There are three compelling reasons for an administrator in the humanities to support efforts in the digital humanities: first, DH provides opportunities for serious reflection on what it means to be human now using tools central to human being in the digital age, this quest for understanding the appropriately central task of humanists; second, DH provides opportunities for students to acquire technical skills that are no longer optional for college graduates transitioning in to the world of work; third, DH provides serious opportunities for students to pursue original research in the humanities, contributing to the basic fund of knowledge that humanists and society at large will build on in the future.
Regarding this last, I’ve done just a little bit of scratching related to the possibilities related to undergraduate research, attending most recently the Re:Humanities conference at Swarthmore. Adeline Koh, who has become something of a twitter interlocutor on these issues, was kind enough to point me to Richard Stockton College’s blog post on the conference (Messiah College’s own Larry Lake was mentioned), which in turn led me to the Richard Stockton Postcolonial project. A really fine example of undergraduate thinking at work in a way that will contribute to our broader understanding of the postcolonial experience. I am impressed that this kind of work is managed at the undergraduate level, and apparently without massive infusions of institutional infrastructure and cash. I also love the fact that it is clearly collaborative work between a professor and students, it includes not only literature students but a student majoring in biology, and it provides opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning. The quality of the project is such that MLA is archiving it in its database of scholarly websites. Nice work.
There’s going to be another opportunity to hear about and review the best student work in this area via the NITLE symposium on undergraduate research in digital humanities. NITLE has been a strong advocate for ug research in digital humanities. I hope I can connect to the symposium.