Digital Community Building à la Française
I find myself once more in France. The food, the weather, the wine, the cheese, are all pretty good, and so is the discussion of digital humanities. Today I gave an invited plenary to kick off a week long event on digitization in the humanities, funded by the CNRS through the TGE Adonis, and organised by three of the French Centres of Expertise which I mentioned in an earlier posting here. You can read all about the event on its wiki pages at http://www.cn2sv.fr/ecole-sources-num, if you read French; here I will only very briefly summarize some interesting aspects that struck me, as the sole non-French person present. First off, I was very impressed by the community-building aspects of the way this event has been organised: the idea seems to be to bring together experts in very different kinds of digital resource (spoken, visual, textual, manuscripts...), provide them with brief accounts of best and current practice, and to foment debate and interchange of views. There is a training aspect, naturally (the event is billed as a summer school, of sorts), but above all it is an opportunity to form contacts and discuss some more profound issues of how exactly the humanities should react to, contribute to, and profit from mass digitization. The participants come from a large number of research institutions, small and large, as far as I can tell all funded by the CNRS, and have in common an active engagement with the procedures, and demonstrate an impressive range of skills and knowledge in this very lare area. There are plenty of webheads and technical people, but also some genuine scholars. The event is organised as three distinct courses (one on oral data, one on visual, and the third on written materials), each course comprising three workshop sessions, but organized in such a way that each participant can participate in two different courses, since each session is repeated. There is a formal feedback session at the end of each day, which gives ad hoc groupings of participants the opportunity to report back on the key issues that have emerged for them. An interesting approach, in my view, though the proof of the pudding will be in the days to come... Today, Yannick Maignien gave an excellent overview of the goals of the TGE Adonis project and I wittered on about the history of “humanities computing”. The whole is taking place in sybaritic surroundings, with excellent wifi, and other creature comforts. Vive la France!