Digital Humanities

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Digital Humanties in American StudiesDigital_Portobelo[1]

The Digital Innovation Lab (DIL) is a project-focused hub for collaborative, interdisciplinary discovery, experimentation, implementation, and assessment in the use of digital technologies to advance the work of the University in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The DIL was launched by the College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and is administratively housed in the Department of American Studies. 

The DIL undertakes all its work through interdisciplinary collaboration, involving scholars and students from a wide range of disciplinary orientations, technology experts, and digital humanities facilitators and project managers who bridge these domains. Across campus, the DIL cooperates and collaborates with a growing number of other units, including the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Renaissance Computing Institute, University Library, Office of Arts and Sciences Information Services, Information Technology Services, Southern Oral History Program, and ibiblio. Outside the university, the DIL has collaborated with cultural heritage organizations around the state, other branches of the UNC system, the National Humanities Center, and other digital humanities and supercomputing centers worldwide.

The DIL’s mission is to:

  • advance digital humanities work as public goods: digital projects, products, tools, and applications that are of special social and cultural value, can be produced for free scholarly, pedagogic, and public use (or at a minimal marginal cost), are scalable, reusable and repurposable, and serve multiple audiences/end-users within and outside of the University;
  • engage academic and non-academic users with large-scale, humanities-relevant data sources;
  • develop tools and work processes that facilitate and expand the use of digital technologies and large data sources in public humanities, academic research, and teaching;
  • collaborate with UNC faculty, data and technology experts, graduate and undergraduate students, other university units, cultural heritage organizations (particularly in N.C.), and digital humanities/supercomputing centers worldwide in project-based work that advances the goals above and/or develops best-practice models for realizing synergies among engaged scholarship, the effective use of digital technologies, and interdisciplinary collaboration;
  • develop and test new strategies for the integration of digital humanities in graduate training and undergraduate learning.

Over the next five years, the DIL will play a key role in the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, launched in 2012 under a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As a key part of the CDHI, the DIL’s priorities over the next five years will be to:

  • facilitate the engagement of CDHI-affiliated faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in digital humanities as a new form of collaborative academic practice
  • create and test vehicles for the integration of digital humanities approaches and projects in graduate and undergraduate learning
  • significantly lower the cost, time, and skills barriers to participation in digital humanities work for scholars, teachers, students, and cultural heritage organizations through the development,  enhancement, and testing of low-cost, easy-to-use, open-source software tools, work processes, and platforms applicable to a wide range of digital humanities projects
  • develop large, publicly accessible, humanities-relevant data sets (to date: city directories, historical maps, historical newspapers, public documents, census enumerations) to serve as test-beds for research, analysis, visualization, spatialization, engaged scholarship, and teaching
  • undertake collaborative, open-ended, public-facing, scalable digital humanities projects representing a range of interdisciplinary convergences and use-cases to serve as “agile-development” challenges/opportunities for software/work-processes and to provide opportunities for CDHI-affiliated faculty, post-docs, and graduate students to contribute and “learn by doing”

Opportunities for Graduate Students to get involved in Digital Humanities:

Graduate courses in digital humanities are offered through the American Studies department in conjunction with the DIL. The DIL can advise students on digital humanities, new media, and digital arts courses offered across the campus and at Duke University and N.C. State University (students at all three research universities enjoy cross-registration privileges). Graduate students interested in digital humanities are encouraged to enroll in the DIL’s Graduate Digital Humanities Practicum, and to pursue the new Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities.

Beginning in 2013-14 graduate students will be able to apply for CDHI Graduate Fellows Program, which will add a summer stipend to a Ph.D. student’s departmental award and an opportunity to explore the use of digital technologies in humanistic inquiry through participation in DIL projects.

Additionally, the DIL engages graduate students as research assistants on digital projects. Interested students may email the DIL (