DHSI 2014 Reflection

[Editor’s Note: the ACH awarded Zachary Schoenberger a student travel bursary to attend this summer’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute. The award came with an invitation to reflect on the experience in our blog.]

During the first week of June, I attended for my first time Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria, Canada. A tuition scholarship was generously awarded by DHSI and its sponsors and a small travel bursary by the Association for Computers and the Humanities. My home institution is the University of Alberta, Edmonton, where I am an MA Humanities Computing / MLIS graduate student.

Fellow DH enthusiasts have recently posted on a range of themes, from building DH communities to a DHSI inspired argument for the MLA Report. On the final day, Alex Gil delivered an exceptional closing keynote that has since received repeated well-deserved attention as a #DHSI2014 highlight. I am writing about DHSI more generally and my own experience as a first-time attendee.

DHSI is composed of a week long mash-up of workshops, colloquiums, and hosted receptions. It is tour through the current state of DH in North America. More than that, it is characterized by the hallmarks of DH—hacking AND yacking, institutional boundaries dissolved, and collegiality at its best. Perhaps utopian or idealistic, DHers are regularly discussing how the collaborative enthusiasm experienced at DHSI can be harnessed for export to their home institutions.

As someone who studies DH and MLIS, I found respite at DHSI where all projects seemingly fall under the digital librarian’s umbrella. DHSI, therefore, offers me the greatest of educations and networking possibilities, and epitomizes my academic “home.” Conversely, the angst expressed by attendees over disciplinary structures revealed to me the peculiarity of my own interdisciplinary graduate education in the context of graduate education in North America.  DH has not yet grown institutionally to allow it to stand on its own apart from, most often, the English department. For those who seek a “pure DH” experience, then, DHSI is a treasure.

DHSI has demonstrated to me the strength of the academic library—a place where interdisciplinarity is permissible—as an institution ideal for housing DH projects. The DH community that connects through DHSI, however, is one that I cannot move forward without. This is where inspiration for future projects, inter-institutional collabs, and debate in DH is found to thrive.

By Zachary Schoenberger

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