Introducing the Digital Humanities in Ireland Landscape Report Dataset

Michelle Doran

Digital Humanities is not some airy Lyceum. It is a series of concrete instantiations involving money, students, funding agencies, big schools, little schools, programs, curricula, old guards, new guards, gatekeepers, and prestige. It might be more than these things, but it cannot not be these things. (Ramsay 2013, 240)

Irish DH is its own DH, made so by the peculiarities of an Irish academy which is in many respects considerably different to its international counterparts, and so we should problematise it in its own right. (O’Sullivan 2020, 4)

In July 2020, the UK-Ireland Digital Humanities Network was jointly funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the ground-breaking “UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Network-ing Grant”. The joint aims of the network were a) to undertake research and consultation towards the implementation of a permanent UK-Ireland Digital Humanities Association; and b) to develop a clear roadmap for collaboration in the field between the two countries. The network comprised eight third-level institutional members from across Ireland and the United Kingdom, each with an established track record of research and teaching in Digital Humanities, and with specialisms in a range of disciplinary and methodological areas central to the field2. Between December 2020 and November 2021, a series of five online events — four work-shops and a final congress — were conducted to build consensus around the key concepts of sustainability, inclusivity, training, advocacy and career progression. Each meeting generated its own publicly accessible output detailing the respective event’s highlights and setting forth key findings and recommendations. At the time of writing (April 2022), three of the four work-shop reports are available, with the fourth under review and the network is in the final stages of drafting its three-year Roadmap for the UK-Ireland Digital Humanities Association, under the guidance of UK Co-PI Prof. Jane Winters.

These outputs constitute a wealth of information relating to the current state of the art of our international Digital Humanities community and further details are available in the references section of this piece.It is well-documented that Digital Humanities (or the Digital Humanities) is both “varied and local”3, and that one’s geographical location will more than likely impact upon the individual perception of the field (for example, School of Advanced Studies 2017; Matres, Oiva, Tolonen 2018; Toscano, Rabadán, Ros et al. 2020; Treasure 2022). As James O’Sullivan argues in his history of the Digital Humanities in Ireland, “While scholars tend to belong and contribute to international communities of praxis, doing DH in one place might look very different to doing DH somewhere else” (Toscano, Rabadán, Ros et al. 2020, 1).

That each of the five key concepts are not equally relevant to each country was recognised from an early stage of the network’s activities (Gambell, Gooding, Hughes et al. 2021, 13). Indeed, during the network’s second workshop on Digital Humanities and advocacy, the value of a UK-Ireland Digital Humanities Association was called into question when Andrew Prescott somewhat provocatively argued that the UK participants should instead focus on the formation of a national network designed to address their specific needs (as discussed in Gambell, Gooding, Hughes et al. 2021, 13). Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive and it is entirely possible for national communities to advocate for their needs whilst also engaging in international collaborations (as Prescott is no doubt aware).It goes without saying that an important issue to consider in developing an Irish Digital Humanities network — either in isolation or in collaboration with our UK colleagues — is the size and shape of the region’s Digital Humanities community both actual and potential. To that end, the Irish Network members partners are developing a Digital Humanities in Ireland Landscape Report. In recent years, Digital Humanities in Ireland has been the subject of several research papers and reports. Studies have focused on the history of the field in the last three decades (O’Sullivan, Murphy, Day 2015; O’Sullivan 2020); national capacity development for Digital Humanities research (Keating 2014; Smeaton, Collins, Harrower et al. 2015); and the potential impact of Digital Humanities on the Innovation Ecosystem (Byrne, Schreibman 2015). These studies contribute to a macro perspective of Irish Digital Humanities. It is hoped that the Landscape Report will both complement and supplement these studies through the establishment of an empirical perspective on Digital Humanities in Ireland both past and present, to facilitate longer-term thinking about Digital Humanities to optimise future developments in the field, including the nascent DH Association. A further objective is to provide recommendations to aid the IRC to develop their strategy for funding future Digital Humanities research.The research informing the Landscape Report will be delivered in two phases.

The initial phase took place between March and September 2021 and comprised the identification via desk research, collection and collation of data pertaining to Digital Humanities entities in Ireland (key definitions will be discussed in further detail presently). The second phase of the data gathering/collection exercise entails the presentation of the preliminary dataset to the wider Digital Humanities community for input and suggestions. The present piece has the joint aims of introducing the dataset which formed the foundation of the report and of offering some preliminary observations and analysis. It focuses on the themes of identity and identification of Digital Humanities entities. Whilst these questions are not necessarily unique to Irish Digital Humanities, the collation of a dataset pertaining to Digital Humanities in Ireland does allow us to offer a uniquely Irish perspective.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.36253/SIJIS-2239-3978-13743

Read Full Text: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/bsfm-sijis/article/view/13743

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