ACH-Supported Student Experiences at DH 2018

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The Association for Computers and the Humanities was delighted to support the participation of ten early career scholars from across the globe in the DH2018 conference held in Mexico City. We thank these students for their participation in the conference and for reflecting upon their experiences in the posts below:

Melanie Walsh (US) “Tweets of a Native Son: James Baldwin, #BlackLivesMatter, and Networks of Textual Recirculation.”

Thanks to the generous support of the ACH, I was able to travel and present my work, “James Baldwin, #BlackLivesMatter, and Networks of Textual Recirculation,” at the first-ever Digital Humanities Conference held in the Global South. The ACH’s dedication to making sure that international graduate students and early career scholars could be in Mexico City aligned with the mission of the broader conference by helping to foster a more global, more inclusive, and more activist digital humanities community. To be at the DH Conference in Mexico City was to realize that the work of the digital humanities cannot be confined to the English language, the academy, or even the confines of a conference hotel. This was a realization that was sometimes metaphorical and sometimes strikingly literal, as when Mexico’s World Cup team advanced to the Round of 16, and day-long celebrations around El Ángel de la Independencia (a 100-foot tall victory column topped with the bronze and gold Greek goddess) could be heard from the hotel lobby across the street. During the panel “Maps, Networks, Archives,” I presented my paper alongside scholars from Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands, who presented in both the English and Spanish languages, and whose research productively challenged my ways of thinking and my bibliographies. Many DH2018 attendees also participated in hackathons for the activist intervention project, Torn Apart / Separados, which uses DH tools to map the infrastructure of immigration enforcement in the US, a direct response to “zero tolerance” immigration policies that were separating parents from their children. These efforts, all the more weighted for taking place in Mexico, toward which US immigration policies are often directed, embodied the spirit of activist collaboration that defined much of my DH2018 experience.


Sylvia Fernández (US) “De la teoría a la práctica: Visualización digital de las comunidades en la frontera México-Estados Unidos.”

During the fourth day of  DH2018, in the panel titled, “Mapas y Territorios,” I presented about the present and the future of Borderlands Archives Cartography, a project founded by my colleague Maira Alvarez and I. After the presentation, librarians from Mexican institutions and scholars across the continent approached to us and proposed new collaborations that will contribute to the sustainability of the project, the inclusion of more newspapers and  the integration of new interdisciplinary collaborators for the forthcoming project of the US-Mexico borderlands. These, among other great opportunities, came up during that week, leading me to be more involved with the DH community and move towards more transnational, inclusive and diverse practices within the field.


Gabrielle Vail (US) “Harnessing Emergent Digital Technologies to Facilitate North-South, Cross-Cultural, Interdisciplinary Conversations about Indigenous Community Identities and Cultural Heritage in Yucatán.”

I am extremely grateful to have received an ACH bursary for the DH2018 conference. This award helped pay for my registration, which allowed me to attend the conference, where I helped to organize a panel (see title above) and had the opportunity to discuss an online resource (the Maya Codices Database, available at that has been significant to a number of people in the Mexican state of Yucatán, as well as to students of Maya descent in western North Carolina. I felt that it was important to share this work at a conference of this nature based in Mexico, where it has had such a significant impact but still remains poorly known in the DH community. Participating in DH2018 also allowed me to make connections with a number of colleagues engaged in similar projects, and to meet the keynote speaker, Janet Sánchez Santiago, whose work is integral to indigenous communities in Mexico. In this way, it helped to broaden my understanding of the DH field and to provide points of contact for future DH projects.


Hannah Reardon (Canada) “Bridging Divides for Conservation in the Amazon: Digital Technologies & The Calha Norte Portal.”

DH2018 in Mexico City was an incredibly enriching opportunity for me as a young scholar and newcomer to the field of DH. During the workshops, presentations, and events I met amazing people from a variety of disciplines who demonstrated curiosity in my project and provided support in the form of resources, suggestions, publishing opportunities, and excellent feedback. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to ACH and ADHO for providing the generous funding which allowed me to attend this defining event in my young career!


Andres Lombana-Bermudez (Colombia/US) “Cultura participativa y archivos digitales: La catalogación colaborativa del Archivo Histórico Regional de Boyacá (Colombia).”

