#dhberlin strikes back – and efficiently

I had announced there would be some tweeting during this morning’s meeting and – nada. That’s what happens when you take notes on a piece of paper because things go too fast for even a tweet. Two persons taking minutes in a googledoc, two persons moderating, 14 or so persons discussing. In two hours, we did not do anything but move on. I learned today that you need not to be totally focused if you want to have enough brain left to tweet…

It was a somehow constitutive session of the Berlin DH-circle (or DH Berlin-circle, we still have to settle on a name), which I mentioned in this december post and in that one. The first of its aims was that everyone could get to know the whole group in a way more lively than common emailing. Almost everyone managed to come, which was certainly the first astonishing thing about it (at least for me as the organizer) and a first hint at how everyone takes it seriously. It was interesting to see, during this presentation round, how various the profiles of the participants are and yet how we all share common experiences connected to one digital project or another – and how naturally generic questions could hence emerge: best practice, long time archiving and availability, virtual work environments, big data, standards, repositories and their function, publishing formats, visibility of non-academic institutions… All big Berlin institutions involved in DH activities were represented (more or less officially, but still) by often young, but still very experienced people. The group at some point defined it self as consisting in “text people” and “object people”, but there are enough of them working at the crossroads of text and object to not risk too big a gap there. All in all, when the presentation ended, I had the feeling that it was high time we were being given the opportunity to actually talk together. Which was given us by the next topic.

Markus had added to my fairly dry meeting agenda an “aim of the circle” topic. I really was not able to anticipate what this discussion would turn into. Two aspects emerged from it. First, the necessity to equip ourselves with digital tools that will make it possible to archive our work (interestingly reflecting one the major topics we will probably discuss in the 2 years ahead, e.g. long time archiving and availability) and to present part of it to the outside world. That’s what the first of the three constituted committees will work on. The second committee will deal with the clearly not finished discussion about the aims of the circle. Although we could define a core of objectives, there were divergent opinions as to how theoretical /practical the span of our expectations should be. Best practice recommendations, yes, but maybe, too, a work on how our research practices change by turning digital? Committee number 2 has set a meeting in February.

I tell ya, we won’t have time to get bored until our first workshop (end of June)!

Said workshop aims at discussing what could be the missions of a DH competence center in Berlin. We invited people working in the few existing German DH centers. We want to hear from them how the profile of a DH-center is defined, how it can develop, which can be its missions – actually, it is the job of committee number three (which I pragmatically joined) to define the topics we want to discuss with our guests. This part of the workshop is to be public, so we are thinking about a format that will allow the public to take part – somehow – in the discussion. There will be an aftermath on the next day, but that part will be circle-only. We will then try to put together the good ideas from the day before.

At which point the 2 hours of the meeting were over.

One thing is the amazing energy emanating from this group. I have experienced team work as something energizing when we started the digital edition – but also as something  exhausting in a way that was completely new to me and which may just be due to the fact that I am the boss there. With the DH Berlin-circle, I feel like there is no need to pull or to push, there is moving on together and that’s it. Considering how nervous I was at the idea of chairing a meeting with 15 people instead of the 6 I am used to, it felt really good.

And the other thing is the non less amazing confidence our 2 main sponsors have in us: the INRIA and the Centre Marc Bloch. French doing intellectual networking in Berlin – it is like re-enacting the exact matter of my research, two centuries later. Weird, but fun.


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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1 Response

  1. It’s really great to see that this inititative is taking off in such great spirit. All the best for it!

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