New Search | Return to Search Results | Print View

Introduction: Welcome to the Big Tent

Matthew Jockers, Stanford University, mjockers@stanford.edu

Glen Worthey, Stanford University, gworthey@stanford.edu


Welcome to Stanford, and welcome to Digital Humanities 2011. Our very public goal over the past two years (and more) of preparation for this week has been to bring this, our favorite DH conference, to Stanford. But we also confess to another, more private goal: to bring Stanford to the DH conference. We've long recognized the digital humanities practices, and even a very particular digital humanities spirit, in the work of many, many of our Stanford colleagues; we've long suspected that they would find a welcome place in the community represented by ADHO and the annual DH conferences — even though, until recently, only a handful of us have been regular DH attendees.

Every institution has its quirks, its culture and its subcultures, and one aspect of Stanford academic life that we've grown accustomed to here is what we've come to call the "entrepreneurial," by which of course we mean enterprising, risk-taking, and adventuresome. (Of course, it's also a nod to Stanford history and geography, and to the many generations of Stanford's Silicon Valley brainchildren, from pre-Hewlett-Packard to post-Google.) But "entrepreneurial" means not only that: Stanford's digital humanists have not until recently been much engaged in the formation of DH centers or departments, nor have they coalesced around a single professional society or journal or annual conference. Instead, our work and our practitioners have been distributed across many academic departments, in the Libraries, and various research initiatives, with pockets of intense and important DH activity in all those places.

The theme we've chosen for DH2011 is "Big Tent Digital Humanities," and this was meant, in part, to convey our own desire to include in the DH2011 the many different varieties of DH practice that surround us right here at Stanford. At the same time, the "big tent" seemed to us an appropriate metaphorical response to some of the debates that have flourished in the digital humanities worldwide, especially in the past few years, about the meanings and limits of the Digital Humanities designation. Although DH2011 belongs to everyone who participates in it, by choosing this theme we meant to announce publicly our own opinion that a broad and diverse and vibrant DH field, one in which a thousand flowers might bloom, is the sort of DH we at Stanford believe in and hope to promote.

(And speaking of a thousand flowers: the psychedelic flower-child theme of our conference website, our logo, and the design of the book of abstracts you're reading now, were all created by our many-talented Stanford DH colleague Nicole Coleman. We hope it conveys to you not only our heritage of California dreaming, but also — and more importantly — our sense of wonder and appreciation for the many-splendored field of DH, for its practice of creative exuberance, for its opening of the scholarly mind and senses to new and revolutionary ways of seeing and thinking about the humanities. We believe you'll find that the DH revolution we hope to promote is of a peace-loving, sunshiny nature — but no less revolutionary for all that.)

A proper list of acknowledgments would run to many, many pages, but let us mention a particular few without whose help both we and DH2011 would be utterly lost: the ADHO Conference Coordinating Committee chair, John Unsworth, has helped us through every stage of the planning process, from well before the submission of our bid to host DH2011 more than two years ago, to.... Well, I imagine we'll have still more questions for John and other ADHO executives long after everyone else has gone home. ADHO's International Program Committee, chaired with diligence and a gentle hand by Kay Walter, has assembled a wonderful bouquet of papers, panels,  posters , and workshops from a select portion of the many hundreds of DH flowers that bloomed in the submission process; of course, Kay and her team also had the thankless task of having to turn away many worthy proposals. To all those who submitted, we express our sincere thanks; to those many whose proposals did not end up in the final program, we also say: We know how you feel; we've been there too. Even the biggest tents have sell-out crowds.

Closer to home, a small army of people have helped make this conference possible, foremost among them our meeting planner Melanie Walton, with the help of a great team in Stanford Conference Services. Melanie and company have expertly handled more details of more aspects of pulling off a conference like this than the two of us even knew existed, and they've done so with patience and good humor. Our team of conference volunteers is made up of good-humored graduate students from the Stanford Literary Lab, under the direction of Franco Moretti and Matt (one of yours truly), as well as a number of colleagues from the Stanford University Libraries. These people have helped with everything from text markup to staffing the registration tables, but they're really far too accomplished to be doing this sort of thing; ask them about their real work as they're showing you around campus or helping you with WiFi.

Of course, a lot more could be said about Stanford, about DH in general, and about DH2011 in particular (not to mention at least a dozen more clichés of 1960s counterculture, and a dozen different ways of parsing our "big tent" metaphor) — but let's get on with the show.

Matt Jockers & Glen Worthey, your local hosts