Issues of Access: The Promise and Structural Challenges of Digital Humanities for Scholars of East Asia

AHA Session 138
Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Evan Dawley, Goucher College
Sue Jean Cho, Northern Virginia Community College
Sakura Christmas, Bowdoin College
Christopher Lupke, University of Alberta
Georgia Mickey, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Session Abstract

Although Digital Humanities (DH) has deeper roots, it has been in the last fifteen years or so that it has emerged as “the next big thing” in the fields of the humanities. A convergence of native and digitized electronic sources, the power and breadth of computing applications, and the methods of the humanistic disciplines, DH offers a wealth of possibilities to historians and other scholars. Massive digitization projects have facilitated access to countless archival and published sources, computerized data analysis has enabled scholars to deal with much greater quantities and types of information, and new digital platforms allow for historians to present and even think about their research in original ways. Moreover, as with the early buzz around the internet itself, proponents of DH have argued that it has an inherent democratizing effect because it makes research and teaching materials, and the media for scholarly production, accessible to a much broader audience. However, DH offers particular challenges to scholars of East Asia, especially to those who work at small and/or under-funded institutions in North America, because of a relative scarcity of accessible materials, particularly those that can be used in an English-language classroom or for research purposes, and the existing state of DH tools and resources.

The members of this roundtable will specifically address how scholars of East Asia working at such institutions have and have not been able to employ DH in their teaching and research. Faced with a comparatively small collection of accessible teaching and research materials, computational tools that have lagged in their applications for East Asian languages, and sharply constricted institutional budgets, East Asianists have nonetheless managed to use DH in pedagogically significant and creative ways. However, they have also been unable to take advantage of DH to the same extent as their colleagues at wealthier institutions and/or in other fields. The roundtable will approach these issues through our answers to common questions, such as: what are some noteworthy examples of DH in East Asian Studies? What are the primary barriers to using DH? How can we meaningfully engage with digitized and born-digital resources? How can we improvise, innovate, and use DH as an opportunity to deepen collaboration with our students? How have funding agencies supported East Asian Studies at small and under-funded institutions, and how should such support be altered or enhanced? Although our perspectives are specific to scholars of East Asia, we hope to engage with those who study other areas and will leave ample time for discussion with audience members.

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