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Open Access Projects in Digital Humanities Win Prestigious Prizes, Tackle Social Problems and Spark Intellectual Debates

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Manufacturing Transparency, Conference on Manufacturing Transparency, Berkeley, CA, USA, October 28, 2015 | © Courtesy of Berkeley Center for New Media/Flickr.

Given that digital humanities, as a minor but growing academic domain, promote scholar collaboration, cross disciplinary boundaries and demonstrate public-mindedness, the celebration of its achievements, such as in research, underlines the centrality of Open Access to its public relevance.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


While digital humanities can be tentatively defined as an interdisciplinary field that explores the intersections between digital tools and media, on the one hand, and humanities-related subject matter, on the other hand, Open Access is a broad characterization of the projects accomplished in this field, which can comprise online archives, freely accessible digital resources and online initiatives, such as in education and data sharing. No less importantly, digital humanities output can also include academic articles, topical issues of scholarly journals and monograph-scale investigations, for instance in Open Access, as studies recently published by De Gruyter demonstrate.

Though digital humanities is a nascent field of scholarly inquiry, it already has a significant presence at academic conferences, such as at the annual get-together of the Modern Language Association. Given their basis in technological tools and interfaces, digital humanities projects may, however, struggle to be funded, especially at smaller scale educational or research institutions, such as community colleges. Yet this does not impede the harnessing of digital humanities for educational, research or archival purposes in the framework of topical projects that leverage disparate institutional resources, e.g., the United States’ Library of Congress’ strategic plans to promote specialized information availability for the general public and scholars around the world, in which Open Access de facto plays a significant role.

For this reason, digital humanities redefine the notions of locality and publicness, since many of their projects stress universal Open Access as one of their objectives and integral to their mission, such as that of local community inclusion. Moreover, Open Access both supports the spirit of intervention of digital humanities projects, but also nurtures scholarly excellence, such as the digital project “Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde” of Prof. Suzanne Churchill, Davidson College, on the history and relevance of the literary avant-garde which has won an award of nearly 75,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, United States, in August 2017.

Likewise, the “Placing Segregation” project of Dr. Shepard, from the University of Iowa, has been drawing media attention not only because it combined geographic information system data and the historical records on racial and ethnic segregation in the nineteenth-century United States, but also since it continues through digital tools the inquiry into the interrelations between urban space and racism started in the 1890s by the African-American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois.

In this respect, digital humanities projects not infrequently integrate Open Access into their design, to both contribute to public access to knowledge and support the public sphere, in the existence of which intellectual commons an increasingly important role.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Manufacturing Transparency, Conference on Manufacturing Transparency, Berkeley, CA, USA, October 28, 2015 | © Courtesy of Berkeley Center for New Media/Flickr.

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