Review: Seminar, Training, and Large Collaborative Projects, Lynne and Ray Siemens

I recently attended a seminar at UWS on Friday, 26 April 2013, led by Lynne and Ray Siemens of the University of Victoria in Canada. The event’s theme was collaboration in the humanities and, in particular, how digital humanities projects exemplify practical cooperation in broader societies. This is because digital humanities projects often cross disciplines, geography, and the often more demanding collaborative terrain of computer science, computational methods, and the humanities.

Lynne Siemens specialises in project management and team building. She stated that people are consistently well-trained to work together and outlined some positives and negatives of working in teams. She claimed that some people are better able to collaborate than others, often because they have developed listening skills, are flexible, can negotiate, and can compromise. Lynne described these as the soft skills of effective collaborative teams. A team approach often produces more diverse and possibly higher-quality ideas (and is an excellent way to learn new skills and perspectives). Still, some projects are better done individually (but of course, some projects are beyond the scope and skills-sets of individuals).

Lynne outlined some successful team interactions she had observed, partly through research she had undertaken through case studies. Good communication skills, as are project management and the ability to think across technology and the humanities and culture and language, are vital. Also, the objectives of the team, the outcomes, and the individual tasks need to be clearly described, with a few grey areas that may be potential conflict areas. Teams operate within institutional contexts, so certain contingencies exist to negotiate within or between institutions. Still, one of the best ways to build teams is through casual conversations, many face-to-face meetings, and large bottles of rum (I put in the last one).

Ray Siemens is a Professor of Humanities Computing at the University of Victoria in Victoria, Canada and is well known for his work in the Digital Humanities and, in particular, through the founding of the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute (that I attended two years ago and now attracts around 500 participants).  He discussed the important work of the digital humanities, particularly around content modelling and computational analysis of content (a core form of scholarship within the field). He also discussed the typology of curriculum development in the digital humanities through stand-alone degrees or digital humanities-inflicted programs, particularly the highly successful Summer Institute model.

DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute)

ETCL (Electronic Textual Culture Lab)



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