Digital Humanities in Alberta, 2017

I started my job in the English Department at the University of Calgary five years ago this month, in 2007. When you move here, one of the things you notice is that Albertans start by making ambitious plans and only then sweat the details.  Approval for pipelines notwithstanding, this quality is pretty admirable.

So five years from now, in 2017, what will be the state of Digital Humanities in Alberta?

We’re already in a position of strength, with active researchers across the province. [I’m learning more as I launch my own SSHRC-funded project this fall, provisionally titled Encoding Shakespeare.] The U of A has a renowned Humanities Computing MA program, and its CIRCA is a national leader in humanities research computing. Dan O’Donnell at Lethbridge is breaking new ground by editing objects in the Visionary Cross project, and Nicole Rosen’s Cree-Innu Linguistic Atlas is a revelation. Our campus infrastructure attracts international attention, like when Dan Cohen tweeted about Calgary’s TFDL. But where can we go next?

I can foresee expansions of what we have already, and drawing together the community of Alberta DHers to address new problems. I see collaborative projects involving digital humanists from multiple universities; senior hires and national expertise on problems like big data; research funding from institutions and governments grappling with data visualization, natural language processing, the semantic web. I see DH research incubators at each university, with permanent offices and dedicated administrators to support our grant applications and project management.

I’m just beginning to grasp the state of DH in Alberta, but can already see that we’re moving in the right directions. I joined AbDAH’s exploratory committee to learn more about DH projects and experts today, but more importantly, to provoke discussions and plans for our future.


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