DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly
Volume 17 Number 4
2023 17.4  |  XMLPDFPrint


Digital Humanities pedagogy seminars (DHPSs) are a common occurrence on small liberal arts campuses that are seen as acts of service within the logic of the Teaching-Research-Service model of tenure and promotion in the U.S. academy. Yet, the goal of these events is to teach faculty colleagues DH methods, inflected by DH pedagogy values, which they can then use in their undergraduate courses. As tenured and tenure-track DH specialists at small liberal arts colleges, we argue that a DHPS is pedagogical labor and should be evaluated as teaching in order to enact values-based DH more broadly. The paper provides qualitative data based on experiences at our institutions as well as quantitative data about 226 DHPSs offered in North America from July 2015 to July 2019. We focus on the impact of DHPS duration and the home institutions and roles of instructors on collaboration, experimentation, and intersectional feminism as practiced in the field.

Digital Humanities pedagogy seminars (DHPSs) are a common occurrence on liberal arts campuses in the United States.[1] Their aim is to introduce DH methods for integration into the curriculum. The seminar may be one day, several days, or spread out over a semester or academic year. Yet, when it comes to institutional assessment of faculty members, DHPSs are often overlooked as sites of teaching, and seen instead as only acts of service within the logic of the Teaching-Research-Service model of credit and promotion in the U.S. academy. In a field already marked by precarity and temporariness, the DHPS aims for longevity of the field, but is made vulnerable by evaluative practices such as these [Boyles et al. 2018] [Bonds and Gil 2017]. Moreover, the data that we report here provide a scale for what many DH practitioners experience in isolation: the burden of growing and sustaining the field falls to colleagues who are not on the tenure track. Senior colleagues in the field, those with administrative roles, and DH scholars conducting evaluations for promotion have opportunities to shape staffing and the interpretation of this labor while DHPS instructors must be mindful about how they execute and communicate the work of the DHPS in this environment.
We recognize our positionality at affluent, small liberal arts institutions may make our call seem like an issue unique to a privileged class of institutions. At the same time, the labor practices of elite institutions ripple through higher education. How well-resourced institutions hire, classify labor, and determine compensation often sets a standard, giving arguments for or against certain institutional behaviors. At a time when many arguments start with, “Well, [insert peer and aspirant institution] is doing [insert behavior], therefore we should”, institutions with power in higher education have even more of a responsibility to think carefully about the local as well as national effects of how they approach labor. Given that two co-authors on this paper are now-tenured faculty members, we will focus our analysis on ways in which re-alignments of the DHPS for faculty evaluation could be advantageous for the field at large, with the additional goal of using our privileged status to describe interventions that may also benefit colleagues in non-tenure line or precarious positions in DH.
To that end, we argue that DHPSs are pedagogical labor and should be evaluated as teaching for faculty who need it to count as such. This ideological reframing can have positive consequences for teachers of DHPSs. One outcome is that such a shift facilitates the practice of a values-based digital humanities [Spiro 2012] [McCarthy and Witmer 2016]. Building from Lisa Spiro's argument to ground DH in values, this article identifies three DH values — collaboration, experimentation, and intersectional feminism — that are difficult to enact given the institutional labor categorization of the DHPS as service. We ground these arguments in qualitative data from our respective institutions and quantitative data gathered about DHPSs in the United States. A second outcome is the identification of actionable interventions in this system that will make visible, if not formal, the teaching of faculty and staff in ways that mitigate some of the challenges faced by the profession.
Although such arguments could engage with sociological theories of labor and institutional power, given our specializations as humanists we employ historical methods, including feminist data creation [Klein and D'Ignazio 2020]. Data creation around the instantiations of the DHPS brought to light the dimensions of the phenomenon and a broader view of the multiple threads in the field of DH that are currently at odds: how DHPSs are evaluated, where they are taught, and the values that we as a field promote for our pedagogy. The pedagogical theories of the field are difficult to enact under the institutional circumstances provided for those who do this important work for DH. In traditional humanistic fashion this article contextualizes the problem within the small liberal arts college (SLAC) environment, uncovers inconsistencies in policies and priorities, and documents a portion of that labor.
The article has two sections that juxtapose the institutional logics of higher education in the United States and those of values-based DH. We begin the first section with an overview of the triad of Teaching-Research-Service that defines promotion and tenure guidelines followed by a definition of DHPS based on how it was enacted in the 5-year period represented by our data, 2015-2019. After addressing the institutional condition that all forms of labor that “count” must be assigned to a part of the triad, we argue for considering DHPSs as teaching. We then turn in the second section to how DHPSs struggle to enact DH values as long as they are limited to the categorization of Service. Along the way we identify and re-categorize DHPS labor with attention to the priorities of other labor in higher education. Importantly, the challenges we identify are at odds with other values of the field related to inclusion, credit, and the decentering of power structures. They also reinforce faculty-staff divides and contribute to the invisibility of the labor of care work and nurturing that often occurs outside the tenure stream. We will address this from the point of view of what counts as knowledge in these settings, but recognize that the conversation could and should expand to other theoretical perspectives.
The DHPS is not a panacea to the myriad challenges facing higher education, but it can be a site of flexibility, creativity, and alterity. Even seemingly minor adjustments in how we organize, categorize, and credit labor have the potential to change affective and material conditions on the ground. This is particularly the case for those of us who labor in the hundreds of institutions of higher education where teaching is the most valued aspect of our work as faculty. While much has been written about what should count as research in DH, there is a noticeable gap in work about what counts as teaching. Attention to debates over how we define, credit, and acknowledge teaching is an important avenue for the field for making visible this care work that is so often left uncounted. As one peer reviewer added to our argument, doctoral institutions have the resources to compensate for the risks taken to model these best practices.
In particular, we focus on the implication of DHPSs as service in the context of the SLAC in the United States. There are two reasons for the focus. First, we are engaged in DH at SLACs and therefore are best positioned to discuss DHPSs in this context. Second, the primary focus of scholarship on DH pedagogy is situated in research-intensive universities. Yet, tens of thousands of people labor in the academy at institutions where teaching is the priority or on par with research [Casselman 2016]. Throughout the United States, there are almost 250 institutions of higher education that are classified as “Baccalaureate Colleges: Arts & Sciences Focus” by the Carnegie Classification system. Our argument therefore is shaped by and aimed at scholars laboring in this setting, which is often overlooked by the field. Given our roles as tenure-stream faculty, we build our argument around those roles, and suggest implications for colleagues in other kinds of positions and for the field at large.
While we hope this article will have broad appeal, a primary audience is tenure-stream and tenured faculty who have control over processes such as annual reviews, mid-course reviews, tenure and promotion, and who sit on school and university committees and may be rising in their administration. There is often a false-binary discussion about higher education between the faculty/staff and “the administration”. Yet, “the administration” is composed of colleagues who have risen through the ranks of the faculty and staff. At small liberal arts colleges and many institutions across the U.S., it is these very same faculty who become “the administration”. Therefore, we see shifting the discourse for how we frame our labor as a part of a longer shift in ideologies that we hope will lead to material changes, within departments, units, and hopefully at the very top, even if it takes time. We have more influence than is often a part of our national conversation. Let’s take part of the power back.

