Digital Humanities Sessions at the 2010 AHA Meeting

Out of hundreds of sessions at the 2010 American Historical Association annual meeting, nine are on digital matters. Nine. I’m on one-third of the sessions. It’s 2010, and academic historians seem to feel that digital media and technology are not worth discussing, and that we can just go on doing what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, for another hundred years. For comparison, the 2009 MLA has three times as many digital humanities panels.

Anyway, the digital sessions (hope to see you there):

Is Google Good for History?

Crossing the Electronic Rubicon: Navigating the Challenges and Opportunities Presented by Archival Records Created and Stored Exclusively in Digital Format

Teaching Sourcing by Bridging Digital Libraries and Electronic Student Assignments

Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Digital Poster Session

Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 2: A Hands-On Workshop

Scholarly Publishing and e-Journals

What Becomes of Print in the Digital Age?

Assessing Resources: Analysis and Comment on EDSITEment Lessons in the High School and Undergraduate Classrooms

American Religious Historians Online


K Landon says:

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think CAA 2009 had 1. 9 sounds wonderful!

M Regoli says:

OAH 2010 this spring in Washington, DC (#OAH2010 will have five: Digital Tools for Historians; Archivists, Researchers, and Uses of Archives New and Old; Putting Pedagogy into Digital Archives: Making Online
History Collections Useful for K‐12 Teachers and Students; and
State of the Field: Digital History. The last one might look familiar. 🙂 –mr

Chad Black says:

Dan- there could be other ways the digital is creeping in. I did manage to convince the roundtable I’m on that we should pre-circulate our papers/comments on a blog. I put two of the papers up this morning, and we’ve had maybe 50 page views split between the two. Still, it’s a specialized subject, and those page views represent about as many people as usually attend this annual roundtable.

Dan Cohen says:

Good point, Chad. I’d love to know if other panels are using digital methods of dissemination and communication.

andrew says:

I wonder if the relative lack of AHA panels is also partly a reflection of the difference between the two disciplines (making a distinction between the disciplines and their practitioners). Looking at the listings, it seems like literature, broadly construed, currently offers more opportunities for topical – rather than methodological – panels than history does.

There are panels on contemporary topics like virtual worlds, computer games, and Obama’s rhetoric, for example. Similarly, though there are certainly people in literature doing archivally based work, literary studies do tend to rely more on published work than historical studies do, and digitization has so far made more progress with published than with unpublished sources. I wonder if this has been a spur to the authorship panels.

In contrast, the history panels are more heavily weighted towards methods or are on the subject of scholarship itself (though I suppose this could simply be an effect of small sample size). The encouraging thing is that at some point those now contemporary MLA topics will start being taken up by historians, at which point they’ll have to pay attention to digital media – it’s where their sources will be.

On another note – and I’m hesitant to generalize here as I’ve been out of history for a few years – but historians do seem to use digital (or digitized) sources as if they were just like those in older formats, without reflecting on how they differ. And at the level of reading an individual source all the way through, the computer screen does not seem that different from a microfilm reader screen (or even paper). But the search technologies and techniques that lead to those sources are something new, as are the processes that put them online. I suppose this is just a long way of saying that I wish I could attend the google panel at AHA. Is anyone planning to put it on youtube or somewhere similar?

I can’t help feeling that while historians have made progress in research-led and research- informed teaching; many of our colleagues have not yet cuaght on to how fundementally the culture of abundance will trasnform research based teaching in the next decade.

I also wonder how far my fellow historians really grasp that history is very much a humanities discipline inasmuch as it is about how we relate to the world around us, and a history degree, like any other humanities subject, should transform how we relate to the world around us just as the other humanities do, or should do.

Then again, I suspect that the majority of historians are social scientists, and not very warm to narrative history or digital humanities

As for the AHA, well, every year I teach the Thursday before and the Monday after, in Ireland, so I’m going to have to do some digital magic myself to ever get there


[…] I’m also looking forward to the few digital panels that are on tap. As Dan Cohen mentions here, it is a little disappointing how few those panels are. But, those few do look to be really […]

[…] or partially dedicated to the web and other digital outlets for public history. This equals the nine digital history sessions on the program at the much (many times) larger American Historical Association in […]

[…] Cohen, “Digital Humanities Sessions at the 2010 AHA Meeting,” Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog, 22 December […]

[…] Incredibly, there are actually fewer digital sessions at the 2011 annual meeting than in prior years. Because clearly this digital thing is a flash in the […]

[…] subscribers to this blog know that I’ve been grousing for years about the lack of digital topics at the American Historical Association annual meeting. From […]

Leave a Reply