Conferences Digital Humanities Reflections

And so it begins: working towards DH2017

On Thursday I sent an email to the combined Digital Humanities 2017 and Digital Humanities 2018 conference program committees welcoming and congratulating them on being part of the work we will take on over the coming 16 months (and in the process support the planning process for DH2018).

[for those of you who are friends not steeped in things DH, I’m talking about the DH2017 and DH2018 conferences that will take place in Montreal (2017) and Mexico City (2018]

My intention is that – as regularly I am able – I will post updates here about the progress the committee(s) are making toward those goals. While I don’t intend to make all of the contents of the committees’ email communication public, I think it’s appropriate here to share some excerpts from my first email; these are my words to the committees as well as to Karina van Dalen-Oskam (Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations Steering Committee Chair), Claire Clivaz (Conference Coordinating Committee Chair), Stéfan Sinclair and Michael Sinatra (Local Organizers for DH2017), and Susan Brown (President of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities/Société canadienne des humanités numériques):

Ours is an important charge: as those tasked with shaping the conference program we address some of the immediate issues that we face as an internationally-oriented discipline and as a community of professional colleagues. The increasing breadth of proposals as well as the increasing number of conference attendees from more institutions in more countries means that in planning the conference we must be attentive to more voices and responsive to more perspectives. Many people associated with ADHO, the COs, and the program committees have worked very hard and with great care over the past several years to address a broad spectrum of issues and concerns that affect us all. This work continues and we will take part in it as befits the program committee. I am committed to making sure we represent the best scholarly practice and collegial behavior possible, and am convinced that we continue to make good progress on all fronts.


The DH2016 program committee engaged with the CCC in a series of discussions about what constitutes diversity and inclusivity in our conferences; it should not come as a surprise that because our discipline makes great use of social media, that these discussions therefore took on a particular public dimension. There is no doubt that all eyes will be upon us as we undertake our duties, and the expectations for the manner in which we address these issues is high. I believe our best way forward is to be as transparent as possible in terms of our process while maintaining confidentiality as is warranted. Again, I see this as an opportunity to play a productive role in moving our discipline forward.

In that email I pointed the committee to three links on the ADHO website that will assist us (all) as we move forward:

ADHO Conference Protocol: (
ADHO Memorandum of Understanding (
ADHO Conference Code of Conduct: (

One of our first orders of business will be to put forward recommendations for keynote speakers at DH2017; I would also like to find ways to involve more voices in the review process, and so will ask the committees to draft a proposal that we will put forward to the CCC and through them to the ADHO Steering Committee to consider ways in which we can effectively expand the pool of reviewers. I think it’s important to note here that everyone who serves on the program committees (as with everyone else on ADHO committees and the individual Constituent Organizations) does so on a volunteer basis.

To close this first post on a personal note, I would like to reiterate that I am committed to making the program for DH2017 as strong a reflection of the conference theme (Access / Accès) as possible, and to best support and include as many of the excellent scholarly voices now at work around the world. But while I am committed to this, I want to find ways to be constructive and not divisive.

As academics we are accustomed to debating with one another. And we do not all have to be “mates” (as Willard McCarty opined this past week on Humanist) although in my experience ours has usually been a collegial discipline. We should be forward-thinking and consider how our work should be in tune with societal discourse. And we should absolutely make every effort to bring attention to and recognize and honor the excellent work of our colleagues – full stop. In order to do these things we need to engage in honest and frank dialogue at the same time that we respect one another. I expect that a big part of my job in the coming sixteen months will be to listen and ask questions and help shape the work that the committee(s) will do. I’ll be as honest and transparent as I feel I can be while respecting the rights of my colleagues on the committees to *not* have their words put forward without their permission.

And so I will listen, and watch for the “#myDHis” and “#whatifDH..” hashtags on Twitter, and the Facebook threads, and ask questions when I don’t understand the context of a comment or the experience behind an observation. I’ll share what I hear and learn with the members of the committee, and encourage them to share what they know with the group. I hope we don’t end up mired in backchannels, but that we can have discussions about diversity and inclusivity and access as openly as possible. Call me on my own implicit biases and my confusions. Be patient with me when I misstep so that I can better understand and support as many of the perspectives that constitute our discipline(s) as I can. Our goal as the program committee is to ensure that each conference represents the excellence in our field. I know that we will do our best to achieve that goal.

Let’s do this.

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