I. Institutional Logic: Teaching-Research-Service

The prevailing model for assessment of faculty is the tripartite of research, teaching, and service. To receive tenure and promotions, faculty must demonstrate their abilities in these three areas. The categories reflect the scope of work expected from each faculty member, which includes engaging in the creation of knowledge, enabling learning, and participating in supporting and building the institution. While they seem capacious, research and teaching are actually narrowly defined and beholden to priorities established during administrative shifts at land-grant institutions in the early-twentieth century and refined as the student population shifted after WWII [Shuster and Finkelstein 2008]. Research is meant to contribute knowledge to a particular scholarly community where the work can be assessed for its “novelty” and “rigor” in the forms that garner the most credit, i.e., “products” such as articles, books, and patents. Teaching is aimed at students who are enrolled by the faculty member's employer and includes course instruction alongside advising and mentorship. For example, Bowdoin College's and the University of Richmond's guidelines for teaching define teaching as student instruction in the classroom, consultation outside of the classroom (i.e., office hours), and student advising. As a result, leading a DHPS at one's own or another institution does not count as teaching. Rather, a DHPS is considered service, which has become a catch all for labor that falls outside research and teaching. Even though service often includes intellectual labor that results in the transfer or creation of knowledge, it is frequently treated as lesser or second-tier work in institutional evaluation, compounding the vulnerability of DH practitioners not in permanent or tenure-track positions.
This is particularly fraught when the knowledge is centered on technology, often seen as a research tool rather than a research subject and a key way of knowing. A values-based DHPS is thus challenging to categorize, particularly when collaborative experimentation driven by intersectional-feminist priorities leads to new knowledge about an instructor's or participant's primary materials during a workshop. The instructor and participants with DH backgrounds could be learning more about the collaborative, experimental, and intersectional feminist affordances of the method and their related tools (per best practices in DH), while a non-DH participant will (hopefully) leave with at least a deeper understanding of the texts, images, or other data being used in the DHPS. The DH pedagogy components of the DHPS might remain invisible to these participants in spite of their necessary presence for achieving the outcomes related to those primary materials.
Furthermore, the three categories of labor are not weighed equally across the higher education landscape in the United States. Different kinds of institutions emphasize particular parts, which (ideally) is explicitly addressed in tenure and promotion guidelines. Small liberal arts colleges like ours, for example, often discuss this triad as teaching, research, and service in order to communicate the order of importance. The University of Richmond explicitly states that “teaching is the most important area of faculty performance” [University of Richmond 2018]. Bowdoin College declares that “a high standard of teaching... is essential” [Bowdoin College 2019]. What one will almost never find is a guideline that begins with service in university documents or in colloquial usage, placing the DHPS in a vulnerable category of institutional labor. As scholarship in higher education has shown, service is the least valued component of the triad and almost never a reason one is denied tenure or promotion. In fact, departments actively try to shield early career faculty from service, emphasizing that attention should be focused on research and teaching. Given how little service “counts”, it is no wonder that faculty often focus their attention elsewhere.[2] Reconfiguring how we count different parts of academic labor becomes a necessity for recognizing the multiple sites in which DH pedagogy is practiced and for enabling a values-based DH profession.
Beyond this, the markers of formal instruction (i.e., a centralized curriculum, vetting and evaluation by a professional authority, and credentialing) include elements that are at odds with the collaborative, feminist, intersectional approach that many DH practitioners embody and share. The DHPS must almost always be customized at least to the institution, if not to the participants, and to the particular area(s) of DH in which the instructor has expertise, decentralizing the curriculum. Moreover, the ethos of collaborative resource sharing and the rate of change of technologies to support this work create a dynamic menu of activities, methods, and agendas for the locally instantiated DHPS. Suggesting that the DHPS could or should conform to one ideal that can be judged for common content or skill-based outcomes would curtail the agility of the field and its practitioners. This resistance to the markers of formal instruction risks relegating the DHPS to the status of informal learning (another devalued category in higher education), as though it were not led by a teacher, based on a shared set of values and practices, or reliant on lesson plans and pedagogical theory.[3]
