My job is weird.
I have a Ph.D. in English and “Professor” in my title, but I work in an academic library as a department head. I don’t have an MLIS. Currently I don’t have a DH project, as such, but I’ve been doing research about labor ethics and DH pedagogy, and about the relationship between DH and Linked Open Data for a few years. I’ve done research about research data. I’ve also done work on nineteenth century illustration and children’s literature, the bibliographic aspects of which inform my thinking about digital humanities. So my work has become, I suppose, meta-DH. And so a day in my DH life is a reflection on the community that helps me do this work.
By far the most important thing I’ve done in my time with UNT Libraries is the founding and directing of Digital Frontiers. DF is an annual conference and THATCamp, and has become the largest and longest-running DH conference in the Southwest region. It’s also one of the few scholarly venues that actively encourages librarians and archivists, genealogists and lay historians, scholars and students to all come together to share their work. The net result of this, for me, is that the real product of the Digital Frontiers project is not the conference, but the community that has emerged from the conference. We have an active presence on Twitter, a lively Facebook group, and a monthly newsletter with an international readership, and contributions from all over. The organizing committee is made up of 26 individuals from 8 institutions including faculty, librarians, students, and paraprofessionals, representing public libraries and universities. This diversity of perspectives is essential to the project’s success and longevity.
This community has shaped the conference in ways I never anticipated. In the past few years, there has been an increasing emphasis on under-served communities, accessibility, and social justice, how DH must serve the larger interests of society and not just PIs. I’m proud of the direction the conference has taken, focusing on humanistic outcomes rather than technology, but with a smart focus on the importance of well-designed tech and intelligent metadata that underpins the values-driven focus of the projects we highlight.
This direction was given a huge validation this semester when I was awarded the Texas Digital Library Innovative Outreach Award for the Digital Frontiers project. When I accept the award in May at TCDL, it will be on behalf of this community.
We’ll be celebrating our 6th Anniversary at UNT this fall, reflecting on the theme “Exploring the Edges, Pushing the Boundaries.” I hope this community will continue to grow, and that Digital Frontiers continues to reflect the concerns, values, and ambitions of this community in all its diversity.