The Past’s Digital Presence, the conference Heather, Jana, Molly, Taylor, and I have been working so hard on, took place this last weekend, and the consensus seems to be that it was a success. The papers were fantastic and our invited speakers were inspiring. Edward Ayers, the historian and president of the University of Richmond, called the conference a “watershed,” and Willard McCarty, one of the founders of the field of digital humanities, called it “exhilarating.” So that is all fantastic and exciting. The best part, for me, was meeting people who are active in the digital humanities, both speakers and attendees. It was great to trade stories and references.
We’re hoping to keep the momentum going by publishing the conference proceedings in some form, as well as by posting video and audio recordings to the conference website. Jana has already posted the podcast of the conference’s closing roundtable with Willard McCarty, Edward Ayers, Rolena Adorno, and George Miles.
I took over tweeting duties for the conference (we’re PDP2010), and you can follow all the conference tweets by searching for #pdp2010. It was an interesting experience. I really enjoyed watching momentum gather as the conference progressed, but I do have concerns about the way that tweeting encouraged me to hunt for soundbites in speakers’ talks.
Willard McCarty posted a very complimentary review of the conference on Humanist, a digital humanities listserv. That was terrific, but I was especially interested in a very thoughtful response to McCarty’s post by Amanda Gailey. Gailey points out that, amidst all our post-conference self-congratulation, we shouldn’t forget that state schools have been doing digital humanities for quite awhile, and with a great deal of success. She writes,
I simply want to suggest that to my mind, the conference may be a watershed, but not because DH has finally earned the benediction of the Ivies. Instead, it is quite possible that a hitherto unproven field, within which smart people not housed at the most selective and expensive universities could actually earn influence and rewards, is becoming less egalitarian.
I think this is a real danger, and I’m glad Gailey made the point. I’ll be thinking about it as we move forward with the momentum the conference has generated.