Tools and Tactics for Advocacy and Outreach

5 Responses to Tools and Tactics for Advocacy and Outreach

  1. Tad, this looks great. I’m interested in hearing more about best practices for advocacy and outreach generally, and I can’t see the questions/concerns you bring up going away in the near term. I had some of the same thoughts (e.g. “not groundbreaking”) when writing my proposal, but I think it says something that these concerns persist and the questions are still being raised. I’d be happy to merge these, or not, depending on how many folks are interested, whether large groups are interested in substantially different aspects, how much space we have, etc.

  2. Profile photo of Yvonne Chireau

    As someone very new to this with a background in Religious Studies, it seems that much of what I am seeing with the digital humanities “movement” parallels the form and structure of a mission. A missionary movement, if I may. Discuss? Implications? Is this a provocative or useful way of understanding digital humanities outreach? Does advocacy differ from evangelism? Does this make sense? Is this a relevant or interesting idea?

  3. Profile photo of Tad Suiter

    John– I think that merging them might be a really great idea, actually– some of my favorite THATCamp sessions have been merged ones, because it tends to bring in multiple people with different points of view and perspectives on a topic, which just enriches the discussion.


    Yvonne– I actually used the word “evangelism” in my first pre-draft of this post. :) I decided to drop it just because the term has different connotations for different crowds. Can one be an evangelist without being uncritical? It’d really depend on who you asked.

    That said, “evangelize” and “evangelist” seem to be used most frequently in the academic quarters of DH. I would have said “evangelize” a couple years ago, definitely. After a little while working in the world of museums and libraries, I’ve picked up their jargon. I probably picked up “outreach” from working in museums, especially museum educators. And “advocacy” is a huge buzzword in libraries.

    I’d actually say that, to a certain extent, academic DH has turned away from evangelism in the last couple years– when I’m feeling glib, I describe it as the “Fish Effect.” So many influential articles on the Digital Humanities in the 2000-2011 period were evangelist in nature. They promoted DH by arguing for the legitimacy of the techniques, and the place of these techniques within the humanistic tradition. These were papers, articles, and books that argued that DH was real, it was valid, and it was exciting. At a certain point, though, there was a shift, and more of the top articles now are about application of digital methods, deepening the theory that undergirds DH, issues like that.

    There was a move, I’d argue, away from advocacy and outreach, at least in what constituted the most exciting additions to the DH corpus. If I’m looking for a tipping point, I’d look to Stanley Fish’s 2012 series of (negative) articles about DH for the NYT Oppinionator blog. If Fish, who the anti-theory defenders of New Criticism have been pointing to for years as an example PoMo faddishness, is dismissing DH as simply a fad (and doing so without irony)– well, then, the tipping point’s been reached, DH has made it, advocacy seems passe.

    Or at least that’s my (extremely flip) take on it. But the thing is, even if we are all on board with the notion that we need to push DH publishing and scholarship past evangelism, that evangelism, or advocacy, or outreach, or whatever you want to call it, is still part of the project. And in jobs that relate to DH it’s often part of the job description, either officially or unofficially. You’re often being brought in to push people or institutions in a direction. So maybe it’s more informal and ad hoc, but it’s still a big part of the “work” of DH.

    …And I’ve completely gone off on a tangent, now.


    ((Strike all the above.))

    Yvonne– Yes! I used the word “evangelism” myself, in an early draft of this post!

    I think this is something that could spark further conversation if this becomes a panel!

  4. Then let ours be the chocolate/peanut butter of advocacy/outreach. This is my first THATCamp, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the session wrangling works.

    Yvonne, I think the evangelism point is really good. My personal interest stems from talking with people who, in 2013, have little or no awareness of DH, but I think there remains a “DH divide” — not in terms of pro-/con-, but organizations where it’s well-integrated vs. not at all. There’s enough exposure that there’s pushback, as Tad mentioned, but Fish (or Snarky anti-DH memes) may not mean that there isn’t still need of “missionary” work.

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