Let’s face it: so far, this year has been weird and very stressful. We have been forced to accept a new normal, and while this evolving situation prioritizes our health and safety, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of collaboration. For members of our community who live alone, or who are far away from family and friends back home, this has been especially difficult, because contact with the research community or colleagues may be the only opportunity we have to socialize with likeminded peers. While we may be separated physically, we still need to find and foster connections, especially for our colleagues embarking on a new adventure in these strange times, such as a PhD or a Master’s program with a digital focus. So take heart, dear readers. All is not lost.
I got to talking with prof. dr. Julie Birkholz of the Ghent Center for Digital Humanities and the Royal Library of Belgium’s newly formed Digital Research Lab about this issue late last month. Julie approached myself and Dr Demmy Verbeke (Head of KU Leuven Libraries Artes and my co-Keeper of the DH Commons) with the idea to form a virtual DH discussion group for early career researchers in Belgium, so that we could enjoy each other’s company and discuss DH research from a safe distance. Digital Humanities researchers in Belgium work across a wide range of departments, institutions, and programs, and sometimes our work isn’t even specifically called ‘DH,’ rather some adjacent title – but regardless of where we are and what we are called, it’s important for us to continue building a community, even when we can’t meet up in person. We put our heads together and decided that perhaps this Autumn could present us with an opportunity to do something that would be logistically difficult if we had attempted to organize it in the Beforetimes.
With the goal of collaborating despite Covid-19, we are going to meet online three times in the first semester of this academic year. Julie and I will moderate three 90 minute sessions on:
Tuesday 13 October from 15:00 – 16:30;
Tuesday 17 November from 15:00 – 16:30;
Monday 7 December from 15:00 – 16:30.
Due to the linguistic diversity of our community, these sessions will be held in English. They will cover podcasts, videos, and texts that are relevant to themes in DH. You do not need to be any kind of expert in DH to join in – all you need is a willingness to participate and the desire to meet some new colleagues. These sessions will be relaxed, and we’re holding them during the working day because, after all, community building is just as integral to our collective success as attending classes, building a digital project, or frantically typing a thesis or article. (And because we know that the evolving health crisis means that after-hours home schedules might become particularly difficult to manage for some folks, especially those taking care of children or other loved ones).
So if you are new to DH and feeling nervous about starting out in a strange academic year, if you are isolated and missing those casual coffee break conversations with likeminded colleagues, or if you are simply curious about the work being done by researchers in other institutions across Belgium, then please feel free to sign up here for one (or all!) of these sessions. Once you’ve registered, you’ll get an email with further information, including the readings/podcasts/videos and the set-up of the discussions.
Come along, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and have a chat.We’d love to meet you.