Re: Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?

16 05 2010

Tom Scheinfeldt @foundhistory posed a couple of thought-provoking questions re: the direction and purpose of digital humanities (DH). In his blog post, Where’s the Beef? Scheinfeldt responds to Rob Nelson’s THATCamp proposal and asks two fundamental questions for digital humanists: (1) “What questions does digital humanities answer that can’t be answered without it? (2) What humanities arguments does digital humanities make?”  In other words, is DH more than content curation i.e. editorial projects and how/when must the discipline move beyond exhibition into the realm of “real scholarship” and answer questions?

Scheinfeldt’s answer is both yes and no. He makes wonderful use of historical analogy to demonstrate the legitimacy and importance of curation/exhibition as a precursor to advanced scholastic output. He, believes that like all disciplines, DH asks questions some large,  but many small. In addition, DH needs the benefit of time to grow into its full scholastic potential/acceptance. That I do not doubt, however, I think that the heart of the matter is not one of what questions DH answers or when it will answer them, but rather what the definition, form and function of “scholarship” is.

What is scholarship? Do you take the view that scholarship encompasses the form of print monograph production that advances knowledge within the discipline or does scholarship cast an outward view, form be damned, and advance, integrate, apply, and/or transform knowledge more broadly i.e. Public History? Obviously, DH would fall into the latter view and that is my position of scholarship. My view of scholarship is put simply but I think fairly.  A more nuanced debate of what scholarship is can be investigated @ Redefining Historical Scholarship @ AHA. DH affords an opportunity to kill the sacred cow.

Even the most simplistic curation/exhibition DH project implicitly if not explicitly asks questions, makes arguments, and advances knowledge. DH curation and exhibition projects require as much research, synthesis, and analysis as does producing any other traditional form of scholarship. Maybe not as much text, but just as much intellectual investment. At minimum, arguments are implied about authority, objectivity and authenticity of evidence. Or is that being too much of a postmodernist? Is this not scholarship?

In lieu of text, DH encourages varying degrees of data/information visualization. This may be the true genius of DH and where the beef is. Is visualization a new form of literacy? How can one learn to “read” visualization?

In addition to rethinking scholarship, DH must come to terms with its position as  either a new discipline, the “New Public History” or a tool/methodology.


ArchivesSpace – Archon & AT Collaborative Site

6 04 2010

Dear Archivists: I would like to invite you to participate in building a collaborative web site for the integration of AT and Archon, which we are calling ArchivesSpace. We are very interested in increasing the community’s presence in the development process and are planning for the site to be a place where interested parties can submit ideas, opinions, papers, etc. The domain name for has been purchased and I am currently working to set up the website . I hope to have something up and ready to show you by next week. In the meantime, if there’s anything you’d like to recommend to me regarding what you’d like to see on the site, please feel free to contact me.


Susan Harum
Project Director, ArchivesSpace
Building a Next-Generation Archival Management Tool

William Church Photograph Collection

5 04 2010

The Archives of Wiregrass History and Culture at Troy University Dothan Campus announces the opening of the William Church Photograph Collection.  This is a collection of 180 black-and-white prints taken by Quay Fortner of the Dothan (AL) City Tax Assessor’s Office in March 1958 of properties in the city’s predominantly African American “Frogtown” section.  Fortner traveled through Frogtown’s streets photographing each property.  The photographs document the housing and physical neighborhood of pre-Civil Rights poor and black housing as well as the mill village associated with the Vorris Lumber Company.  The collection is remarkable for the vernacular architecture it captures.  Church donated the collection after saving it from a fire pit.  The collection has been scanned and is available online at; thumbnails link to larger reference copies of each image.

6th International Digital Curation Conference | Digital Curation Centre

3 04 2010

6 December, 2010 8 December, 2010
Venue TBC, Chicago


6th International Digital Curation Conference 2010

Title: “Participation and Practice: Growing the Curation Community through the Data Decade”.
6 – 8 December 2010, Chicago, USA.

