About Digital Humanities Research Institute

What is DHRI?

The Digital Humanities Research Institute (DHRI) is a ten-day residential workshop to be held from June 11 – 20, 2018 at The Graduate Center, CUNY. During the DHRI, which is supported by an National Endowment for the Humanities Institutes in Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities grant, participants will explore interdisciplinary, digital humanities research and teaching with leading DH scholars, develop core computational research skills through hands-on workshops, and begin developing versions of the DHRI for their own communities. When participants return to New York in June 2019 to report on their experiences, they will become the core members of a growing network of distributed digital humanities research institutes, and their reflections will inform the publication of a guide to leading digital humanities skill workshops in a variety of institutional contexts.

Who are we?

The GC Digital Humanities Research Institute is led by Lisa Rhody, Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives at the CUNY Graduate Center and the GC Digital Fellows. We are joined by Matthew K. Gold, Advisor to the Provost for Digital Initiatives and Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities, along with a visiting faculty of experienced DH scholars, faculty, and researchers from across New York City. DHRI is hosted by GC Digital Initiatives at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Our Philosophy

Short courses—or “bootcamps”—that last anywhere from one day to two months are an increasingly popular way to offer intensive training in digital tools and skills over a short period of time; however, these courses are resource-intensive to run, reach a limited audience, and rarely offer ongoing support. As part of a commitment to building a vibrant community of scholars who make critical use of technology in their teaching and research, the CUNY Graduate Center ran three week-long institutes between 2016 and 2017, which offered a combined 100 hours of instruction on digital research methods to more than 100 students, faculty, staff, and librarians across the CUNY system. Demand for foundational digital research skills remains high, as we have had to turn away as many participants for each institute as we are able to accept.

We believe that all participants are experts in something, but none are experts in all areas. By fostering a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment where humanities research questions, methods, and values are most significant, we work to build a cooperative learning experience. Building on three years of leading successful interdisciplinary Digital Research Institutes at the highly diverse City University of New York, we have established an approach that leverages participant’s strengths, disciplinary interests, and research interests. Students work at round tables to encourage social interaction, conversation, and collaboration, and significant time is spent addressing questions about the appropriateness and consequences of digital methods, ethical concerns, project proposal development, and presentation of digital scholarship to multiple audiences.

DHRI emphasizes foundational skills because we believe that it is the most effective path toward enabling digital humanities researchers to become self-teachers and mentors in their own right. Many bootcamp-style intensives prioritize instrumental outcomes, such as whether students can “write a for loop” or create a website. While these results are desirable, we find that students who know how to use the command line, read technical documentation, and reason about systems are more self-sufficient and better prepared to approach technology (and technical rhetoric) with a critical eye. This leads to second-and third-order effects as students teach themselves and teach others, and also provides a common conceptual vocabulary and skill set that serves as a basis for forming strong collaborations in the future.

Does it work?

In January 2018, the GC Digital Initiatives ran its fourth GC Digital Research Institute, which is the model upon which DHRI is based. Each year we have received twice as many applications from students, faculty, librarians, and staff as we could accept.

Here are some of the things that previous participants of our local institutes have said about their experiences:

The most valuable thing I gained ... was exposure. The goal is not to come out with a mastery of the digital research tools covered. Rather, it’s about understanding what’s out there and learning how to be flexible in your methods, because that knowledge will truly expand your research and teaching potential. It’s also about connecting with people in other areas of study. Talking to people outside of my discipline provided a window into what others are doing and helped me view my work in a different light.

Exposure also came in the form of learning how to find help and resources in the future, whether through connecting with a Digital Fellow, attending a workshop, or getting involved in a project.

— DRI participant, June 2016

For more experiences of previous digital research institutes, you might read blog posts by Lavelle Porter, Julia Lipkins, Mani Garcia Levy, Amanda Sanseverino, and Jenna Freedman. Each participant’s comments point to the significance of the institute’s community building activities as equally–if not more–important to specific skill training. They express gratitude for learning how to scope and shape research questions, plan their digital projects, and learn basic computational concepts that helped them not only develop immediate skills, but the ability to make more informed technology choices throughout their research projects.

Application Evaluation

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Commitment to attending all 10 days of the June 2018 and 2 days of the June 2019 institutes;
  • Demonstrated interest in and responsibility for “digital humanities community building” (This can be through a regional digital humanities group as a volunteer, as a post-doc in a university library, a visiting scholar at a liberal arts college, a faculty member creating a DH reading group, a curator or archivist at a historical society, library, or other humanities-oriented organization. Position title is not important. What is important is your ability to explain your responsibility or interest in building communities of DH practice.);
  • A letter of support from a group, organization, or institution stating they will support your efforts to run a Digital Humanities Research Institute (Support does not have to be financial. It should simply recognize that your activities are recognized and welcomed by the organization.);
  • Interest in helping to build a network of institute leaders through sharing of curricular materials and engaging in online community-support;
  • An articulation of a DH project idea that you find interesting and would like to pursue or have already begun;
  • An explanation of how you confront and overcome technical difficulties you have experienced in the past.

We are looking for participants who represent diverse DH areas of interest (disciplines, methods, project-types), who work at a wide range of institutional types (universities, community colleges, libraries, archives, museums, historical associations), and who reflect an array of professional roles from graduate students to experienced faculty to librarians, administrators, museum curators, archivists and more. Ideal participants will be able to demonstrate strong communication and collaboration skills and a willingness to confront and overcome frustration. No previous technical experience is required. Applications will not be evaluated based on familiarity with existing technologies, though we are happy to hear about your aspirations and the skills you would like to develop for future work.

Applications must be received by February 26, 2018.

Questions and comments can be directed to info@dhinstitutes.org.

This is an archived website for the 2018–19 project funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Click here to go to the live website.