Half-Day AM - I Can Haz Consultation: Investigating the Theory and Practice of the Digital Humanities Consultation ($10)

Time: 9:00am-12:00pm

Facilitator: Jean Bauer (Independent Scholar)

Max. participants: 25



In North American digital humanities, the “DH consultation” is a ubiquitous practice. To be in DH, on some level, means either being paid or volunteering to consult with people about digital humanities and potential projects. From specialized digital humanities centers to digital humanities librarians to solo practitioners (be they students, faculty, university staff, or members of the GLAM sector), everyone does consultations. But what are we doing when we offer to “consult” on digital humanities?

This workshop will go beyond “tips and tricks” to invite participants to thoughtfully examine this fundamental practice of digital humanities in a community setting.

Questions relevant to the question of consultations in digital humanities include:

  • How do consultations play into (or subvert) power structures in the academy and the tech sector?
  • Do consultations present digital humanities as a service or a collaboration? When does that matter?
  • How do we surface the invisible and emotional labor of consultations (such as finding a mutually agreeable time, hearing someone out, shaping someone else’s thoughts into next steps in real time)?
  • What is the relationship between digital humanities consultations and the long-studied and -taught “reference interview” from library and information science?
  • How do expectations about consultations play into contingent labor in digital humanities?
  • How does a “traditional” digital humanities consultation need to change to fully involve community partnerships and promote knowledge/resource sharing among people with highly diverse lived experiences?
  • Do people who receive consultations owe credit to their consultants?

Participants will not answer all of these questions, but they will be provided with a space where they can be raised, investigated, and respectfully debated. To maximize participation and accessibility, workshop activities will be a mix of small group discussions, group writing, and sharing experiences. By approaching consultations from multiple theoretical and practical directions, the workshop will be welcoming to DH newcomers and veterans. The preferred setting for this workshop is a three hour time slot and 25 participants.

The workshop convener has over 10 years experience giving DH consultations, first as a graduate student, then as a technologist and digital humanities librarian, and now as a center director. The convener is native English speaker and fluent in Spanish, and so could provide bilingual materials and support Spanish language groups/writing sessions in the workshop (other language groups are also welcome). Possible outcomes of the workshop include new resources for the community, along the lines of: a consultation “syllabus”, a DH consultants’ “Bill of Rights”, or some other set of best practices or thought provocations.


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