A Cross-Atlantic Meeting of Medievalists

After the first “DARIAH Beyond Europe” workshop in mid-September, there were two easy next steps for the “cowboys” on the US side who wanted to “do something” with DARIAH: add to the DH Course Registry and find one or more working groups to join. The course registry is a topic for another blog post, but I was curious to see what reception I’d get, as a somewhat random American emailing the coordinators of an existing working group.

The first working group I contacted was “Defining cloud infrastructure services for DH”, hoping to draw upon my experience working in research computing at UC Berkeley. As luck would have it, I picked the one group that was no longer active, as it had been part of a limited-term grant that had wrapped up. It was the perfect illustration of the greatest challenge of infrastructure-building: we direct our energy and attention to tackling big challenges of service development, provisioning, dissemination, and stability, and it’s so easy to lose track of the small, prosaic things like keeping all pages of a website current.

Francesca Morselli, the DARIAH-EU Integration Officer and coordinator of the working groups, was very kind to get in touch with me and explain the situation with the cloud infrastructure group. She facilitated an introduction to the “Mediaevalist’s Sources (MESO)” working group, and one of the co-leads of the group, Emiliano Degl’Innocenti, was planning to be in San Francisco at the end of October for the DigitalHERITAGE 2018 conference.

Quinn Dombrowski and Emiliano Degl’Innocenti

While the Medievalist’s Sources working group has been on standby for the last few years, funding from DARIAH, supplemented by additional funds from a number of related research projects, has allowed the group to start making progress on a number of bigger-picture goals. These include developing a registry of medieval sources; fostering a community around common tools, methods, and standards relevant for medievalists; and working within the larger DARIAH context to generalize and promote tools originally developed for medievalists for a larger group of scholars. The approach they’ve taken to registry development is informed by the state of the medieval field with regard to publication of text: which is to say, they’re web-scraping text archive sites, extracting new or updated information, and having scholars vet that information and map it to the appropriate RDF triple for inclusion in the directory. It’s a realistic solution, if an unsatisfying one. I hope that the working group can help better practices gain traction, and I’ll be working with medieval projects at Stanford, including Prof. Kathryn Starkey’s Global Medieval Sourcebook (which will relaunch this month), to make their texts and metadata as easily reusable as possible by the international medievalist community.

Collaboration inevitably requires some overhead, and Emiliano and I talked some about what model might be most effective. I suspect this will be a question for many of the DARIAH working groups where “cowboys” from beyond Europe show up: does everyone work together, making compromises and accommodations for time zones, local constraints, and cultural contexts, or do we refactor working groups into “chapters” clustered by nation, time zone, or interests?

I’m looking forward to working through the thorny issues — be they medievalist or bureaucratic in nature — with the MESO working group.

Quinn Dombrowski supports digital humanities in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at Stanford University.

Emiliano Degl’Innocenti supports the integration and interoperability of CH and DH Research Infrastructures at CNR-DSU, Italy.

Kidnapped by Cowboys: Taking the Next Steps from “DARIAH Beyond Europe Workshop 1”

DARIAH Beyond Europe workshop 1 “cowboys” (Quinn Dombrowski, Anthony Caldwell, Zoe Borovsky, Alix Keener) with Joke Daems

For the past three days, the DARIAH Beyond Europe (DBE) workshop has brought together researchers, librarians, staff, and other interested members of the digital humanities community on the US west coast, to exchange knowledge and ideas with our European colleagues from DARIAH. This workshop has provided a fruitful forum for discussing digital humanities infrastructure, in forms ranging from databases, tools, and standards, to working groups, conferences, and unlimited quantities of coffee.

The workshop has heightened our awareness of DARIAH’s current endeavors and goals, but we recognize how easy it will be to return to our institutions and daily responsibilities, and fail to follow through with our good intentions to put DARIAH’s resources to use.

To hold ourselves accountable, share our experiences with engaging with DARIAH, and help build a community of DARIAH users outside of Europe, a small group of us were inspired to request a shared blog on Hypotheses (itself a DARIAH resource). While some coordination and planning will be needed in the medium term, we felt — in the spirit of the American “cowboy” — that the best way to make this happen was simply to do it before the workshop concluded, to capture the enthusiasm of those of us gathered here.

Over lunch, we “kidnapped” Joke Daems, one of the workshop organizers from the University of Ghent, who offered us the existing DBE site on Hypotheses as a platform for our ongoing discussion and collaboration. Despite the late hour in Europe, Sally Chambers endorsed our proposal shortly thereafter. With an alacrity uncharacteristic of infrastructure, Joke granted us access to the DBE site.

We’ll be writing more here over the coming weeks and months as we explore what it might look like to integrate DARIAH resources into our work at non-European institutions. We’ll be trying to attend working groups. We’ll be adding courses to the course registry. We’ll try out tools like TextGrid. Through it all, we’ll be sharing our experiences and developing a guide to help others outside of Europe engage with DARIAH.

We’ll be coordinating activities and blog posts via a Google Group, dariah-beyond-europe@googlegroups.com. Please join us!