UTA Hosts Texas Digital Humanities Conference

The second annual Texas Digital Humanities Conference, co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and the UT Arlington Libraries, will be held April 9-11 at the Central Library.

The three-day event will focus on a better understanding of the history and future of digital humanities in Texas, specifically addressing issues related to secondary and higher education. The departments of Art & Art History, English, History and Linguistics & TESOL, as well as the Honors College, are also sponsors.

“This conference comes out of group of researchers who were interested in setting up a regional network of scholars at different Texas universities who all worked in the interdisciplinary area of digital humanities,” said Associate Professor and Department Chair Laurel Smith Stvan (Linguistics & TESOL). “Often these researchers have been scattered across different departments on a campus, even though they might be using some of the same techniques. We wanted a venue where scholars in Texas could get together and share their work.”

Keynote speakers for the conference are Alan Liu (University of California-Santa Barbara), Adeline Koh (Richard Stockton College) and George Siemens (UT Arlington).

Graduate Teaching Assistant Rod Sachs (English) gives instructions on filming and editing scholarly interviews and lectures as part of a digital humanities project. Sachs is slated to speak at the Texas Digital Humanities Conference April 9-11 at the UT Arlington Central Library. (Photo by James Dunning/COLA Communications)
Graduate Teaching Assistant Rod Sachs (English) gives instructions on filming and editing scholarly interviews and lectures as part of a digital humanities project. Sachs is slated to speak at the Texas Digital Humanities Conference April 9-11 at the UT Arlington Central Library. (Photo by James Dunning/COLA Communications)

Rod Sachs, a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of English, said the conference program is designed to help undergraduate and graduate students understand the nature of digital humanities and the applications available.

“This conference is designed to answer the question ‘what is digital humanities?’” Sachs said. “We’ve brought in some of the top names in digital humanities, people who represent different sides of things. It should be an interesting dialogue.”

Sachs, a presenter, is excited about the conference. Historically, digital humanities has been described as the digitizing of rare and out-of-print texts or digitizing maps (for use in cartography) or using digital sounds to study language (as many of the faculty and students do in Linguistics & TESOL). But Sachs argues the field should also include those who glean new information from these digitized items as well as those who present knowledge in more modern formats. As an undergraduate student at UT San Antonio, Sachs began filming professors like Walter Mignolo (Duke University) at the decolonial scholar’s summer course in The Netherlands, then posting mini-documentaries online for a global audience.

“I film and turn a 30-minute talk into a seven-minute, condensed version, subtitled and in different languages, and teach undergraduate students how to do the same,” he said. “At this conference, I’ll be making the argument that that process is also digital humanities.”

Stvan said the interdisciplinary nature of digital humanities and how the latest technologies are applied intrigues her the most.

“Many of the issues of how to archive documents or data, and how to display the results of our research, are common across fields such as English, history, linguistics or art,” she said. “Techniques in digital humanities tend to be very contemporary; it’s a mash-up of new tech tools and historical research material.”

Stvan is also pleased UTA is hosting the conference this year. Faculty members and staff from several departments and groups worked on the planning team and are eager to show how invested UTA is in the field.

“I think the conference highlights some of the longstanding strengths UTA has had,” she said. “UTA is focused on data-driven discovery to share new knowledge and enhance current knowledge. So it’s a perfect time to show how big data is being interpreted in the humanities.

“I believe the conference will help put a name to the digital humanities discipline and attract students to this work that UTA scholars are known for.”

Registration for the Texas Digital Humanities Conference (TxDHC) ends March 27. For more information, visit the conference’s web page.

TxDHC is an organization of Digital Humanities Initiatives, Centers, and Institutes in the State of Texas. The consortium was organized in 2013, with UT Arlington, University of Houston, Rice, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas as founding members.

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 (By James Dunning/COLA Communications, jdunning@uta.edu)

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