DH2018 was inspiring, and empowering. It was a powerful learning and scholarly experience. I am grateful for the support that the ACH gave me so I could cover part of my trip to Ciudad de México. Although I have worked in the field of digital humanities for several years, this was the first time I attended its major international conference. Together with my colleague Maria Jose Afanador-Llach, I presented a case study of the Boyaca’s Regional Historic Archive in Colombia and how the process of collaborative cataloguing supported the development of new literacies and a participatory culture in a local context characterized by multiple digital divides. Through the conference panels, keynotes, and workshops, I was re-energized with the diversity of projects, methodologies, and themes that the organizers and participants put together. I learned a lot, and was able to connect with new colleagues and collaborators. Particularly, I was moved by the call of many scholars and activists for construir puentes, bridges across disciplines, countries, cultures, and knowledges. For me as a postdoctoral scholar originally from Colombia, now living in Boston, it was revealing to see the diverse initiatives and projects emerging from the Global South and from Latin America in Español and indigenous languages. I am looking forward to collaborating in several of this initiatives and helping to create new ones.


Cecile Armand (France) “Bridging Cultures Through Mapping Practices: Space and Power in Asia and America.”

What first struck me at DH2018 in Mexico City was the massive character of the conference. As a French young scholar, I was more familiar with workshop-style academic events with a limited number of participants. I was nevertheless impressed by the generally high quality of the papers and post-discussions and I was fortunate to receive constructive feedback on my own research. As I tried to make my way into the variety of parallel panels, I came to identify three types of papers that correspond to three main ways of practicing digital humanities (still such a vague umbrella term…): digital philosophers (people reflecting upon digital cultures, issues of gender, ethnic and ethical issues ranging from digital activism to more classic forms of cultural critics); digital managers (people involved in or concerned with the management of digital projects and labs, with a particular focus on organizational issues); digital practitioners or craftsmen/women (scholars who are strongly grounded in academic disciplines and who harness digital tools to enrich their research). Within the latter category, individual scholars cluster around different families of tools or methods (databases, SNA, spatial and textual analysis, machine learning, data-visualizations…). Although I do not deny the importance of digital culture and management, I will focus here on digital practitioners. What struck me the most among the digital practitioners present at DH2018 is the increasing emphasis they placed on data and data management. Data and data production/management (extraction, processing, cleaning) – steps that necessarily precede any analysis – are no longer viewed as “side operations”. That they play an important part in the research process and may have a profound impact on the final results is now widely recognized. Hence the need to better document the method we rely on and the choices we make at every step in the research process. I appreciate the general call for a greater transparency in historical investigation so that other scholars can replicate the method with their own data in a different context. This is extremely encouraging. Because it is primarily by strengthening the scientific value of our digital practices that we will gain greater legitimacy in the academe, at a time when digital practices are still often viewed as parallel activities.  


Chelsea Miya (Canada) “The Two Moby Dicks: The Split Signatures of Melville’s Novel.”

I really appreciate the steps that the DH 2018 conference organizers took to to support graduate student work. The ACH travel bursary was obviously a big part of that. Without this funding myself and other students might not have had the chance to present our research at such a prestigious gathering. But it also goes beyond that…  Little things, like the ACH newcomers dinner, go a long way in creating a supportive environment for junior scholars and helping us integrate ourselves into the academic community. I was also lucky enough to be accepted into the DH 2018 New Scholars unconference seminar, which for the past few years has been organized by Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell and Dr. Rachel Hendery. The program gives students a safe space to have frank discussions about our experiences as graduate students in DH, everything from doing digital dissertations to crafting DH CVs. The seminar also partners participants with mentors, and the advisor I was lucky enough to be paired with, Dr. Fotis Jannidis, went over and above to make me feel welcome and to introduce me to other experts in my field – thank you! I am incredibly grateful to the senior scholars like Dr. Jannidis, Dr. Maciej Eder, Dr. Alex Gil, Dr. Roopika Risam, and many others who took the time to discuss my research with me and offer their feedback and advice. I came away from the conference energized and inspired, and I know that I’ll produce stronger work because of it.


In addition, the following students also received ACH bursaries to the DH2018 conference:

Camilo Martínez (Colombia) “Milpaís: Una Wiki Semántica Para Recuperar, Compartir Y Construir Colaborativamente Las Relaciones Entre Plantas, Seres Humanos, Comunidades Y Entornos.”

Talia Méndez Mahecha (Colombia) “Si Las Humanidades Digitales Fueran Un Círculo Estaríamos Hablando De La Circunferencia Digital.”

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By Matt Gold

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