Perhaps the most intriguing thing about digital humanities is the expansiveness of the field. It has no single definition, no limitations on what it is and isn’t. The possibilities within the field are limitless, but its liminality – its existence somewhere between “real” humanities and “real” tech – is also one of its largest drawbacks. For all of its possibilities, the field of digital humanities is also rife with questions: Can young academics put their DH work on their CVs? Can assistant professors use it to gain tenure? Can alt-ac doctorate-holders transform it into a non-academic career? And, perhaps most important of all, can those of us toiling in the (often-unpaid) DH bowels get, and keep, others on board to help them with their projects? Ultimately, I hope to explore how can we explain the importance and significance of this growing and dynamic field to our core audiences: other academics, and the public at large.
I am an ACLS Public Fellow/Engagement Analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, the managing editor of Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, and a writer whose first book (a history of marijuana activism from the 1960s to today) is being published by Basic next year. I work with DH every day, and I hope to use my presentation to discuss the possibilities and potential of this field for academia/alt-ac, but also dialogue with others about where we see the field going, where its greatest applications lie, and how we can bring more people into the conversation. The emphasis of DH has long been, in my opinion, an opening of the humanities to as broad as audience as possible – certainly a worthy goal. But it begs even more questions: What can we do, and what goals can we keep in mind, to achieve this? And where are the richest possibilities for the field?