSI Colloquium, we presented some of our initial findings, and I thought I would share bits of them here as well. Scott has written a series of blog posts on DH conferences, if you need more (meta)DH in your life. 

Our Dataset

For this study we’ve scraped ADHO conference programs and abstract books of 2004-2014 for:

  • unique authors
  • author institutional affiliations (if provided)
  • academic departments (if provided)
  • presentation types (panels, posters, plenaries, papers, etc)
  • presentation text (abstract or full paper, whichever are in the programs)
  • keywords (if available)

It should be noted that all of our points of analysis are about the ADHO conferences, not for digital humanities as a field/discipline/method(s), even if indicative of the other.

Regional Diversity

We started our analysis by surveying the regional diversity of ADHO presenters, since ADHO is a collection of international organizations. To our list of authors, we’ve added their countries based on their institutional affiliations, and we have clustered them by region. We’re still working on 2014 and 2015, but here’s the breakdown of all unique authors, 2004-2013:

ADHO Regional Diversity 2004-2013

ADHO has been overwhelmingly Americas centric in terms of presenters (US: 851 | Canada: 202 | Mexico: 1 | Peru: 1 | Uruguay: 1), with Europe coming in second at 794. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that for years that ADHO took place in the Americas, 70% of presenters were from the Americas, although they made up 50% of presenters when the conference was held in Europe. However, overall, regional diversity seems to be increasing, with notable increases of authors from Asia and Oceania. But we have yet to see scholars from African countries attend. Everywhere else the trends are pretty clear: a slow move eastward of authors as the conference itself moves eastward. It’ll be interesting to see how things change in Poland in 2016, and wherever it winds up going in 2017 and, even if Americas centric, if 2017 in Montreal and 2018 in Mexico City will mean more international contributors (especially from Latin America).

ADHO Regional Diversity by Year
ADHO Regional Diversity by Year, 2004-2013

While regional diversity of ADHO authorship is growing and becoming less insular, there remains greater diversity of projects related to other regions.Juxtaposing our map of unique ADHO authors to Alex Gil’s map of DH projects from Around DH is telling: DH has a global outlook, even if ADHO presenters are primarily from the Americas and Europe. This year’s dh2015 is the first time ADHO is held outside of the Americas or Europe, and once we’ve compiled our author list of 2015, it’s likely we’ll see the most regional diversity compared to previous years.

ADHO regional diversity
ADHO Presenters’ Country Affiliations, 2004-2013
DH Project Map from 'Around DH in 80 Days' -  Alex Gil
Around DH in 80 Days – Alex Gil

This is just a snapshot of our findings in relation to regional diversity of ADHO authorship, so stay tuned for more posts on other categories of analysis. Or, check out Scott’s blog and our slidedeck from the DHSI Colloquium: .

– nickoal

AB 609: California Leads on Open Access to Publicly Funded Research

I’m so proud of my home state, California! They’re leading the way to make sure that publicly funded research conducted by the Department of Public Health is openly available to the public. Beginning in January next year, over $200 million in annual research that is paid via California taxpayers will be open access (with some restrictions, such as a twelve month embargo. Here’s an excerpt:

The legislation requires researchers whose work is supported by a fully or partially state-funded grant, and has been accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed journal, to submit an electronic version of this resulting article to a publicly accessible database. The database itself is not specified; suggested options include the University of California’s (UC) eScholarship Repository at the California Digital Library (CDL), PubMed Central, or the California Digital Open Source Library (CDOSL). The article would then be made publicly accessible through the California State Library no later than 12 months from its publication date. (If work has previously been submitted to a repository to satisfy OA requirements from another institution or funding agency, the researcher only needs to supply a link to that article to the funding agency and the California State Library.)

AB 609 does not call for mandatory open licensing. While most work deposited in CDOSL is required by California Education Code to bear a Creative Commons CC-BY attribution allowing others to “use, distribute, and create derivative works based upon the digital material while still allowing the authors or creators of the material to receive credit for their efforts,” material deposited under AB 609 is exempt from this condition. All work will be listed and linked to in an online bibliography.

AB 609: California Leads on Open Access to Publicly Funded Research.

DH and Knowledge Design

Digital Humanities is about experimentation. DHers are pioneers. By means of creating and discovering new ideas and facilitating new kinds of research questions, DHers create tools and develop new methods to perpetuate scholarly conversation as well as keep the humanities relevant. In addition to creating tools like many of the ones we’ve encountered, DHers are also designers. As the dissemination of knowledge takes new digital form in our currently evolving communication ecosystem, DHers design and present materials in ways that printed text did not so easily allow. Jeffrey Schnapp, the director of metaLAB at Harvard University, succinctly points out the following:

When you move from a universe where the rules with respect to a scholarly essay or monograph have been fully codified, to a universe of experimentation in which the rules have yet to be written, characterized by shifting toolkits and skillsets, in which genres of scholarship are undergoing constant redefinition, you become by necessity a knowledge designer. (Shaw 2012)

In expressing our scholarship digitally, we are also in command of how to present it in innovative ways. And, others have taken notice of DH’s designs, it seems. For instance, Jerome McGann, co-founder of NINES, from University of Virginia, has worked with Gale Cengage on their Nineteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) database. Since McGann works with Gale, I don’t find it a coincidence that they have included text analysis tools such as their term clusters and term frequencies, which look like some of the tools we have used in our DH training.

