The idea of this project is to develop a two-track seminar-like program focused on a) showcasing exciting and relevant new scholarship in digital environments/digital humanities; and b) exploring the cyberinfrastructure required to augment such scholarship at Michigan. An important component of our vision is to take our seminar events and meetings into the schools and departments directly, rather than “setting up camp” and expecting faculty and graduate students to come to us. In this way we are modeling our “moveable feast” on a successful year-long program that Museum Studies hosted a few years ago, where talks, meetings, and demonstrations took place across a spectrum of academic departments.
We believe that Michigan has a chance not only to catch up with digital environments scholarship initiatives elsewhere but to lead a game-changing effort in the humanities disciplines that demonstrates how careful attention to cyberinfrastructure issues can reap significant scholarly benefits for existing faculty, new faculty recruits, and doctoral students. Looking ahead, we view our initiative to juxtapose digital environments scholarship and cyberinfrastructure as an opening move to attract outside funding to advance strategic priorities. We have our eyes on the longer term and more ambitious implications of this program.
We see the reach of our initiative to be broadly interesting beyond the four collaborating departments that sponsor the digital environments cluster hire (English, School of Information, Communication Studies, and American Culture), encompassing the humanities disciplines while also reaching out selectively to the performing and creative arts.
We believe that our initiative helps address at least three strategic priorities for the University of Michigan: The program exposes faculty and graduate students to new technologies and methods for applying these technologies to further innovative scholarship. Humanities faculty members are anxious to advance their research in new technologically driven directions but lack the methodological foundations to move forward. By bringing innovative humanities scholars to campus and focusing on tools and methods of their work, we expect that our program will stimulate new research.
Our program’s overarching goals will comprise a requirements analysis for the use of advanced technologies in the humanities, including the need for support systems and training. Even though our program is designed to attract the attention of humanities faculty and graduate students, we believe that the underlying issues of cyberinfrastructure are widely applicable to faculty well beyond the core humanities disciplines.
Given the increasing use of information and communication technologies to support collaborative scholarship, we expect that our program can serve as a demonstration and testbed of the power of distributed collaboration. Specifically, it may not be necessary to have every digital environments scholar physically present on campus for our “moveable feast” of lectures and demonstrations.