Thus, DHPSs are often categorized as service because they are seen as professional development for attendees. The current institutional logic is as follows. While a researcher develops and shares scholarship, the person who leads a DHPS is leading professional development and therefore engaged in service. The person attending, on the other hand, can categorize the products of their time and labor as teaching. As a result, a DHPS is not a form of knowledge transfer that is recognized by institutional definitions as research, because it is not a finished product in the form of a publication or creative work, or teaching, because the attendees are not the institution's definition of a student. Yet, such logic is problematic.
A comparison to other fields highlights the incongruities. When an aspiring Italian literary scholar wants to learn how to incorporate cinematic critique into their practice, they take a graduate course from a specialist. When an American studies scholar wants to include a contemporary ecological analysis of a site in a seminar, they invite a colleague to guest lecture and teach the class. That is, when we step outside our field or even subfield as pedagogues, there are formal and informal ways to include specialist methods and tools in our courses. These ways of expanding disciplinary coverage are recognized as pedagogical for the specialist who is bringing that information to the scholar's training or the colleague's class. If cinematic critique were treated as only showing a movie, or if environmental studies were introduced as only reporting test results, then the epistemologies, priorities, and ethics of those disciplines would be reduced to a tool or output. Since they are not, the specialists' roles as teachers are recognized. However, when it comes to computational and digital methods, the same process of sharing analytical methods through tools is often not seen as intellectual expertise that takes a knowledgeable pedagogue.
DHPSs and the roles of their instructors offer an additional challenge to this tripartite faculty evaluation. DH faculty regularly teach seminars across the curriculum from first year seminars to writing seminars to senior capstone seminars. Faculty introduce new concepts and experiment with new ideas. They may be centered on a particular topic and/or method. Tilton's “Introduction to Digital Humanities” course is a case in point. As a seminar, the class meets each week so that participants may develop their methodological toolkit. At Bowdoin, DH faculty frequently consult, via weekly meetings, with students conducting independent studies or Honors projects in another department. Those students become conduits for DH methods and mindsets into the practices of colleagues in those fields. How is this so different from a DHPS?
We turn to another set of examples from the digital humanities community to further our argument that DHPSs should also be considered teaching. DH institutes are a popular form of knowledge creation and sharing, i.e., teaching, in the field. Examples include the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, Humanities Intensive Learning and Technology (HILT) in the United States, the European Summer Institute in Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, and the Winter Institute in Digital Humanities at New York University, Abu Dhabi. Along with learning new methodologies for research, courses also focus on DH pedagogy and praxis. DHSI courses at the University of Victoria have counted toward institutional credit, which indicates their value as teaching [Proposal 2014]. While most do not carry academic credit, and we are not arguing that they necessarily should, the point is that the knowledge sharing that occurred was seen as commensurate with what is called teaching in the triad.
The framing of DHPSs as service is also doubly confounding for small liberal arts colleges. If the emphasis is on teaching, then becoming an excellent teacher who is using appropriate and up-to-date scholarship and pedagogies, as is articulated in many guidelines, requires learning.[4] Rather than structurally disincentivizing a set of experts from teaching those would-be learners, we argue that we need to rethink how we categorize the labor that makes DHPSs possible. In other words, it is necessary to expand our definitions of who is teaching and learning and therefore how we define teaching in the promotion triad of the U.S. academy. This issue is more acute given that institutional assessment structures require that all labor be assigned to one part of the triad, otherwise that labor does not count. The aim is not only to make sure that this labor counts but also be recognized as important. While it may be tempting to dismiss this issue as an elite problem, there are also implications for the larger DH community to which we now turn. In the section that follows, we dive deeper into what we can learn from data about DHPSs.

