Congress 2017: A Glimpse Into My Future?

by Lara Carleton

Lara in Toronto for the 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Heading into Congress I was curious, nervous, but most importantly, excited! After my semester abroad, it became clear to me that pursuing a future in academia was something I wanted to do. Having my Research Assistant (RA) position and the consequent opportunity to attend my first academic conference helped to both validate and question this goal.

Upon listening to a variety of panels, I was mainly confused and overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge that I did not yet know or understand surrounding Digital Humanities (DH). I was slightly lost in space but slowly caught on to some DH basics. I also had to remind myself that I am new to the field so the conference was meant to be the learning experience that it was! In hindsight, many of the topics I heard about during Congress have come up in my digital history research for my work as an RA. It has been promising to see the growth in my knowledge thus far!

Off of this, I felt it was important to participate in panels but feared my questions being silly (to use a polite term). Once I know more about DH, if given another opportunity, I will gladly participate. If I were in a workshop I would have asked questions, but during the panels I felt intimidated asking my beginner-like queries while surrounded by a handful of experts in the field. Regardless of everyone in attendance making me feel included and welcome, I still lacked the confidence to further indulge as a rookie.

That’s why after attending the Text Mining (4a) panel where the papers discussed historically related events, I felt more comfortable, as I’m a history major, and finally understood the context. It was excellent for me to see scholars in my field being able to use DH technologies and tools to further their research. The Grad Panel, Graduate Students Speak Out (7b), also commented on this and how DH is able to support and benefit all fields, largely through collaboration. After the Text Mining panel though, I recognized that the history field may not be as accommodating to collaboration as DH is, so I hope to see a shift in this in the future.

As a side note, it was neat taking part in the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) for a paper and panel (90.) which already included me through Peter Goddard’s presentation on the Discourses of Poverty!

While discussing history, I participated in the Introduction to Databases (DHSI 4b) workshop with the engaging Harvey Quamen. It became evident to me that the program he was teaching us about, MySQL, could be useful for the Discourses of Poverty project I am working on so I stayed back to receive his opinions on how to best move forward. MySQL is a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) which I believed would help to demonstrate, and potentially visualize, relationships within our findings for the Poverty Project.

Following the (Under)Graduate Student Mentorship Lunch (L2), I was further overwhelmed by the sheer amount of opportunities and options that are available when pursuing a future in DH. A major option of interest to me was the MLIS, MA at the University of Alberta. Recently, I have truly only envisioned myself as an historian, maybe even an archivist, so this MLIS, MA which Laura Gerlitz recommended seems to be a strong fit.

A majority of the RAs and I attended an open lecture, My Uncertain Self and I, which we, well, at least I, regretted attending. We had anticipated this to be an enlightening and helpful discussion on professionals finding their way in the academic world while finding themselves, opposed to it being a questionably condescending talk on being a happier person. Being happy is absolutely important, but the presentation turned into more of a talk I would hear at a high school assembly than at an academic conference.

My curiosity about the DH community in Europe, but specifically in the UK, peaked after hearing Sally Wyatt discuss her paper on Gendering Digital Humanities (3a), as well as her take on DH in Europe. I have a huge travel bug and love for Europe so it would be neat to see how and where they are with DH first hand.

Lastly, huge thanks to Susan Brown and Kim Martin for making this opportunity possible for me!

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