This global pandemic is asking a lot of us, and the world is contorting itself to oblige. Amidst the growing fears and burdens that accompany this deformation, many of us are turning to small acts of creativity to help keep us afloat. I’m writing a short story (it’s not very good); my partner is knitting more; a friend is finally hanging pictures on his walls; another is painting portraits.
In an effort to inject some more positivity into this chaotic moment, however small, some friends and I created an outlet for your creations. We call it a thousand little fires, and we hope you’ll contribute. Every day, we’ll post one new thing that you’ve made while dealing with temporary isolation.
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This first post covers the basic landscape of submissions to next year’s conference: how many submissions there are, what they’re about, and so forth.
The analysis is opinionated and sprinkled with my own preliminary interpretations. If you disagree with something or want to see more, comment below, and I’ll try to address it in the inevitable follow-up. If you want the data, too bad—since it’s only available to reviewers, there’s an expectation of privacy. If you are sad for political or other reasons and live near me, I will bring you chocolate; if you are sad and do not live near me, you should move to Pittsburgh. We have chocolate.
Submission Numbers & Types
I’ll be honest, I was surprised by this year’s submission numbers. This will be the first ADHO conference held in North America since it was held in Nebraska in 2013, and I expected an influx of submissions from people who haven’t been able to travel off the continent for interim events. I expected the biggest submission pool yet.
What we see, instead, are fewer submissions than Kraków last year: 608 in all. The low number of submissions to Sydney was expected, given it was the first conference held outside Europe or North America, but this year’s numbers suggests the DH Hype Machine might be cooling somewhat, after five years of rapid growth.
We need some more years and some more DH-Hype-Machine Indicators to be sure, but I reckon things are slowing down.
The conference offers five submission tracks: Long Paper, Short Paper, Poster, Panel, and (new this year) Virtual Short Paper. The distribution is pretty consistent with previous years, with the only deviation being in Sydney in 2015. Apparently Australians don’t like short papers or posters?
I’ll be interested to see how the “Virtual Short Paper” works out. Since authors need to decide on this format before submitting, it doesn’t allow the flexibility of seeing if funding will become available over the course of the year. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and I hope it succeeds.
More of the same! If nothing else, we get points for consistency.
Same as it ever was, nearly half of all submissions are by a single author. I don’t know if that’s because humanists need to justify their presentations to hiring and tenure committees who only respect single authorship, or if we’re just used to working alone. A full 80% of submissions have three or fewer authors, suggesting large teams are still not the norm, or that we’re not crediting all of the labor that goes into DH projects with co-authorships. [Post-publication note: See Adam Crymble’s comment, below, for important context]
Language, Topic, & Discipline
Authors choose from several possible submission languages. This year, 557 submissions were received in English, 40 in French, 7 in Spanish, 3 in Italian, and 1 in German. That’s the easy part.
The Powers That Be decided to make my life harder by changing up the categories authors can choose from for 2017. Thanks, Diane, ADHO, or whoever decided this.
In previous years, authors chose any number of keywords from a controlled vocabulary of about 100 possible topics that applied to their submission. Among other purposes, it helped match authors with reviewers. The potential topic list was relatively static for many years, allowing me to analyze the change in interest in topics over time.
This year, they added, removed, and consolidated a bunch of topics, as well as divided the controlled vocabulary into “Topics” (like metadata, morphology, and machine translation) and “Disciplines” (like disability studies, archaeology, and law). This is ultimately good for the conference, but makes it difficult for me to compare this against earlier years, so I’m holding off on that until another post.
But I’m not bitter.
This year’s options are at the bottom of this post in the appendix. Words in red were added or modified this year, and the last list are topics that used to exist, but no longer do.
So let’s take a look at this year’s breakdown by discipline.
Huh. “Computer science”—a topic which last year did not exist—represents nearly a third of submissions. I’m not sure how much this topic actually means anything. My guess is the majority of people using it are simply signifying the “digital” part of their “Digital Humanities” project, since the topic “Programming”—which existed in previous years but not this year—used to only connect to ~6% of submissions.
“Literary studies” represents 30% of all submissions, more than any previous year (usually around 20%), whereas “historical studies” has stayed stable with previous years, at around 20% of submissions. These two groups, however, can be pretty variable year-to-year, and I’m beginning to suspect that their use by authors is not consistent enough to take as meaningful. More on that in a later post.
That said, DH is clearly driven by lit, history, and library/information science. L/IS is a new and welcome category this year; I’ve always suspected that DHers are as much from L/IS as the humanities, and this lends evidence in that direction. Importantly, it also makes apparent a dearth in our disciplinary genealogies: when we trace the history of DH, we talk about the history of humanities computing, the history of the humanities, the history of computing, but rarely the history of L/IS.
I’ll have a more detailed breakdown later, but there were some surprises in my first impressions. “Film and Media Studies” is way up compared to previous years, as are other non-textual disciplines, which refreshingly shows (I hope) the rise of non-textual sources in DH. Finally. Gender studies and other identity- or intersectional-oriented submissions also seem to be on the rise (this may be an indication of US academic interests; we’ll need another few years to be sure).
If we now look at Topic choices (rather than Discipline choices, above), we see similar trends.
Again, these are just first impressions, there’ll be more soon. Text is still the bread and butter of DH, but we see more non-textual methods being used than ever. Some of the old favorites of DH, like authorship attribution, are staying pretty steady against previous years, whereas others, like XML and encoding, seem to be decreasing in interest year after year.
One last note on Topics and Disciplines. There’s a list of discontinued topics at the bottom of the appendix. Most of them have simply been consolidated into other categories, however one set is conspicuously absent: meta-discussions of DH. There are no longer categories for DH’s history, theory, how it’s taught, or its institutional support. These were pretty popular categories in previous years, and I’m not certain why they no longer exist. Perusing the submissions, there are certainly several that fall into these categories.
For Part 2 of this analysis, look forward to more thoughts on the topical breakdown of conference submissions; preliminary geographic and gender analysis of authors; and comparisons with previous years. After that, who knows? I take requests in the comments, but anyone who requests “Free Bird” is banned for life.
Appendix: Controlled Vocabulary
Words in red were added or modified this year, and the last list are topics that used to exist, but no longer do.
agent modeling and simulation
archives, repositories, sustainability and preservation
audio, video, multimedia
authorship attribution / authority
bibliographic methods / textual studies
concording and indexing
copyright, licensing, and Open Access
corpora and corpus activities
cultural and/or institutional infrastructure
data mining / text mining
data modeling and architecture including hypothesis-driven modeling