Our Logic: Counting DHPSs as Institutional Accountability

Rather than impose a definition of a DHPS based on our own experience of this work, we used the process of data creation as an epistemological method and created a data set in July 2019. As theorized by Klein and D'Ignazio, we approached data collection as a potential means of action against power imbalances, to better analyze the systems that maintain it, and to potentially shift our own framework of understanding [Klein and D'Ignazio 2020]. This process drew our attention to the scope of the phenomenon of the DHPS, the institutional categories that sustain it, the embedded hierarchies in its presentation, and the range of definitions that can exist for this work. We thus employ a broad definition for DHPS, understanding that the integration of pedagogical training alongside DH methods could occur with different proportions and intentions. This means that the DHPS, as it is self-identified, encompasses presentations on teaching with DH, workshops on how to incorporate a DH method or tool into a course, and sessions dedicated specifically to DH pedagogy. We acknowledge that institutional capacities and interests impact the duration and frequency of DHPS offerings. In light of the labor concerns highlighted in this paper, opportunities for multiple-day, intensive workshops often require resources that are simply unavailable. Thus, a DHPS could be as short as a 20-minute presentation, a one-hour working lunch with collaborators, or several consecutive meetings of a cohort. Our definition embraces the largest tent for DH, relying on presenters and organizers to label their pedagogical interventions as part of the field.
The data was found via Humanist archives, Twitter, the DH Slack channel, and specific college websites from January 2015 to July 2019. Because we were using digital archives rather than a survey or interviews, DH undergraduate researcher Griffin Ng aggregated from the online DH community information from announcements including the title, hosting institution, and description. Most were one-paragraph workshop announcements or titles of presentations in a larger symposium. For Humanist, Ng searched every post in the archives from 2015 up to July 15, 2019 by using key terms such as “event”, “pedagogy”, and “teach”. On Twitter, he searched by key hashtags: “#dhworkshop”, “#dhpedagogyworkshop”, “#digitalpedagogy”, and “#dh”, documenting events that contained a variant of “DH”, “pedagogy”, or “teaching” in the title or description. Hall and Ng used a previously compiled list of colleges with digital humanities programs or centers as the foundation for a keyword search similar to the one undertaken for Humanist archives, including “DH”, “digital humanities”, “event”, “pedagogy” and “teach” to find events or news related to DHPSs on campuses that might have received only local advertising [Hall 2016]. We supplemented that list by also searching the sites of the home institutions for invited presenters and hosts of DHPSs that were advertised through other media.[5]
As a result, the data relies on organizers reporting the event through local, disciplinary, and transnational digital communication channels, including internal university spaces such as an online calendar, disciplinary communities such as the DH Slack, and public-facing social media such as Twitter. The result was 226 events at 76 institutions. These do not include national or regional conference presentations, nor do these events include instructional workshops for common DH tools, unless they were advertised with a teaching or pedagogical component. We documented the title of the event, a link to our source, information about instructor fields and titles, institutional characteristics, and any moments in which we were estimating the length of the DHPS.
Given the institutional priorities surrounding these events, the amount of funding for DH in general, and our labor constraints, we anticipate that the 226 events in our final data set are a fraction of the DHPS that have occurred since 2015 in North America. Aside from established summer institutes like DHSI, the DHPS is an intensely local event, meaning that documentation and visibility of this labor exists at an institutional level, often unseen by the profession at large. The challenge of identifying and aggregating data about DHPSs is itself an indicator of the limited outside visibility of what we do, which exacerbates the problematic understanding of how to categorize that work according to the logic of institutions of higher education in the United States.
Overall, the process of transforming DHPS announcements into quantifiable data drew our attention to certain attributes of these events that inform the contextualization and recommendations that follow. When we discuss the challenges that the structure of the DHPS creates for instilling a values-based DH more broadly, we will discuss the relationship between the instructor and the institution that hosts the DHPS, trends in duration of DHPSs, and the titles and status of DHPS instructors. Here, for accountability purposes for institutional logic of evaluation, we focus on the types of institutions hosting pedagogical workshops in DH.

