DHd 2016 @ Leipzig: Some impressions and a call for more lessons learned

From 7th-11th of March 2016 the third DHd conference (the biggest conference for the German speaking DH community) took place at the University of Leipzig. The focus was on “Modellierung – Vernetzung – Visualisierung: Die Digital Humanities als fächerübergreifendes Forschungsparadigma”. My tentative English translation for “Die Digital Humanities als fächerübergreifendes Forschungsparadigma” would be “Using Digital Humanities methods and tools etc. in more than one discipline”. The focus of the conference was on models, networks, and visualizations, and I will not even attempt to create a shortlist of all those impressive often very intriguing interdisciplinary projects and panels that were presented during the conference (Link to full program and the Book of Abstracts)!

One of the highlights for me was Katharina Anna Zweig’s keynote “Von den ‘digital humanities’ zu einer humanen Digitalisierung” because she placed some question marks on the fact that often it is not reflected if a digital method really fits the goal and that we really have to care much more about the underlying algorithms. This has in my view some important implications, not only that “one fits all tools and solutions” are probably not achievable, it also means that humanities researchers have to think really hard about the tools they are using or creating with programmers and information scientists. Don’t trust Black Boxes for science. You don’t have to become a programmer yourself, but there should be a serious attempt to understand the underlying technologies and implicit methodological implications.

Another implication of Zweig’s talk is in my opinion that it is important to understand the limitations of a certain algorithm and to take that further of the tools and technologies you are using. But as research depends more and more on third-party funding, it seems to become “dangerous” to talk openly about failures and limitations of technologies and projects. “Keeping up appearances” seems to be necessary to not be punished in the funding economy. I think this is really a pity, as we can and have to learn also from failures. I mean discussions like What Ever Happened to Project Bamboo? (Dombrowski 2014) or Data sharing: Empty archives (Nelson 2009). (More suggestions are welcome, as I read these kind of articles with great interest). I would welcome more “lessons learned” discussions and would like to hear your thoughts on this topic.

A big “Thank You” goes out to the committee members who were responsible for the overall organization and program selection, the reviewers, all helpers and sponsors, and of course the participants for great talks and great moments (DHd Chor!). Congratulation to the winners of the poster slam (DLINA) 🙂 and the winners of the Young Scholars price and the several bursaries.

More news on Twitter #DHd2016 and I guess a storify is also in the making.

I am looking forward to see you at the 4th DHd at Bern or the 2nd FORGE at Hamburg!

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