ACH-Supported Student Experiences at ACH 2019 in Pittsburgh

The Association for Computers and the Humanities was delighted to support the participation of  early career scholars in the ACH2019 conference held in Pittsburgh, PA. We thank these students for their participation in the conference and for reflecting upon their experiences in the posts below:

Kyle Bickoff (U.S.) – “’Not Exceeding Ten Miles Square’: A History of Washington DC’s Document Boxes”

The ACH Bursary Award helped to make my trip possible—as a PhD candidate supported by a stipend, these funds are incredibly meaningful, and allowed me to support a significant amount of my travel to ACH, which is the first DH-specific conference I have had the opportunity to attend. I presented my poster “’Not Exceeding Ten Miles Square’: A History of Washington DC’s Document Boxes” used in the storage of physical and digital files at libraries, archives, and museums. The poster session was a productive opportunity to present current research to scholars, while simultaneously receiving constructive feedback from field experts who have worked with a selection of these materials. The archival work I presented (on historic Woodruff files) was the topic that I received the most helpful feedback on—this was incredibly fruitful, as it a now defunct file box that has at times proved difficult to find credible sources discussing their practical use. The ACH not only provided an intellectually stimulating scholarly meeting, but also fostered a safe, understanding, supportive environment for young scholars throughout its duration. Each panel I attended was memorable in its own way, and I hope to remain a part of ACH and the larger DH conferences in the future. I also want to add that I appreciate the ACH’s location within the continental US—young scholars find it incredibly difficult to travel abroad, so an accessible city like Pittsburgh additionally helped to make this travel possible. Thank you for this excellent experience.

Kathleen P.J. Brennan (U.S.) – “What’s in a face? Examining historical trends through the faces of a mass media publication

I was incredibly thankful to receive the ACH bursary award to attend my first DH-specific conference, and to present a poster from an on-going, group research project.  As an early career scholar with an interest in interdisciplinary research I cannot overstate the importance of experiencing a meeting like ACH in which the conference organizers were able to curate such a diverse program.  I learned so much about not only the tools that people are using and developing, but also about how people approach DH projects through attending many panels and roundtables. I was also very impressed with the poster session.  I was at ACH as a representative of a larger research group to present our work, “What’s in a face? Examining historical trends through the faces of a mass media publication.” I had the opportunity to discuss this research with a number of the other conference attendees, and received important feedback, which I was able to share with the rest of the group working on the project that were not able to attend the conference.  Thank you to the conference organizers for enabling my participation in this fantastic conference.

Tatiana Bryant (U.S.) “Centering Black dh pedagogy in a first year seminar course”

As an early-career scholar I was thrilled to receive a bursary to present my work on integrating Black digital humanities pedagogy with first-year students twice at ACH Pittsburgh. I was pleased with the response to the topic and the discussion I had with session attendees. Networking with attendees at the prec-onference workshop “Inclusive Digital Pedagogy: Theory and Praxis” remains a highlight. Looking ahead I will continue to pay it forward and remain engaged with the community by seeking collaborators for new projects and more.  

Corey D Clawson (U.S.) “Mapping an Archipelago of Influence: An Introduction to Archivepelago”

Thanks to an ACH Bursary Award, I was able to present my project “Mapping an Archipelago of Influence: an Introduction to Archivepelago” in the poster session, which resulted in a series of brief but rich conversations. With a background in literature, I found myself extremely grateful for the insightful questions and comments from rhetoricians, librarians, historians, and developers.  The diversity of these conversations turned out to reflect the conference and its organization more broadly. I was able to attend sessions discussing network applications in digital humanities, projects examining race and gender, and inclusive pedagogical practices.  The organizing committees also implemented policies and events that ensured everyone felt welcome, such as the dinner that grouped first-time attendees to the conference with folks with more experience in the organization. ACH2019 turned out to be the best conference experience I’d ever had.

Heidi Dodson (U.S.) “Overcoming Challenges and Breaking down Barriers: Digital Scholarship Support within and beyond the University” (participant)

If it had not been for the ACH Bursary Award, it would have been a challenge for me to present in Pittsburgh given that I was in between postdoctoral positions.  With ACH assistance, I participated in a roundtable, “Overcoming Challenges and Breaking Down Barriers: Digital Scholarship Support Within and Beyond the University.” organized by Rachel Starry.  Each of the participants, including myself, were CLIR postdoctoral fellows, and we had a generative discussion about our widely divergent experiences at different institutions.  An important discussion about postdoctoral labor emerged from the presenters and from audience questions, a conversation that I hope will continue at future conferences and forums.  While postdoctoral positions can be beneficial for all parties, they remain contingent, precarious positions and are vulnerable to the structures and cultures of particular institutions.  I spoke about my CLIR postdoc and my previous position as a digital project manager at a community non-profit. I see public digital humanities as a vital part of my work as a historian, and I was very inspired by the presentations in “The South” and the “Space and Place” session 2.  I hope to see many more sessions at future conferences that are focused on opening up spaces for marginalized voices, foregrounding social justice, and engaging local communities.  

