Data Driven but How Do We Steer This Thing?

I was honored to give one of the keynote talks at a new conference on digital humanities in the library hosted by the College of Charleston Libraries and the Lowcountry Digital Library. The official name of the conference was "Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library", thus my somewhat irreverent title. In getting started, I expressed my hope that the talk would be just one more contribution to the rich, ongoing, overlapping conversations happening across blogs, journals, Twitter, and conferences around the topic of digital humanities in libraries. To that end, I am sharing my abstract and references as well as the slides I delivered (elliptical though they may be). I am still muddling my way through many of these ideas so I will also post a developing version of the text here as soon as I can manage.

UPDATE: A revised version of this talk was published in an edited collection of papers inspired by the conference.

Much of the discussion of digital humanities in libraries is directed to programmatic questions: who to hire for library-based digital humanities work, what skills might these people need, how best to house and equip new (or old) digital initiatives, what projects and partnerships to pursue. When discussions do turn to the mission or purpose of digital humanities in libraries, these debates often seem drained of the animated specificity devoted to administrative, programmatic questions. Redressing this imbalance in our professional attention as a library profession can strengthen our planning for, participation in, and leadership of digital humanities scholarship. This talk then is intended as one contribution toward the project of better articulating a theory that can shape and guide libraries’ digital humanities practice. By tracing librarianship’s historical self-understanding and identifying points of connection between library theory and some of the major ideas of humanistic scholarship, it is possible to show how and why digital humanities research should be part of the core work of libraries.

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Björgvinsson, Erling, Pelle Ehn, and Per-Anders Hillgren. “Participatory Design and ‘Democratizing Innovation.’” In Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Participatory Design Conference, 41–50. PDC ’10. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2010. doi:10.1145/1900441.1900448.

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Bourg, Chris. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship.” Feral Librarian. Accessed June 22, 2014.

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Mattern, Shannon. “Library as Infrastructure.” Design Observer, June 9, 2014.

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Pawley, Christine. “Beyond Market Models and Resistance: Organizations as a Middle Layer in the History of Reading.” The Library Quarterly 79, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 73–93. doi:10.1086/596580.

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Worthey, Glen. “Literary Texts and the Library in the Digital Age, Or, How Library DH Is Made.” Accessed June 22, 2014.