Perhaps as we create scholarship in digital form and with various new tools, we as librarians and DHers may also want to consider how to effectively present knowledge in ways that make sense for new publishing models, whether it’s in the form of an online journal or a website with pedagogically motivated visualizations in databases. Furthermore, it seems important to ask, how might what we produce and how we choose to disseminate it to enhance academic study? Ultimately, the answers will develop from our experiments with new modes of research and expression, as well as reflection on and innovation in how we communicate in the digital world.

[On a related note, check out Peter Katz recent post “There is no outside the medium: Interface essentialism and the death of print (and the digital)“]

Libraries as Laboratories

When I think of laboratories, images come to mind of the 10th-century Persian alchemist Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, or maybe Beaker and Dr. Bunson Honeydew from the Muppets. They probably have various burners, beakers and flasks, and winding tubes of  travelling smokey gasses that eventually drip as strangely colored liquid into a tiny glass potion bottle, or something… Whatever the experiment, the goal might be to confirm a bit of information or further articulate some paradigm or another. Ultimately, from the technologies available in the lab by means of some methodology, what comes from the lab is a set of information to contribute to a conversation that will be disseminated and further discussed by a specific community of scholars.

Although not littered with broken glass and mad scientists (maybe…?), libraries too serve laboratory-like functions, especially for humanists interacting with texts and images, processing the data and information they glean in conducting mental experiments in the library.

As digital humanities has a growing presence in libraries, particular challenges are posed, especially whether one could characterize it as a service. Despite the disagreement over digital humanities as a service in libraries, Bethany NowviskieTrevor Muñoz, and Micah Vandegrift seem to agree on one thing: libraries facilitate the creation of knowledge and assist in preservation and dissemination of that knowledge. Libraries function as laboratories, even think tanks, for humanities scholars. Indeed, the library is the humanist’s laboratory. So, it only seems natural that librarians and researchers (which can be one and the same) should collaborate, rather than draw a line between them as Muñoz does in stating that the focus on faculty inhibits DH initiatives in libraries. Not only will libraries provide space and technological support, they can offer things that the researcher whose digital scholarship is to be disseminated by ensuring proper preservation, licensing, and metadata, etc., are taken care of. As Nowviskie points out, as an example, ”Library technologists, more used to working collaboratively and for broader audiences, can more easily do open source right – and thereby demonstrate its value.” Additionally, “libraries and library-embedded digital humanities centers [help] to beat what we might call a ‘path to production,’ both for innovative scholarship and for its supporting technical and social frameworks.” In this, while collaborators in terms of content and especially methodology (e.g. librarians knowing something about a methodology that will serve the researcher’s purposes), the librarian can be seen as providing a form of service in line with their traditional research consultations. I’m not sure what’s wrong with that.

Like Muñoz, I think that “good digital humanities work is exploratory and innovative,” but also that librarians, many as DHers themselves, can help walk the path of scholarly processes in the library as a DH laboratory. As Micah Vandegrift notes, “the library, as a staid institution of knowledge and exploration, should then blend in with the multitude of ways that the user discovers information,” and so offering assistance with digital humanities initiatives in sharing their know-how.

In reading these articles, discussions from the start of the semester came back to mind: is DH a discipline? a field? a set of methodologies? I can see how it can be considered a field of its own, but because of its interdisciplinarity, I see things like topic modeling, text analysis, and GIS largely (though not entirely in and of themselves) as methodologies available to various fields. I’m wondering if the distinction or confusion of the nature of DH is what is contributing to the conversation of who should own DH (librarians or faculty). This makes me wonder, can one own a methodology? My thought is, probably not.

Will DH Save the Humanities?

Currently, I’m experimenting with text analysis tools such as AntConc and Voyant for topic modeling. Ted Underwood’s blog entitled “Topic Modeling Made Just Simple Enough” introduces the uses and purpose of topic modeling, showing that researchers can extrapolate topics and infer discourse from a great number of texts. This makes text analysis seem more of a superficial close reading, allowing readers to get a sense of topics and themes, while topic modeling allows for more customization and a macroscopic view of a corpus. While certainly not a means to replace close readings of texts, topic modeling enables humanist researchers to conduct wider analysis of many texts in far less time than they would otherwise, which means they will present findings and add to scholarly discussions more quickly or more nuanced than traditional humanists.

Research produced with a much wider scope that breaks traditional disciplinary boundaries, perhaps completed in few years rather than a decade… So this is digital humanities. It has huge implications for academia, as it redefines humanist scholarship, which calls for a re-evaluation of not just the importance of the humanities, but also the system of awards in academia in how scholars are promoted and funded. After all, most funding agencies, in whatever form, seem to fund research that provides quick results. Moreover, it seems that digital humanities can help solve the crisis that has plagued both the humanities and pure sciences in academia.

While I attended Cal State Fullerton, the California State University system suffered draconian budget cuts, forcing faculty to take furloughs, paycuts, while departments had to slash course offerings and suspend hiring, thus forcing students to prolong their stay unless they chose to drop out after even required courses disappeared from registration catalogs. At Cal State Fullerton, the Modern Language Department suspended all but a handful of programs, while other departments cancelled many classes. Suffice it to say that we experienced a metaphorical drought in morale, and the humanities and pure sciences were hit the worst. Now, a few years later, it’s not as bad, but the many in the Cal State system and CSU Fullerton administrators continue to regard the humanities as “esoteric,” less-worthy of funding, and supporting present-est research and preferring STEM to reign. I’m hopeful that digital humanities will reshape this discourse about humanities and show that they are just as worthy of funding and research attention.

After all, digital humanities provides new forms of scholarly communication (I know, I’m stating the obvious). But if it likens to the methodologies of disciplines that our culture deems “more important,” as we see with computational analysis such as topic modeling, maybe the digital will bring a more positive view of humanities.