Digital Texas Round-Up! TX Digital Humanities Conference and TX Conference on Digital Libraries

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April has been a big month for digital scholarship in Texas.  The Texas Digital Humanities Conference took place at UT-Arlington April 9-11, and the Texas Conference on Digital Libraries took place at UT-Austin April 27-28.

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I had the privilege of attending and presenting at both conferences with the generous support of Southwestern University. Check out the Twitter hashtags for each conference (#TXDHC15 and #TCDL2015, respectively) for a useful rundown of attendees’ responses to and interactions with presenters. You can see my live-tweeted responses to events and panels @CharlotteLNunes. Following are some highlights and take-aways!

Texas Digital Humanities Conference

Presentations of note:

  • Rebecca Frost Davis provided a tour of the curateteaching/digitalpedagogy resource on GitHub associated with Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, forthcoming from the Modern Language Association. Hannah Alpert-Abrams and Dan Garrette presented a fantastic poster on their OCR (Optical Character Recognition) efforts in Latin American colonial archives. Matthew Cole LaFevor presented the idea of “toggling between quantitative and qualitative research methods” to teach historic maps alongside Google Earth images of the same regions.
  • Opening keynote Adeline Koh‘s much-tweeted Storified live-tweeting of Alan Liu‘s closing keynote, “Against the Cultural Singularity: Towards a Critical Digital Humanities” does a great job of distilling main points. I especially liked Liu’s remark that advocating open access (pardon the paraphrase here) “is the modern equivalent of storming university administration buildings in the 1970s.” I was delighted and inspired by the consistent support and enthusiasm for open access I encountered at both TXDHC and TCDL. The potential of open access to ensure the more equitable distribution of knowledge and information is immense. George Siemens picked up the social justice thread in his remarks, as well: “If you’re poor you’re going to stay poor because the education system isn’t going to help you.” Ultimately Siemens’ presentation was implicitly optimistic in that he provided a roadmap for a “more human digital university.” I’m proud that, as evidenced by Koh’s opening keynote on social media and revolution and closing keynotes by Liu and Siemens, the digital humanities as conceptualized at this conference was strongly tied to values of social justice.
Digital tools, resources, and projects I was happy to learn about:
  • Courtesy Adeline Koh: Mukurtu, a free, open source digital cultural heritage platform geared toward indigenous communities.
  • Courtesy of Rebecca Frost Davis: the Century America digital history project.
  • Courtesy of Tanya Clement: a useful Digital Humanities taxonomy.
  • Courtesy of Liz Grumbach: the TAPAS (TEI Archive, Publishing, and Access Service) Project.

Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

Presentations of note:
  • In “Elements of Successful Online Publishing,” Dillon Wackerman made a case for the library as publisher in the era of open access. Matt Christy, co-Project Manager on the Early Modern OCR Project (eMOP), encouraged libraries with OCR needs to take advantage of eMOP workflow documentation and project code, all of which is publicly available since the project is funded by the Mellon Foundation.
  • Jennifer Hecker, Digital Archives Access Strategist at UT Libraries Technology Integration Services, presented with a team of UT Libraries collaborators on a “Zine Party” they hosted to catalogue the UT Fine Arts Library’s collection of zines. The team offered fascinating reflections on the challenges and rewards of involving the public in metadata tasks. The discussion brought to mind recent scholarship including Crowdsourcing Our Cultural Heritage (edited by Mia Ridge), which debates the merits and shortcomings of public crowdsourcing projects in libraries, archives, and higher education. Although the Zine Party was a great success in terms of fulfilling the library mission to engage the public, the metadata produced by the event required the intervention of an experienced metadata librarian before it could be used in the library catalogue. To me, this is not evidence that the public shouldn’t be involved in crowdsourced metadata/cataloguing/transcription projects; on the contrary, such projects represent a proven fun and effective way to engage the public with special collections. But librarians and archivists need time and resources intentionally earmarked to support labor- and time-intensive crowdsourcing initiatives.
Digital tools, resources, and projects I was happy to learn about:
  • Courtesy of keynote Bess Sadler: the Stanford University Libraries EarthWorks project, which allows users to superimpose historic maps over GIS-generated maps; and Project Hydra repository software for digital asset management.
  • In general, over the course of the conference I learned more about Islandora, Fedora, and Amazon Web Services, all of which seem to be getting a lot of traction among libraries for digital asset management needs.

A good time was had by all! Huge thanks to the TXDHC and TCDL organizing committees for their hard work on these fantastic events!

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