Half-Day PM – Emotional Labor and Digital Humanities ($10)

Time: 1:00-4:00pm

Facilitator: Laura Braunstein (Dartmouth College)

Max. participants: 20


Emotional labor has become a recent topic of interest in digital humanities, as well as in other disciplines that address issues of labor, productivity, change, workplace relationships, and organizational psychology. Recent scholarship by Paige Morgan and others has argues that emotional labor is indeed central to DH. Digital humanities practice often involves new skills, unfamiliar technologies, re-thinking disciplinary assumptions or scholarly practices, and collaborative labor across disciplines, ranks, and positions of authority. It can generate anxiety, resistance, disorientation, and, for some, feelings of frustration, incompetence, resentment, or helplessness.

Librarians, technologists, graduate assistants, and contingent staff often serve as mediators or guides for students, faculty, staff, or other researchers as they discover new forms of scholarship or technologies. The emotional labor involved in making such transitions is often overlooked, both as a particular kind of skilled labor and as an instrumental element in the success of digital projects. Such specialized labor, while sometimes recognized in other professional contexts as a type of teaching, advising, mentorship, or counseling, is often taken for granted or disavowed by practitioners of DH. This may be because it isn’t a type of labor for which most scholarly professionals are specifically trained, or because there is a perception that such labor “isn’t my job.” The result may be missed opportunities to develop collaborations that are more productive, equitable, and meaningful. Alternatively, as Morgan has argued, “if emotional labor is ongoing, and acknowledged as work that deals with risk-focused, administrative, and scholarly decisions, then it can contribute to reframing the relationship between scholars and librarians as one of more equal partnership, rather than mere service provision.”

The goals of the workshop include:

  • Defining “emotional labor” and its role in DH.
  • Demonstrating how emotional labor impacts the relationships among practitioners of DH.
  • Inviting participants to share their own examples of emotional labor in their work-spaces or projects.
  • Experimenting with different strategies for performing emotional labor in the context of DH work, and assessing their effectiveness.
  • Reflecting on these experiences and examining their implications for future work in the area.

This workshop will also explore issues of race, gender, religion, and socioeconomic diversity as they apply to emotional labor in scholarly communities. Attendees at the workshop will be encouraged to provide some of their own contexts as well that may allow us to address specific questions of diversity in DH. By giving participants a space to share case studies and exchange information on projects in their own areas of study, we will work toward developing a professional network that will place emotional labor at the center of its conversations about DH.


  • Attendees will define “emotional labor” and its role in DH and scholarly communication
  • Attendees will develop strategies for performing emotional labor in the context of DH, and assess their effectiveness
  • Attendees will assess needs and capacity for developing professional networks dedicated to understanding and supporting emotional labor in DH
Scroll to top