Digital Humanities Summer Institute: Nerds Welcome!

Full disclosure: I am a Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) convert, and I want to share the good news. I’ve recently returned from my second year attending DHSI at the University of Victoria, and I have only great things to say.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has called DHSI a “Summer Camp for Digital Humanists,” and my own experiences verify this description. DHSI is five days of glorious nerdy exploration and collaboration, and I thought it might be worthwhile to introduce the DHSI to those unfamiliar with it.


What is it?

Unlike a traditional conference, DHSI does not offer panels of 20-minute papers.

Instead, it is what its name implies—a digital training institute.

DHSI offers a wide range of courses from basic introductions to text encoding and digitization to advanced programming and mobile application design. (For a list of the courses that happened this year, click here.) Each day, participants attend roughly five hours of class. Beyond the individual courses, DHSI provides numerous opportunities to see work-in-progress presentations, attend breakout skills training sessions and discussions, and hear plenary talks. This year, it was possible to attend events from 8AM to 6PM—not to mention post-conference frivolity at one of the bars near the University. In short, DHSI is intense, invigorating, and exhausting.


Even though the programs at DHSI have been growing at an impressive rate—this year seventeen different courses were offered and more than 400 people attended—it still manages to maintain a collaborative and surprisingly intimate atmosphere.  The hierarchies that are sometimes present at other conferences are entirely absent at DHSI. The Institute prides itself on an friendly “opt-in” policy. You are encouraged to invite yourself along to other people’s dinner plans and discussion groups. It’s a great opportunity to meet both Romanticists and people from other fields.



According to the DHSI Director Ray Siemens’s closing remarks, the course offerings for next year’s DHSI will be released shortly. The dates are already set: June 10-14, 2013. As you begin to look ahead to planning the coming year’s conference and research schedule (and funding options for both), it may be worth putting DHSI in your calendar. There are many scholarships available for DHSI. For those working in the nineteenth-century, the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship (NINES) offers tuition scholarships. The Institute itself also offers tuition scholarships (early registration is key for these). The Association for Computers and the Humanities also offers travel bursaries to ACH members. More information will be available on the DHSI website soon.  Moreover, because DHSI offers training that is not easily available elsewhere, it may be possible to get funding from your own institution.

I already have DHSI marked on my calendar for next year, and I hope to see many more Romanticists there.

2 thoughts on “Digital Humanities Summer Institute: Nerds Welcome!”

  1. This experience sounds really interesting and something I’ll admit I’d never heard of! It also sounds intimidating, though, for those of us who aren’t used to using this kind of technology. How much knowledge would you say you should have going into a program like this? Would it be completely lost on someone who’s had no real experience with programing or text encoding (I’m not even sure what that means, to be honest!). Or is it something you could easily pick up on through the courses?

    Sounds fascinating and incredibly helpful!

    1. I have to say it is one of the least intimidating academic experiences I’ve had. Everyone is friendly and supportive. The intro courses–Text Encoding Fundamentals and Digitisation Fundamentals–are specifically designed for people with little or no experience with coding or Digital Humanities. By the end of the week, you’ll come away with an impressive amount of knowledge. I think it is a wonderful way to get into Digital Humanities if you’re just beginning (of course, the more advanced courses are intense and perfect for those with more experience, too).

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