DHPSs and Institutional Types

The data offers insights into scale and type of institutions engaged in DHPSs. What we find is the prevalence of these events across institutional types, but with patterns that complicate the understanding of the DHPS in the Teaching-Research-Service structure of evaluation. While the events seem commonplace, they are more common at certain types of institutions. Those institutions' structures directly impact the success of a values-based DH pedagogy. We note too, the continued scholarly attention in the field to large institutions that Wagner has recently observed [Wagner2019]. Our aim here is to bring to light the disproportional ways in which the current DHPS framing impacts instructors at other schools.
DHPSs are disproportionately hosted in research contexts when compared to available information about where DH is taught in North America. We also contextualize our findings in Table 1 within the landscape of higher education as represented by the Carnegie Classification [Indiana University 2018]. The overwhelming majority of workshop sites are doctoral institutions with very high research output (51%), and doctoral institutions overall offered the most DHPSs. Baccalaureate colleges (11%) and Masters granting institutions (6%) account for the remaining U.S. schools hosting workshops in our data set. The remainder were hosted at Canadian (8%) and European (3%) institutions.
Level of Degree Granted Carnegie Data Set 2018 (2,069 schools) North American Institutions with DH (214 schools) DH Pedagogy Seminars at Institutions (222 workshops)
Doctoral (codes 15, 16, 17) 20% 58% 72%
Masters (codes 18, 19, 20) 33% 14% 6%
Bachelors (codes 21, 22, 23) 35% 19% 11%
Associates (codes 1, 2) 12% 0.1% 0%
Canadian N/A 7% 8%
European N/A N/A 3%
Table 1. 
Distribution of DHPSs and Institution Types
At the international level, we observe sustained interest in presenting on pedagogy at conferences (not documented in Table 1). 11 papers (presented by individuals, pairs, and teams, for a total of 20 scholars) at DH2016 in Poland include the tag “pedagogy” [Eder and Rybicki 2016]. 8 papers at DH2017 had “pedagogy” in the title, and many of the presenters tackled the subject from an institutional perspective [Lewis et al. 2017]. Similarly in Mexico, at DH2018, 11 papers had “pedagogy” in the title, while a number approached the subject from a variety of practical, structural, and theoretical viewpoints in the abstracts [Girón Paulau and Galina Russell 2018]. At DH2019, 8 panels were organized under the heading of “Scholarly Communities, Communication, Pedagogy”, along with two posters [DH 2019]. Yet, pedagogy, and the work of pedagogical training is also not understood as research in the sense of the science of learning and teaching.
The values of the field push practitioners into spaces of intellectual risk in the academy that exacerbate professional risk. Experimentation can beget failure that is deemed unproductive in a publish-or-perish research context; collaboration encounters the hurdle of devaluation in promotion and hiring; and intersectional, feminist practices face institutionalized obstacles to adoption. In addition, because service is often the least valued component of the model, DH pedagogy at the institutional level then becomes marginalized labor even while it is essential to the program building that would offer less precarity for DH practitioners on campus. There are then even greater stakes for DH specialists who are not on the tenure track. As long as the academy views this kind of labor as service, in spite of the pedagogical expertise it requires, those instructors risk further marginalization. As a result, it is even more important to recognize DHPSs as teaching in the Teaching-Research-Service model of university labor.

II. DH Values and the DHPS

An ongoing debate in the digital humanities has been how to define the field. Definitions have been shaped by disciplinary commitments, the hagiography of Roberta Busa, infusion of competitive funding, and precarious labor practices [Graban et al. 2019] [Losh and Wernimont 2018] [Terras and Nyhan 2016] [Tilton et al. 2018]. The implications are significant given efforts to institutionalize the field through programs, departments, publishing, and academic associations. Rather than trying to define who is in and who is out, there has been work in DH to organize the field around values [Ramsay 2011].
As Lisa Spiro compellingly argues, organizing DH around values offers a way to define a community that makes space for the various disciplinary, methodological, and labor configurations that animate the field [Spiro 2012]. A value-centered approach also requires that practitioners come together to articulate not only shared intellectual commitments but how we want to engage with each other as a community. Enacting her own focus on collaboration as a DH value, she noted that “a set of values for a community should be done by the community” [Spiro 2012]. The community has responded.
Along with Spiro's call for collaboration, openness, collegiality and connectedness, experimentation, and diversity as a potential set of values for DH, Sean McCarthy and Michael Witmer have followed her lead focusing specifically on a set of values for DH pedagogy [McCarthy and Witmer 2016]. They adopt collaboration and openness and add critical thinking and production, which they call the CCPO framework. Others include the authors in Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont's edited volume in the Debates in the Digital Humanities series, who collectively call for intersectional feminism as a value for the field [Losh and Wernimont 2018]. In the sections that follow, we discuss how reconfiguring DHPSs as teaching furthers three DH values: collaboration, experimentation, and intersectional feminism.


