Generally when asked to complete a survey the weight of irritation I feel overpowers the sense that I am contributing something that has the potential to result in a positive effect. Its not that I think survey creators do not have good intentions, it just seems that more often than not the motivation to participate in a survey is couched in a language of purported benefits to which the survey participant often fails to gain access to.
I for one am much more motivated to sit in my chair and give you solid answers if there is a measure of transparency in the process. Invest me in your effort, your project, your program- in short make me care! Let me see the data, let me know when, where, what you are going to do with the data- tell me when products/deliverables will appear.
I myself was thinking of doing a survey of the digital humanities community in order to get a better sense of the distribution of disciplinary origins.
More practitioners from History, less from Anthropology, or is it the reverse? Where are the LIS folks at? At times it can seem like English is the most vocal discipline represented in the community.
Disciplinary origins connote mental and moral training resulting in the creation of an intellectual toolbox that stands a distinct product of that discipline. I think it is important that we have a better sense of the disciplinary origins of the DH community, so that we can better take into consideration the relative weight that our interpretative lenses are having upon DH development. A top level view of disciplinary distribution, supported by data rather than approximating disciplinary influence via inferences from blogs, Twitter, and scanning the many DH center staff pages, could help us to identify disciplines ripe for targeted DH outreach.
For lack of targets, I rely upon my enthusiasm, and proselytize the many benefits of DH to anyone who will listen- I’m a believer. This works well for now but I think some coordinated action could help the cause of helping all scholars to do what they do even better.
Fortunately, I was beaten to the survey punch by a collective of individuals that span many countries and many disciplinary origins. Their survey, “Who are you, Digital Humanists?” aside from seeking to discover disciplinary origins, also factors in the questions of diversity of language and nationality across the DH community.
I will participate in this survey because I think the data they will receive is important. I can only hope that the data will become public, so that the DH community can freely interpret the results- a collective process that can only lead to a refinement of this “DH thing” we do.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress