Thursday, June 2, 2011

Working with People

The Humanities are traditionally a lonely profession. While in the hard sciences it's not uncommon to see a long list of names on papers, in Humanities professions there's little reward for multiple people working on a project. Tenure was based on articles you wrote, sole project work. One of the reasons I love digital humanities work is that people are coming together, breaking the restrictive bonds of solitary work. It was the reason I went back to grad school in 2004, tired of being the lone computer guy at a non-profit doing interesting data management work for people who largely didn't understand what I did.

Today I was lucky enough to meet with folks at the Scholar's Lab and the SHANTI at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It was inspiring to see the work they're doing by coming together, and building great projects. As David Germano explained it, the early days of DH work were dominated by projects built around individuals. Which mean highly specialized projects that had to be continuously maintained by individuals who also had to fundraise for them. These projects were difficult to bring to other applications. Now, they're trying to build infrastructure projects, or better yet build on top of infrastructure projects to build the capacity for all DH professionals to do powerful projects. And of course, since a huge number of their projects have a geospatial component, they were fans of Google Maps and Earth. But Fusion Tables was pretty new, so I hopefully helped them out there.

Tomorrow, I am meeting with people at the Smithsonian and then hurrying back to Fairfax for THATCamp where I'm leading a self-guided a workshop on Google Geo. Come and join us. And work together to develop projects.

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