Why does the Triangle need a DH Network?

Giraffe onesie hanging up on a rack of dresses

Last week, I found something interesting at the thrift store: a giraffe onesie, hanging up with the dresses.

Giraffe onesie hanging up on a rack of dresses

You can imagine the confusion of the poor employee who sorted this thing. Does a onesie belong in sleepwear or coats? Should they throw it into the stuffed animals bin with the rest of the giraffes? “Women’s dresses” would have to be good enough.

Stay with me for a second. There is a point to this story: It’s a great example of an organizational system’s limits, a failure to handle the surprising and unexpected. As many of us in the digital humanities have learned, universities don’t always handle exceptions well either.

Digital humanists are the giraffe onesies of academia. No one is sure how to sort us, and different institutions have different ideas of what’s “good enough.”

Digital humanists typically don’t have departments of their own. Our work is too broad and too interdisciplinary. But we have to go somewhere. We compromise, lump ourselves in with Communications or English, and manage the best we can in departments that aren’t really designed for us.

Sometimes our projects get snagged on red tape. Sometimes we struggle to have our work recognized. Sometimes people don’t know where we are. Sometimes they don’t even know where to look.

We see this at UNC. Here, DH grew out of the English department, and many projects are still related to English. There’s some amazing work being done here – including the William Blake Archive!  What about DH outside the English department? Other Digital Humanists are scattered across the university, doing research in different fields. Many are unaware of each other.

And this is all within the same university. That’s one reason why UNC, Duke, and NC State have all created DH Initiatives within the last few years: to keep track of what’s going on in their own communities. Communication between institutions is even worse.

By creating a DH Network for the whole Triangle, we want to combine these efforts. If the existing system doesn’t know what to do with us, we’ll sort ourselves!

The Triangle DH Network’s goal is to create a community of digital humanists. We want to bring everyone together under one big tent to share our ideas, our projects, and our values. We want to open communication between departments and institutions, so that we can meet each other and talk with other people who understand our work.

If you’re interested in DH, please reach out – we can only get this conversation started. Tell us about your project,  your favorite tool, a topic you care about, a concern you have, or just introduce yourself.

You can reach us at triangledhnetwork@gmail.com, or take our interest survey to let us know how you want to get involved.

Welcome to the Network!