A Few Words on The Day of Digital Humanities

The Day of Digital Humanities project started out in a coffee shop called Leva near the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Stan Ruecker, myself and Peter Organisciak were talking about how one might develop digital humanities projects that didn’t need to first get funding to happen. Peter had gotten me interested in crowdsourcing as a way of gathering people and I recalled Ed Ayers’ great question and lecture, “What Does a Professor Do All Day, Anyway?” Like others I was always being asked what humanities computing was; so why not try crowdsourcing an answer in community?
One question we thought about a lot initially was how to describe this project, both to our colleagues and to others.
How could we get people interested? How could we explain it in terms of existing humanities types of projects? We settled on calling it a community documentation project or a community autoethnography. Since then I have come to see it also as a form of conference where we don’t just remediate the site-specific bringing-together of sessions with people at the front lecturing us, but provide a less structured way of gathering conversation which allows people to come and go as they want, weaving discussion online. The feedback we got suggests that it did work this way for those digital humanists without a strong local digital humanities community.
Looking back, I’m proud to say that we never did get a grant to run the Day of DH at the University of Alberta, though we did get support from all sorts of people starting with the Arts Resource Centre that provided research computing to the humanities. What is particularly gratifying is that others saw the value of the Day of DH and have taken it further, developing much better interfaces and welcoming new  communities. Now, the venue is managed by centerNet and, like a journal or conference, taken on by different centers, which is a more sustainable model.
This year we have to thank the Laboratorio de Innovación en Humanidades Digitales de la UNED (LINHD) for doing the work of bringing us together on April 20th. Let us join them in conversation!
Geoffrey Rockwell
Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing
Director, Kule Institute for Advanced Study
University of Alberta