105066, Moscow, 21/4 Staraya Basmannaya Ulitsa
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The Centre for Digital Humanities at HSE brings together DH projects that are being carried out at the Faculty of Humanities. The Centre attracts a wide range of participants representing different schools and has a strong interdisciplinary orientation covering philosophy, cultural studies, history, linguistics, media, and geography, among other subjects.
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The Digital Humanities week at HSE started with a keynote lecture by Jessie Labov (CEU) titled "Thinking digitally about humanities". Jessie spoke of the "fuzziness" of the contemporary Digital Humanities and of the debates within the field, namely, distant versus close reading, tensions between software developers and academics, debates on whether DH has a theory of its own. A large chunk of her lecture was dedicated to teaching DH in universities and all sorts of pedagogical, technical, and ethical issues that arise.
Jessie Labov giving a keynote lecture at HSE
The next days of the Digital Humanities week were dedicated to project presentations. The "Memorial" society presented their 'Topography of terror' interactive mapping project, the founders and supporters of «Prozhito» (a project that received a fair share of attention in the Russian media) described their corpus of persoinal diaries and how they attract volunteers to work with them.
Nataliу Tyshkevich presents "Prozhito"
The founder of "Prozhito" Mikhail Melnichenko also took part in the presentation of another project — the Open List wiki-database of USSR political repressions victims. Representative of the Centre for Digital Humanities at Perm University introduced their catalogue of history-orienter information systems DigitalHistory.ru, while Vladislav Rjeoutski (the German Historical Institute Moscow) described a project on Language-learning in XVIII Century Russian Empire. Dmitriy Dobrowolski, an associate professor at the School of history, in his talk explained the complexities of old Russian chronology and showed his work on its visualization.
A talk by Dmitriy Dobrowolski
Members of the HSE Centre for Digital Humanities presented a number of projects. Anastasia Bonch-Osmolovskaya spoke about the digital 'sematic' edition of Leo Tolstoy's complete works; Boris Orekhov introduced his newly-created digital index to Tolstoy; Stefan Hessbrüggen-Walter shared his experience of employing computational methods in his philosophy classes to boost student research activity; Frank Fisher showed the very first results of an ongoing project on network analysis of Russian drama.
Representatives of the HSE Centre for Digital Humanities presenting their projects at the Digital Humanities week
The presentations were followed by a lengthy informal discussion. Many of the participants advocated for making the Digital Humanities week a regular event. Below are some reflections of the event by speakers and participants
Visiting the HSE Faculty of Humanities during their “DH Week,” I found a rich and diverse community of scholars and students engaged in digital humanities projects. After our opening discussion about the unique demands and rewards of DH pedagogy, I met with several members of the DH Center to discuss their work, and then was lucky enough to sit in on two DH workshops featuring project presentations. What immediately struck me was the range of methodologies represented at the faculty – from a large-scale critical edition of Tolstoy’s works (with a complementary suite of tools to explore it), to GIS-mapping of historical materials, to cutting-edge network analysis of dramatic texts, to a crowd-sourced, open archiving project. It seems that each of the major branches of DH are well represented, with a great deal of support and interest from graduate students as well. Another noteworthy feature of the Center is its outreach and involvement with cultural heritage institutions like the Tolstoy archive and Memorial. This is always a goal for DH projects, to reach audiences and institutions outside of academia, but it is hard to accomplish without a lot of good contacts and cooperation. I think this bodes well for the impact of the DH Center on the contemporary cultural landscape, and not just the scholarly community.
Because of its close ties with the DARIAH network, the Center is in a position to play an important role in both coordinating national DH activity (already visible in their collaboration with Krasnoyarsk and Perm), and in building international alliances, such as the Moscow-Tartu DH summer school. The idea of continuing the Moscow-Tartu school in a DH idiom has great resonance for a wider DH community, and I am sure I will be sending students and colleagues to this annual event.
Our DH week demonstrated the wide variety of digital projects going onat HSE and other institutions in and outside Moscow. We would like toorganise more such events in the future to contribute to a strong anddiverse DH network in Russia.
I work on the "Topography of terror" project, which is currently being developed at the "Memorial society. It is an interactive map with places linked to the history of political repressions in Soviet Russia. It was very rewarding for our team to take part in the Digital Humanities week. On the one hand, we were able to learn about the difficulties other digital projects face. On the other hand, we were glad to introduce our project to the new audience, perhaps unaware of the "Memorial" activity, to the students at HSE and to those researchers whose work is not related to Soviet history. I think that international workshops of this kind are essential for exchange of experience and ideas.