Digital Humanities Teams

Following discussion with SSHRC and other INKE partners and researchers as part of our planning, we have also worked toward understanding the nature of digital humanities teams, and collaboration therein.  A stereotypical view of humanities disciplines holds that their work is single-scholar oriented.  The digital humanities offer a very visible exception to this view.  Given that digital projects typically require a variety of skills and knowledge, these teams are comprised of content experts, librarians, research assistants, computer programmers and software developers, and many others.  They often find that collaboration is more productive than individual work and certainly more social with an opportunity to learn.[1]  Further, advances in telecommunications and other forms of technologies mean that teams are no longer bound geographically.[2]  To ensure that these teams can achieve their research goals and objectives, research protocols are needed to ensure effective and efficient working relationships that maximize the benefits of collaboration while minimizing the associated challenges.

To this end, research on DH collaborations has been undertaken to identify successful protocols that support the research.  These teams often employ a “translator” to address the diversity of perspectives, disciplines, languages, and cultures that can exist.[3]  Many projects also develop project-specific vocabulary to define common terms that may have different meanings for the various represented disciplines.[4]  Further, these collaborations negotiate the appropriate balance between formal and informal face-to-face meetings, emails, conference calls and online project workspaces to plan, undertake, and report on the research and develop the personal relationships that sustain the collaboration during the actual work.[5]  Finally, detailed project plans with clear objectives, tasks, milestones and responsibilities become increasingly important as a project grows in membership, budget, scope and geographical distribution.[6]

These collaborations also highlight the importance of skills beyond content expertise and methodological training.  Team members need soft skills including patience, flexibility, openness, and team-orientation, as well as project management.[7]  Given that these skills are not generally included in graduate training, these projects can provide student training in these skills, which are becoming increasingly important both within and without the academy.[8]

While the above research is very important to understanding the nature of academic collaboration, most of it is conducted after a project has ended which may mean that some learning has been forgotten or minimized through the passage of time.  Additional understandings may be possible if collaborations are examined while underway.  INKE provides that opportunity.  Consequently, the team is reflecting on the nature of collaboration over the life of a long-term grant and the ways to support the collaboration itself, research and outcomes.

[1] See Siemens, Lynne. “It’s a Team if You Use ‘Reply All’: An Exploration of Research Teams in Digital Humanities Environments. Literary and Linguistic Computing 24.2 (2009): 225-33.

Siemens, Lynne, and Elisabeth Burr. “A Trip Around the World: Accommodating Geographical, Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Academic Research Teams.” Linguistic and Literary Computing 28.3 (2013): 331-43.

Siemens, Lynne, Richard Cunningham,  Wendy Duff, and Claire Warwick. “‘More Minds are Brought to Bear on a Problem’: Methods of Interaction and Collaboration within Digital Humanities Research Teams.” Digital Studies/Le champ numerique 2.2 (2011): n.pag.

Siemens, Lynne, Richard Cunningham, Wendy Duff, and Claire Warwick. “A Tale of Two Cities: Implications of the Similarities and Differences in Collaborative Approaches Within the Digital Libraries and Digital Humanities Communities.” Literary & Linguistic Computing 26.3 (2011): 335-48.

Siemens, Ray, Lynne Siemens, Richard Cunningham, Alan Galey, Stan Ruecker, and Claire Warwick. “Implementing New Knowledge Environments: Year One Research Foundations.” Scholarly and Research Communication 3.1 (2012): n. pag.

[2] See Siemens and Burr, “A Trip Around the World.”

[3] See Siemens and Burr, “A Trip Around the World.”; Siemens et al., “More Minds.”

Siemens, Lynne, Wendy Duff,  Claire Warwick, and Richard Cunningham. “‘It Challenges Members to Think of Their Work Through Another Kind of Specialist’s Eyes’: Exploration of the Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Digital Project Teams.” Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology46.1 (2009): 1-14.

[4] See Siemens, “It’s a Team.”

Siemens, Lynne, Richard Cunningham, Wendy Duff, and Claire Warwick. Training Collaborative Scholars: Creating Space for Learning Through Student Involvement in Research Teams. Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education. Carleton U, Ottawa. May 2009.

[5] See Siemens, Lynne. “Time, Place and Cyberspace: Foundations for Successful e-Research Collaboration.” e-Research Collaboration: Theory, Techniques and Challenges. Ed. M. Anandarajan and A. Anandarajan. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 2010.

Siemens et al., “More Minds.”

[6] See Siemens and Burr, “A Trip Around the World.”; Siemens et al., “More Minds.”; Siemens et al., “A Tale of Two Cities.”

[7] See Siemens and Burr, “A Trip Around the World.”; Siemens et al., “More Minds.”

[8] See Siemens et al., Training Collaborative Scholars;  Siemens et al., “More Minds.”