The modeling and development of longer-term collaboration faces two challenges with the standard format of DHPSs: the workshop structure and the institutional location of the instructors. Miriam Posner is forthright about the challenges presented by these workshops: unscripted work is messy and hard, the timing of the workshop often doesn't align with the need for a new tool, and it is hard to feel connected to a community of users in such a small window of time [Posner 2016]. Indeed, for the workshops we studied at liberal arts colleges and Masters universities, 80% lasted 90 minutes or less. By comparison, 95% of DHPSs at doctoral institutions were 90 minutes or shorter. Often, panels are broken into 15-20 minute segments for multiple presenters. Moreover, being given an opportunity to report on pedagogical interventions is markedly different from teaching a class of adult learners how to blend the priorities and tools of DH with their current practice. We also acknowledge that collaboration is often fraught with the labor tensions that cross the faculty-staff divide on many campuses and that different collaborators may not share common goals [Wagner2019] [Graban et al. 2019].
We agree with Posner in her advocacy for bootcamps, longer training schedules, and immersive experiences that enact as well as educate for collaboration [Posner 2016]. The implication of this finding is that the DHPS instructor typically has the length of a single class period (or less) to report or instruct methodology as well as to model the ethos of digital humanities pedagogy, if not call attention directly to the values embraced therein. While the space for explicit engagement with teaching is constrained, the environment of such DHPSs nonetheless requires the successful instructor to deploy aspects of DH pedagogy to instruct colleagues. Collaboration is thus difficult to model, let alone teach, in the time allotted for DHPSs, when it is seen as service rather than teaching. Short periodization does not allow for reflection or critique on the use of the tool, thus overemphasizing quick, transferable skill building with the goal of a product, rather than engaging in a process of interrogation. Where collaboration might be a stated value, institutional structures privilege an outcome that is antithetical to much of the current conversation on DH values.
The second challenge facing collaboration is the institutional location of the instructors and their relationship to attendees. As a corollary to the challenges of timing identified above, one of the basic rules that Posner identifies is “nobody comes to workshops” [Posner 2016]. This is compounded by the number of invited instructors and the precarity of instructors' roles at their home institution. For DHPSs hosted at liberal arts colleges in our data, we observed that 45% of instructors were invited to campus, meaning that their motivation to form partnerships or ability to maintain collaborations were limited. (This is comparable to the 40% of invited DHPS instructors at doctoral institutions.) For context, Wagner's 2019 study on DH research reported that 66% of partnerships involved collaborators at the same institution. At the University of Richmond, we intentionally blended this in order to model cross-institutional collaboration as well as to build in sustainability. At Bowdoin, we have primarily focused on workshops with local instructors, allowing us to offer several iterations over time and build a cohort of colleagues who are developing DH pedagogy skills in text analysis specifically. Admittedly, we have benefitted from an institutional commitment to growing DH organically at the college.
That commitment is important to note, because the greatest challenge to sustained collaboration remains the precarity of many of the instructors and specialists in the field. As Christina Boyles, Anne Cong-Huyen, Carrie Johnston, Jim McGrath, and Amanda Phillips poignantly document, DH colleagues who could be potential collaborators are frequently providing support without the resources of a dedicated center, trying to balance complex research needs with administrative burdens of educating and persuading a C-suite to maintain funding for DH initiatives, and doing so under the professional burdens of temporary positions [Boyles et al. 2018]. Even at institutions with a higher level of commitment to DH such as Bowdoin, this was Crystal's experience, starting as a postdoctoral fellow with the expectation of building an undergraduate program, transitioning to a visiting assistant professorship while generating institutional buy-in, and then undergoing promotion and tenure review in DH based on teaching and scholarship in the field (in that order of priority). When funding ends for initiatives, or when a person moves into a new, and hopefully less precarious, position, collaborations are difficult to maintain, presuming that local interested colleagues took the risk of starting such projects under circumstances of precarity. This status of DH practitioners is evident in the data about workshop instructors, 40% of whom were in non-tenure stream positions for liberal arts college workshops (compared with 60% at doctoral institutions). Building sustainable, long term DH pedagogy collaborations becomes nearly impossible when the labor necessary for DHPSs is devalued.


