John Unsworth, UIUC
Daniel Cohen, George Mason
Katherine Walter, U of Nebraska
Neil Fraistat, U of Maryland
Mark Kornbluh, Michigan State
Walter offered, by proxy, since Unsworth was unavailable, a commentary on the eight recommendations of the ACLS report on cyberinfrastructure for the humanities. As usual, when this is the topic, I mused on the question of how many humanities scholars even grasp the ramifications of the report, or, frankly, even know or care about developments in the field. Most of them are at institutions that do not have the luxury of a humanities computing center and are, at best, consumers of work done elsewhere. What is missing, I think, is a discussion about or study of the attitudes of humanities scholars toward the development of a humanities cyberinfrastructure. It's telling that I hear more about this topic at library conferences, while when I ask humanities scholars about their conferences and this topic, I generally get blank stares. This is not a function of being at K-State, either; this pattern repeats itself ad nauseum regardless of the scholar's home.
One observation Walter made was that there currently isn't a lot to show for humanities computing. This is truly an endeavor that is in its nascence, and perhaps that relates to the observation I made above. The people working in this area are forerunners, likely to be misunderstood or ignored by many working in the disciplines, but that in no way invalidates their work.
Fraistat mentioned a new organization, Centernet, intended to bring together various centers and initiatives and begin to establish a coordinated effort.
Two speakers, Dan Cohen and Mark Kornbluh, offered a brief definition of description of a digital humanities center. Cohen noted that at George Mason, they have become a full service center covering digitization, tool development, podcasting, etc. He also pointed out that organizations are beginning to recognize the field, e.g.- Mellon and ACLS. Kornbluh pointed out again that this is a new field, and that there is, as yet, no rigid definition nor even home for centers, which have many different homes and models as one surveys the landscape.
A guest speaker from the NEH announced two new grant opportunities for digital humanities centers. The first is a fellowship program, where a center can apply for funding with a specific fellow in mind. The other focuses on sharing best practices and expertise between centers (Institute for Advanced Topics).