Meredith Graham (U.S.) “Revealing Voices: Establishing Meaningful Outreach Strategies for Project Vox”

I was delighted to receive the ACH Bursary Award to attend the Pittsburgh conference to talk about my work for Project Vox, a digital project dedicated to introducing early modern women to the philosophical canon. My work as the Outreach & Assessment Coordinator for Project Vox lies outside of my dissertation research area and is a passion of mine, so I appreciate the financial support. At the conference, I was able to talk about my collaborative work in my paper, “Revealing Voices: Establishing Meaningful Outreach Strategies for Project Vox” about outreach strategies for digital projects. The enthusiastic response and thoughtful responses to the paper allowed me to understand the next steps that I should take with my project team as we move into another academic year. I was also able to attend the Music Encoding course—a fantastic way to learn about digital humanities projects in my own discipline of musicology. Thank you for making my travel possible to experience this inclusive and enriching conference.  

Arun Jacob (Canada) “Geocoding Gringolandia: Interrogating How Geo-Data Analytics Squelch Mobilities Justice”

I felt the ACH conference was the most thoughtfully organized conference that I have ever attended. The attention and care that went into how the conference was organized in and of itself such an astute exemplar to take back, on how DH scholars create safe and inclusive scholarly communities. I got to meet so many amazing scholars who were presenting their brilliant work at panels, and several others in between panels where they were kind and generous with their time and advice. I would describe the conference experience as seeing my DH bibliography come to life before me, and it was the ACH travel bursary that made it possible. I got to present my paper “Geocoding Gringolandia: Interrogating how geo-data analytics squelch mobilities justice” which was still pretty rough around the edges when I shared it with this generous community of scholars who were so receptive and helpful in pointing me towards other academics, topics and ideas that I ought to be in conversation with. The scholars, thinkers and kinship networks that makeup ACH embody a politic and ethic of care which I was extremely grateful to have been able to part of thanks to the support I received from the ACH.   

Zoe LeBlanc 

With the generous support from the ACH Bursary Award, I was able to travel and present in one of the first roundtables on software development and digital humanities. In the roundtable, I shared my experiences as DH developer at the Scholars’ Lab at UVA. In particular, I discussed the potentials and pitfalls of being a more junior developer, and avenues for creating a distributed DH developer community to help mitigate some of these issues. Without the funding from ACH, I would not have been able to participate in this much needed conversation about the future of DH software development that will hopefully lead to more transparency and collaboration across DH centers and between DH developers. Many thanks to ACH for the support and creating such an inclusive conference.

Slavna Martinovic (Germany) “Making up – the ‘post-human’ bodies and gender disobeying at the turn of the millenium”

My name is Slavna Martinovic, I am a visual artist and a Ph.D. candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. The trip to Pittsburgh was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the ACH conference where I have presented my paper Making up –  the “post-human” bodies and gender disobeying at the turn of the millennium`. As an early-career scholar, it was an honor to share my ideas and be welcomed to the conference in such an extraordinary spirit of inclusiveness, community building, and diversity. The conference was outstandingly organized, nurturing a safe yet progressive environment for the exchange of ideas for an array of distinguished scholars of the Digital Humanities. The possibility to present, be a part of the audience of exciting panels and workshops, take part in simulating exchanges with fellow scholars greatly motivated my further quest towards being a part of the DH scholarly community.

Last, but not least, all of this would not be possible without the great generosity of the ACH Bursary Award. As a Ph.D. Student coming from Europe, this award helped towards my travel and stay expenses, extending an opportunity to be a part of this amazing interchange of ideas, excellently hosted by the ACH Conference 2019.

Andrea Medina (U.S.) “Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Cultural Impairment Through Game Spaces”

As a PhD scholar in visual rhetoric and digital humanities, I was incredibly honored that my paper was selected for the Travel Bursary Award. The funding was instrumental to my participation in the conference, considering that graduate assistants in the humanities are not paid their worth within the academy. ACH was an incredibly empowering experience for me,s a scholar and activist in the humanities. I received very positive and productive feedback on my paper, “Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Cultural Impairment Through Game Spaces.” The conference organizers cultivated a safe environment for learning and networking, and I could not be more grateful.

