Starter kit for considering a DH dissertation

Cross-posted on the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Committee on Info Tech blog.

Successful non-traditional dissertations include a comic book (Nick Sousanis), a hip-hop album (A.D. Carson), code and design without written chapters (me), and the use of digital formats and methods such as a Tumblog counter-narrative (Jade E. Davis) or topic modeling (Lisa Rhody).

Are you curious about using digital methods or forms to pursue your dissertation research questions? Or maybe dissertational gate-tenders (advisors, mentors, departments) have you seeking successful examples of DH as part of the dissertation. Wherever you’re coming from, here’s a short selection of readings to get you started exploring digital humanities as doctoral scholarship:

  1. Humanities Commons hosts around 70 dissertations; you can search for “digital humanities” to whittle these down to around 10 DHy theses such as Jason Rhody’s Game Fiction and Alex Gil’s Migrant Textuality.
  2. DH discussions under the aegis of scholarly organizations like MLA or AHA spend a good portion of time on concerns around evaluation and promotion relevant to the dissertation process. Resources you might check out on Humanities Commons include the Digital Humanists Group and events like the Online Forum on DH and Medicine recently posted on the Medical Humanities site.
  3. #RemixtheDiss Models (hosted by the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center CUNY and HASTAC) A collaboratively built GoogleDoc with information on a variety of dissertations using new formats and methods, including digital humanities approaches. Info includes each dissertation’s university and department, tools and media used, status of the dissertation (possibly outdated), and contact addresses for getting on touch with these dissertators.
  4. Our Praxis Program (hosted by the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library) Now in its seventh year, the Praxis Program offers 7 examples of what a small team of (usually pre-ABD) humanities graduate students new to DH can learn, research, and build over the course of two semesters. If you’re a UVA grad student, check out our full offerings for DHy graduate fellowships as well as our variety of informal services for graduate students.
  5. DH Guidelines for Dissertations and Tenure Zotero Library (46 items) Tenure and promotion cases can be models for DH dissertations, with the same issues of evaluation, effort, packaging, and translation at stake.
  6. HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) A good community to read what other students in similar fields and stages of the degree to yours are thinking about, and for becoming comfortable with scholarly blogging. See especially those posts tagged as digital humanities or digital dissertations.

Some of the materials I created before or during my completed DH dissertation might also be relevant:

  1. My PhD Exams reading list, including an introductory argument for the items on the list and two sets of materials: broad digital humanities readings, and textual scholarship with a focus on digital scholarly editing. Among other benefits, making DH a focus of your exams reading can help you understand your exam committee’s (as a potential dissertation committee) attitudes toward DH. A Zotero library of some of the list’s readings is here.
  2. My dissertation itself is a website: Dr.AmandaVisconti.com. The focus of the dissertation was the design, building, and analysis of a participatory digital edition, InfiniteUlysses.com.
  3. I blogged throughout the dissertation process. I particularly recommend the linked posts on defense advice, the actual defense talk, evaluating a DH dissertation, thinking through diversity and inclusion in your dissertation scholarship, planning out the many pieces of a dissertation project, and choosing the best format (chapters? something else?) for your scholarship.

Amanda Visconti is Managing Director of the Scholars' Lab. She holds a Literature Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Information from the University of Michigan, and is also a web developer with 10 years of experience. She serves as an elected member of the Association for Computing and the Humanities (ACH)…

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