Hi! This post is a revised version of some remarks I gave on a “Space and Place” panel at ACH 2019. It’s also a kind of roundup of some conversations that happened at this fantastic conference. Many of the images here are screenshots of slides from my talk. Thanks to everyone cited here who informed my thinking; any faults or bad takes are completely my own.
One of the more popular tweets to come out of the first Association for Computers and the Humanities Conference (#ACH2019 on Twitter) was the observation by Kristen Mapes (who is great!) that there seemed to be “a call for slow DH, for spending time with archives and data and material and the people within them.” I agree that there seemed to be a lot of advocates for “Slow DH” in Pittsburgh, and I wanted to think about these investments from the perspective of a digital public humanities practitioner who works with non-academic community partners, collaborators, and publics.
On the Minimal Computing roundtable at ACH, Marisa Parham asked “What does it mean to validate new kinds of work?” and I think this question has a lot of relevance to place-based digital public humanities initiatives, many of which involve forms of collaboration with off-campus stakeholders, non-academic publics, speculative dimensions, people in precarious positions. In considering when and how digital public humanities might complement “slow” work with faster and more public-facing benchmarks and outputs, I want to acknowledge that the validation of these forms of labor requires that our institutions reimagine and reevaluate how it staffs centers, labs, and departments, how our “conditions of possibility” (a phrase I have heard Thomas Padilla use in other contexts) are inevitably limited if we do not attend to the various institutional realities shaping the work of digital public humanities.