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Digital humanities centers have become important laboratories for the application of information technology to humanities research; powerful advocates for the significance of such work; crucial focal points for the theorization of the digital humanities as a field; and local nodes for cyberinfrastructure, or e-science. Through their own in-house research, digital humanities centers have produced important new digital resources and tools. Equally important, digital humanities centers are key sites for bridging the daunting gap between new technology and humanities scholars, the crosswalks between cyberinfrastructure and users, where scholars learn how to introduce into their research computational methods, encoding practices, and tools, and where users of digital resources can be transformed into producers.
Although digital humanities centers have a great capacity for focusing, maximizing, and networking local knowledge, local resources, and local communities of practice, they are also at risk of being silos, overly focused on their home institutions, rarely collaborating with other centers, and unable to address by themselves the larger problems of the field, including those involving coordinated cyberinfrastructure. In what ways and under what circumstances might digital humanities centers be seen as crucial elements of transnational cyberinfrastructure? I’ll be discussing in detail the history and function of digital humanities centers, especially in terms of the centerNet initiative, which seeks to create a truly global network of local digital humanities centers.
Presented in conjunction with the U-M Office of Research Cyber Infrastructure CI Days 2012, a two-day interactive event aimed at helping members of the U-M community learn more about advanced computational tools and support available for research in a wide range of disciplines.
Neil Fraistat is a professor of English and director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland at College Park.