Jeffrey Moro (U.S.) “Breath Control: 3D Printing and Environmental Media” and “Environmental Justice in the Digital Humanities”

I am not hyperbolizing when I say that I have yet to encounter a conference setting more attentively designed and curated as ACH. I had the pleasure of presenting both a poster, “Breath Control: 3D Printing and Environmental Media” and chairing a roundtable, “Environmental Justice and the Digital Humanities.” In both settings, I found the conference community extraordinarily stimulating and engaged, and the comments I received on both contributions have been integral in shaping them for future work. In particular, I want to highlight how wonderful I found the poster session—a first for me, but which enabled a level of conversation and networking we usually only imagine possible at conferences but too rarely achieve. I thank the ACH for their bursary and commitment to the work of supporting emerging scholars. In an industry often marked by austerity, it’s good to see an organization committed to both intellectual and financial generosity.

Katharina Tiwald (Austria) “Using Smartphones as Narrative Structure. Franz Friedrich’s ‘Zeitreiseführer’”

Working as both a writer and a teacher, I try to combine my love of literature with the search for possibilities to make reading more accessible for a new generation. From this point of view, it is particularly interesting for me to notice that apps begin to be used not only as a vessel for e-books, but rather as a medium in its own right. Having just started work on a Ph.D. project at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, I was excited to be able to present a lightning talk on a particularly interesting example of an app-as-novel, Franz Friedrich’s “Zeitreiseführer” (“time travel guide”) which makes good use of app architecture as narrative structure. Giving a lightning talk was an ideal opportunity for me to get back in touch with my scientific self – I left university life several years ago and am just getting started on my way back into academia. I was very happy about the warm welcome and the bursary that eased my travel expenses, and I would like to thank the organizers for this wonderful experience.

Jewon Woo (U.S.) “The RIsky Mediation of Archives: Teaching DH on Digitized Archives” 

Without the ACH Bursary Award, I would not have made the presentation because my two-year institution has not been able to offer enough faculty development funds for scholarly purpose since its fiscal crisis five years ago. The conference participants’ responses to my presentation, “The Risky Mediation of Archives: Teaching DH on Digitized Archives,” helped me redesign the course I presented on. In addition, I could continue the critical conversations with them beyond the conference site, which allowed me to build a network among DH scholars. Furthermore, the poster session offered significant ideas and methods for my research on the Black press in 19th-century Ohio, as the session introduced a variety of DH tools and practices in both teaching and research. ACH 2019 is the most productive and vibrant conference I have ever attended, and I am grateful for the award that made my trip possible.  

Setsuko Yokoyama (U.S.) “Between Advocacy, Research, and Praxis: A Critical Reassessment of the Open Access Discourse” & “Minimal Computing: On the Borders of Speculative Archives” 

At ACH2019, I witnessed what it means to put care for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility into practice and in front and center of digital humanities scholarship. The ACH Travel Bursary was but one such instance, and I was a fortunate recipient of such an award. It was not only a means to mitigate the cost of summer travel but also an invitation to play a part in the projection of a 21st-century ACH regional conference model alongside with scholars whose works have been formative to my own. During the conference, I presented my poster “Between Advocacy, Research, and Praxis: A Critical Reassessment of the Open Access Discourse” and participated in the roundtable “Minimal Computing: On the Borders of Speculative Archives.” As a part of the roundtable discussion, I shared my critical design solutions to alleviate historically repressive understanding of the English language seen in the reception history of Robert Frost’s sound of poetry. Using the Digital Frost Project as a case study, I further speculated what it means to develop an online corpus of someone who is perceived as a white, male, canonical author in today’s political climate and advocated for an anti-racist methodology for a public-facing project. The roundtable as a whole proved to be one of the many generative sources of further discussions throughout and beyond ACH2019, and I am grateful for the opportunity the ACH Travel Bursary granted for me to be a part of such conversations.

Joel Zapata 

As a historian, I was impressed by the many avenues of humanizing the past that diverse digital scholars displayed at the ACH2019 Conference. Moreover, those that came together in Pittsburg formed a welcoming community that was open to collaboration, which I have rarely seen in other spaces. I am sure the 2019 meeting will only be the first of many more successful ACH Conferences to come. 

By Tanya Clement

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