Digital Humanities and Its Implications for Libraries and their Patrons: Part 2
An Interview with Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Matt Conner, Librarian at the University of California, Davis, and author of a newly released book, The New Library: Four Case Studies (ALA)
Editor’s Note: This interview is the second in a three-part series of interviews with Harriett Green, conducted by Matt Conner, about digital humanities.
Part 2: Digital Humanities and the Profession
Matt: So, now I’m interested in what happens when you have this kind of product. So, you have an online digital project integrating text and maps and so forth. The faculty are so guided by tenure requirements and publishing. Do they use this for teaching? What happens to these projects?
Harriett: That’s another big issue that comes up especially if you read news about digital humanities in places like the Chronicle of Higher Education. Scholars do this for their research too. They spend an immense amount of hours gathering these materials and putting them together. So, you could almost say it’s like a book online in the sense that they have put together this huge archive, interpreted it, analyzed it, and made this interpretive product, this scholarly product, that other people can use for research.
Some of them use it for teaching and they get their students to work with them too. But they also do it as research projects. That’s what’s coming up more and more as faculty are getting into digital humanities: How can I show that this is just as much of a scholarly endeavor as that book? They are slowly making some progress. And some people are able to get tenure on digital portfolios and digital types of research, and even gain scholarly prominence through blogging.
Matt: You showed me a list of journals that were devoted to digital humanities-type work. So, outside of that, how much of an impact are they having on the journal American Literature or PMLA? Are they getting what we would call impact factor?
Harriett: More and more actually. At MLA 2012 in Seattle, there was a ton of panels on digital humanities and digital humanities projects. There was almost a sense that “This is what’s going to save our discipline.”
Matt: There is great angst about what’s going to happen in English.
Harriett: PMLA published a special issue edited by Bethany Nowiskie who has a Ph.D. in English and directs a digital humanities lab within UVA Libraries called Scholar’s Lab. And that issue of the PMLA journal was all about digital humanities. Shakespeare Quarterly did an open access issue that wasn’t digital humanities per se, but they had an open access issue where they had people submit articles online and review online, and that’s intertwined with digital humanities as well. Not just to submit to a journal but also engage in open access and open peer review. To bring your scholarship out into the open as well.
There’s many different ways that people have incorporated digital tools and digital methods into their work. SAHARA is a digital archive produced by Society for Architectural Historians, and the SAH also has a journal that very much incorporates digital images and audio into the published articles. So, many different humanities disciplines are starting to at least be aware of open access and trying different ways of scholarly communication and publishing.
New Discoveries by Digital Humanities
Matt: Do you have a sense of the new body of work that’s come out of this? Are we learning new things based on the frequency of some word or are we learning some new thing about the texts?
Harriett: Yes, I think we have. There have been articles that shed light on trends in Victorian literature, like how sentimental the novels truly were. Or, in digital history we can now compile thousands of different accounts and see how people were migrating and how they viewed different events. There are definitely projects that have started to reveal new insights into texts or new trends in history.