Re:Humanities 2015: A Digital Humanities Gathering

Last week the Harvey Digital Humanities team participated in the annual Re:Humanities conference hosted by undergraduates digital humanists at three liberal arts colleges in Philadelphia (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore). The conference included the work of students from diverse schools, including UCLA, Yale, Princeton, and Queens University (Ontario). These students brought their biggest and brightest ideas to showcase a wide range of digital humanities projects.

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An image from Hillary Cleary’s (UCLA) historical game “Pope Burn: A Game for Dissenters,” which highlights a little-known 17th century pope-burning processional.

The projects included Hillary Cleary’s “Pope Burns” game, which details the historic events behind an 17th-century London processional that culminated by a crowd burning the pope in effigy. Cleary created this game for the same reasons we are building Harvey: as a way to curate the past and educate the public on the events of the past. And she wanted to create something rather than write another twenty-page paper. The spirit of maker culture animated the student projects. It is an exciting time to be a student.

Whitney Trettien, who will be starting as a new professor at UNC–Chapel Hill, kicked off the two day event with a keynote address exploring the multiple ways that objects can be immortalized and how this benefits those of us who take the time to stop and look at them. Her speech “Destroying the Book to Come” gave examples of how old books have been digitally awoken—giving their messages and ideas new life. That’s what we hope Harvey does for the content that is trapped in the archives.

In the same way that Trettien beautifully introduced the conference, Wendy Hsu’s closing keynote wrapped it up in a way that made us all step back and look at our digital humanities world in a different way. “Enacting Humanist Possibilities: From the Academy to the Publics” contemplated how these new, digital technologies can change the ways that our public institutions—schools, universities, municipalities—engage the general public. Hsu imagines a deeper involvement of citizens and ordinary people in public work. Looking at the community of western Wisconsin and UW–Stout alumni, Harvey has similar goals to create a new way for people to interact with this institution and our shared history.

Throughout the conference The Harvey Game sparked interest across the board. The chance to present this project at the poster session really caught everyone’s attention and made them think about a whole new way to represent the Digital Humanities. With many comments along the lines of, “I never would have thought a virtual game could be a humanities project.” The Harvey Game really represented the amazing and innovative work that The University of Wisconsin – Stout is instilling in its students. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

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A group selfie with the student presenters.