The Digital Humanities community spans disciplines, academic and professional ranks, and the full spectrum of student education. This community self-defines in myriad ways, which poses challenges to faculty, librarians, staff, and others working to design curriculum, support skill development and methodological fluency, allocate resources, and develop services in the Digital Humanities. The authors of this poster conducted a year long, multi-pronged, campus-wide study to gain a greater understanding of how individuals across a large research intensive university campus include Digital Humanities methods in their research and pedagogy, what their data needs and preferences are, where these parties need greater support, and where additional opportunities for partnerships within and across departments, colleges, and units.
Given the desire to provide a unified and complementary set of services, curriculum, resources, and collaborative possibilities, representatives from the libraries, one college, and a multi-disciplinary lab within another college at a research intensive university jointly designed and implemented a campus-wide survey and targeted, in depth interviews that equally reflected the Digital Humanities related missions of the aforementioned units. This poster demonstrates a collaborative model for assessing and cultivating a Digital Humanities community at a large research intensive university.
Michigan State University, home to MATRIX, H-Net, and WIDE, has been active in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences for more than two decades. Serendipitously, MSU Libraries, the College of Arts and Letters, and the Department of History each sought to build on this strength at the same time through a program of hiring. Amidst this constellation of Digital Humanities activity and inspired by the example of the University of Colorado, in which the university library conducted a Digital Humanities needs assessment, the authors resolved to conduct a data-driven analysis of the Digital Humanities environment on campus. To do so, the authors reached out to units known to the community in addition to disciplines less engaged with Digital Humanities. The collaborative, cross-institutional nature of this needs assessment design is foundational as a model for other institutions to evaluate and enhance their own community and offerings.
The assessment model developed for this study adopted a holistic approach, focusing on current use and interest in methods and tools, programming languages, types of data used, data sources, and preferences for data access, preferences relating to collaboration, workshops and training sessions, and an inquiry into limitations and barriers to using digital and computational methods. The 20-minute long survey received 421 responses, including a strong turnout from key humanities and social science departments, including History, Anthropology, Linguistics and Languages, English, and Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. Survey results were supplemented with ten hour-long interviews with faculty and graduate students about their use of digital methods and support on campus. Some respondents were selected by the survey convenors ahead of time, while others volunteered through the survey responses.
The results of the survey are being used at the unit level as well as university-wide at differing scales to face specific needs within units as well as to strategize campus-wide collaboration and capacity-building initiatives. The authors are using data at the unit level to augment support, services, and partnerships for pedagogy, research, data management, and skill development. Results are also being used to inform campuswide community building initiatives through outreach, strategic developments among units, and larger initiatives through the Office of Research.
This poster presents a model for developing a campus-wide Digital Humanities needs assessment intended to provide strategic information for multiple units on a large research intensive campus. By reviewing this model, other universities and colleges will come away with strategies for identifying what types of collaborations between colleges, departments, programs, labs, and libraries can improve DH pedagogy and research, what resources, activities, and services are needed to support those collaborations, as well as approaches for engaging those that are interested in the Digital Humanities but are not yet active participants. The poster presentation will include data derived from the needs assessment in addition to Digital Humanities community building solutions inspired by the data.