Reconsidering DHPSs as teaching also enables experimentation. In his oft-cited blog post, Tom Scheinfeldt questioned the refrain, “Where's the beef?” Those posing the question argued that DH lacked arguments, which remains a popular debate from scholars, particularly in digital history. While others have engaged in debates over the merit of the claim that DH does not make arguments, Scheinfeldt questioned what was so wrong with experimenting as scholarly knowledge. “We need time to experiment”, he argued [Scheinfeldt 2012]. Experimentation, he argued, has long been recognized as a way of knowing. Just ask a scientist, hacker, tinkerer, or maker. He's not alone.
The idea of experimentation is so pervasive in DH, Lisa Spiro notes, that she offers it as one of the six values that she suggests for the field. “As in the sciences, digital humanities projects often use data, tools, and methods to examine particular questions”, she writes, adding that “the work supports interpretation and exploration” [Spiro 2012]. The same holds true for teaching and pedagogy. Experimenting with which DH methods to teach or utilize in a course necessitates a space where one can learn these methods, hence the emergence of the DHPS.
Yet, the ability to experiment in a DHPS is compromised when this teaching practice is framed as service. Service is most often about sharing responsibility for maintenance and development of institutional structures and to perform administrative tasks within a defined timeline for completed components. Experimentation on the other hand is as much about process as result. DHPSs therefore risk being assessed alongside maintaining a department and successfully carrying out administrative tasks. The assessment model of the institution can then foreclose experimentation because service is measured by effectiveness and productivity. As a result, teaching a series of tools that one can numerically count as evidence of knowledge transfer, for example, becomes appealing.
Productive failure, therefore, is rarely an option. In a neoliberal effort to transfer as much knowledge as “efficiently” as possible, the short duration and schedule of DHPSs create expectations for immediate and quick results. This disincentivizes experimenting with a new method and its related tools. The stakes are even higher for contingent and precarious colleagues. This is a particularly acute issue because the instructors of on-campus DHPSs are frequently early career scholars, untenured, or term positions, according to our data. The person's position can preclude productive experimentation and failure, which is a continual part of teacher development and central to DH.
Instructor Role at Home Institution Number of DHPSs Instructed
Other 82
Assistant Professor 65
Tenure Ineligible 58
Professor 58
Associate Professor 54
Graduate Student 50
Library Staff 28
Table 2. 
Campus Roles of DHPS Instructors
Reframing DHPSs as teaching shifts the stakes of experimentation while allowing the instructor to model this DH value. Teaching brings pedagogy to the fore; therefore, process can be as important as results. Modeling experimentation through productive failure is made possible because it can also be the pedagogical goal of a DHPS. Particularly given the number of people leading a DHPS who are institutionally precarious, acknowledging and raising the value of the work demonstrates to the institution the importance of the labor to the institution.
The impact is felt sharply by for those laboring in small liberal arts college settings where teaching is often the most important aspect of their job and DH practitioners are performing the double duty of community building around DH. These types of colleges are oriented toward undergraduate classroom instruction. Job descriptions for a number of positions, from faculty and librarians to technologists include the role of supporting cutting edge classroom instruction. By framing all of this labor as also teaching, space is opened to engage in DH pedagogies as well as values such as experimentation.

Intersectional Feminism

A third DH value that motivates defining DHPSs as teaching is intersectional feminism, a theory and movement for gender equality with attention to how interconnected social categories such as race and class shape gender inequality. An important aspect of this critical framework is addressing power structures that produce gendered inequalities. The DHPS represents the very moment of training new members of the field. That moment can either replicate existing, problematic power dynamics that are at odds with values of the field or resist those dynamics through modeling alternatives.
Structural misogyny permeates the field of DH and institutions of higher education. As Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Weirnemont point out in the introduction to their exciting volume on feminist DH, “trivialization of feminist methodologies continues within the field” and they call for coalition building and communal care to resist the structural misogyny that marginalizes certain aspects of the field. One area where structural misogyny permeates DH is the topic of DH pedagogy. At the annual DH conferences 2105-2019, of the 400+ workshops, long papers, short papers, and posters each year, contributions on pedagogy range from a minimum of 3 papers (2015) to a maximum of 11 (2016, 2018). Pedagogy finds a marginalized home in the research space of the field. Examples abound including the programming of the international DH conference, citation practices, and the language of “hard”, scientific research versus “soft”, pedagogical work [Losh and Wernimont 2018]. Therefore, it is difficult to make compelling arguments to institutions to value DH pedagogical labor when hyper-visible and vocal aspects of DH marginalize this labor.
In an effort to challenge this misogyny, we want to center intersectional feminist pedagogies in DH and in our institutions through DHPSs [Park 1996]. One way is to focus on process and not product, which brings us back to centering collaboration and experimentation. The three values are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The combination moves the student-colleague, through DH pedagogy, into a space of reflection on method and priorities in their field as well as ours. One way we model and convey these as DH values is through the DHPS. For example, when we lead a DHPS, we don't identify a list of tools, but rather discuss how we will be engaging in a set of methods in order to evaluate tools, process and outcomes. Experimentation and play become critical.
Central to the discussions are which voices are represented (or not) in the data and materials being tudied as well as what expressions are counted and emphasized (or not) by the tools. This necessitates conversations about power structures in archives, histories and cultural contexts of tool development, and responsible data creation. This work takes time, which is why we resist the call for a quick, one-time DHPS. Quick, efficient, digestible knowledge transfer is capitalist and gendered logic that we seek to resist. Rather, creating more stable, long term models for DHPSs that center intersectional feminist values through collaboration and experimentation is one way that DHPSs can avoid replicating problematic power dynamics that are at odds with values of the field. A more sustained model also gives us more space and time to argue and demonstrate how this labor fits into the teaching logic of the Teaching-Research-Service model.