Digital curation manages, maintains, preserves, and adds value to digital data throughout the lifecycle, reducing threats to long-term value, mitigating the risk of digital obsolescence and enhancing usefulness for research and scholarship. 6th International Digital Curation Conference | Digital Curation Centre.

CFP: Exploring Produsage – Special Issue of New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia

3 04 2010

The concept of produsage points to the shift away from conventional producer/consumer relationships, and highlights the more fluid roles of users and contributors within social media environments. Participants in open source projects, in Wikipedia, in YouTube and Second Life are no longer merely consuming or using preproduced material, but neither are they at all times acting as fully self-determined producers of fully formed new works; rather, they occupy a hybrid position as produsers of content.

Produsage processes are now evident across a wide range of activities – mainly online, but increasingly also extending to the offline world – from citizen journalism and communal knowledge management through to collaborative artistic activities, from learner-led education models to citizen engagement in political processes. As such models establish themselves, what does an examination through the lens of the produsage framework reveal about their internal operations? How do they affect the existing institutional, industrial, social, and cultural environments within which they operate? How may they be guarded against cooptation and exploitation by corporate interests? What possible futures do they foreshadow?

Potential contributions to this special issue could include, but are not limited to, areas such as:

* Conceptualising produsage: theoretical frameworks for examining produsage activities, practical examples of produsage projects, …

* Historical and comparative perspectives: produsage and other forms of collaborative and commons-based work, precedents of produsage, …

* Technologies and practices of produsage: collaborative dynamics of leading produsage spaces, impact of the technological foundations of produsage, …

* Empirical perspectives on produsage: case studies of produsage and its effects, ethnographic research into produsage communities, …

* Methodology: research approaches to the study of produsage, tracking and evaluating produser activitities, …

* Critical perspectives: economic, legal, pedagogic, sociological perspectives on produsage, …

For this special issue of NRHM, we invite contributions on these and other topics related to produsage. Full papers should be around 7,000 words; shorter papers (around 3,000 words) for technical notes, industry perspectives or opinion pieces are also welcome. More detailed instructions for authors can be found online: Queries should be directed to the Guest Editors.

Authors should submit their papers online via the New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia Manuscript Central site:

Important dates

* 16 July 2010 – paper submission deadline

* 24 September 2010 – author notification

* 15 October 2010 – final copy due

* Northern Spring 2011 – publication

Guest Editors

Axel Bruns, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (Brisbane),

Jan Schmidt, Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research (Hamburg),


1 04 2010

The AddressingHistory project will create an online tool which will enable a broad spectrum of users, both within and outwith academia (particularly local history groups and genealogists), to combine data from digitised historical Scottish Post Office Directories with contemporaneous historical maps.

The AddressingHistory project will be delivered by EDINA in partnership with the National Library of Scotland using materials already digitised under ongoing NLS programmes.

Crowd-sourcing through the AddressingHistory tool will, it is envisioned, lead to a fully geo-coded version of the digitised directories thus providing significant added-value to the general public, local historians and specialist researchers across multiple disciplines.

The project will focus on three eras of Edinburgh mapping and Post Office Directories (1784-5; 1865; 1905-6) however the technologies demonstrated will be scalable to the full collection of digitised materials which include 400 directories and associated maps covering the whole of Scotland.

Project Deliverables

  • The Web 2.0 enabled AddressingHistory tool which will contribute to crowd sourcing through the georeferencing of historical addresses.
  • Increased community awareness and engagement with the digitised maps and Post Office directories at the core of this project.
  • An API onto the crowd-sourced data.
  • A sustainable exit strategy for the data created by users for AddressingHistory.
  • Final report

EDINA Contacts

Stuart MacDonald




National Library of Scotland

North Carolina Association of Historians Website

30 03 2010

The North Carolina Association of Historians announces the launch of its website containing information about membership; the annual meeting; calls for papers, research articles, and reviews; and leadership opportunities. NCAH welcomes historians (faculty and students alike) in all fields within the discipline, as well as colleagues teaching in secondary schools and serving in public history organizations.