III. Conclusion

The root of the problem sits in three places: the pedagogical values that DH practitioners represent, the status of instructors and their schools, and the ways in which this labor is valued by those institutions. By juxtaposing the values of the field against the form that our practice takes when inviting others into the field through the DHPS, we hope to have articulated spaces for intervention. We use these discrepancies and the proposed evaluative frameworks for DH research to propose local and individual actions that can realign the DHPS with values in the field while supporting their instructors. We suggest changes that can be enacted by the DH community such that design and evaluation can be based on something akin to Moya Bailey's questions for researchers and Graban et al.'s framework for research planning [Bailey 2015] [Graban et al. 2019].
Bailey outlines three categories for planning a digital research project that can be used for evaluation that ruptures this neoliberal, paternalistic definition of success: connection (i.e., collaborators and benefits), creation (i.e., multidirectional collaborative tools and methods, consent, pacing), and transformation (i.e., the care of the self and others, new connections, and new understandings) [Bailey 2015, 34–36]. Graban et al. also highlight care within collaboration, adding the principles of identifying individual markers of recognition, making labor visible through documentation, “acknowledging a spectrum” of the acceptable outputs of DH work, and embracing the paradoxes within DH [Graban et al. 2019]. By making these ideological changes through a shift in our DH practices and discourses, we can be a part of larger material changes in how labor is assessed, credited, and compensated. With a majority of labor in higher education actually working at teaching-intensive institutions of higher education, even though much of our discourse is about research-intensive institutions, elite teaching-intensive universities are well positioned to shift the ideological and material conditions of DH and broader labor.
Given the dimensions of the DHPS that we observed and the institutional restrictions to enacting the values of the field, we see the following actions as ways to address the inequalities, particularly for having the DHPS considered as teaching for instructors who need it to be such, but also to assist in other forms of credit:
  • Design and advertise the DHPS with values-based language, activities, and outcomes with a focus on methods. The tool-of-the-day can be the means to that end, not the end in itself.
  • Solicit evaluations after the DHPS that focus on these values and the impact of the methods learned on a longer time-frame than immediately after its conclusion. Special attention to how a member of the seminar may have incorporated the methods into their own research and teaching will offer further evidence of pedagogical impact, which can in turn also be a part of showing impact for review processes.
  • For DHPSs as teaching in particular, craft a syllabus with reading lists and track citations or reuses. A publication venue would be particularly advantageous for this.
  • Practice citation of DHPS material created by others and inform the creator of its use. Aligning this with existing DH pedagogy publications would facilitate this process of making visible the expertise of DHPS instructors and making it count in through institutional assessment metrics.
  • Use internal hiring, promotion, and evaluation as moments to design for and realign with sustainable values and practices in the face of changing technology. The processes become a space to argue for this labor as teaching.
  • Use external review as an opportunity to state how the DHPS reflects the values of the field. If conducting an external review, ask the unit if there are arguments about labor such as calling certain DH work teaching that would help the department with internal advocacy such as FTEs and compensation.
There are two major limits to our arguments, which we want to acknowledge. The first is that this is not a fundamental challenge to the tripartite and therefore problematic organization of labor in the U.S. academy. Rather, the call to consider DHPSs as teaching means continuing to work within the current institutional stratification of labor. Since the current system for faculty evaluation requires assigning all labor to one of these three categories, another challenge arises. It is difficult to argue for “counting” a type of labor as more than one part. Therefore, a DHPS in most settings will count as either teaching or service, much like all other forms of labor.
As a result, depending on one's position within the university, it may be advantageous for one person to “count” this labor as service and for another person to “count” it as teaching. Our aim here is to demonstrate why labeling a DHPS as teaching can further DH values. We also hope that some of the structural considerations that undergird our argument might frame how the field thinks about other forms of DH labor such as support from DH lab staff, postdoctoral fellowships, and visiting instructors.
At the end of the day, we hope that moving to a values centered model may upend the entire evaluation system. Shaped by important critiques about power from fields including cultural studies, the work of groups such as Humane Metrics Initiative (HuMetricsHSS) is helping us rethink how we define and assess labor across the humanities and social sciences.[6] Models such as the one proposed by HuMetrics and Lisa Spiro offer the possibility to tear down the Teaching-Research-Service tripartite that has been in place over the past several decades. Our call to reassess how we categorize DHPSs is a step in the direction, we hope, of a more radical and, dare we say, “productive” future for DH and higher education.


[1] The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers who provided valuable feedback for strengthening this paper. We are deeply grateful for their time, particularly since this article was first reviewed during the 2020-2021 academic year while we were all facing the challenges of COVID-19.
[2] We recognize that there are personal, political, and institutional imperatives that mean that certain faculty can't choose to opt out. This is particularly true for women and scholars of color who are asked to do a significant amount of service on campus.
[3] We focus here on digital humanities pedagogical theory, while recognizing that instructional design theory would add other avenues of exploration.
[4] For example, “appropriately up-to-date materials and methodologies” are expected at the University of Richmond, according to their guidelines [University of Richmond 2018].
[5] We recognize that this list is incomplete, and that it will always be out of date.

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