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Call for Papers

Special Issue on Tools Criticism

Guest editors: Adriaan van der Weel and Peter Verhaar

Scholarly research increasingly relies on digital tools which can create and analyse data. In evaluating the results emerging from scholarly work based on tools, it is important to recognise that tools have typically been developed for a particular scholarly purpose and/or within a particular methodological framework. Human software engineers consciously or unconsciously take decisions on the types of results that can be produced by tools, and as research instruments they therefore almost inevitably introduce a certain theoretical, practical or methodological bias. Tools criticism assumes that all scholarly resources are artefacts that implicitly express an argument, about methodological issues, about the outcomes desired, or about the social or political contexts in which the tool may be applied. Research in tools criticism aims to recognize such bias, to give an explicit expression to the various assumptions on which software tools are based, and to evaluate the potential impact of these assumption on research outcomes. 

In recent decades, the number of publicly available digital research tools has proliferated. Tools criticism stimulates a greater awareness of the implications of the use of particular tools, enabling scholars, for example, to make a reasoned choice. Tools criticism can also be relevant for scholars actively involved in the development of research instruments, because it draws attention to the inevitable theoretical, practical or methodological bias involved in the process. By examining and analysing the scholarly work necessary for tool development, tools criticism may also help scholars to receive academic recognition for this type of work, which is more than merely practical.  

The Special Issue for Digital Humanities Quarterly about Tools Criticism aims to clarify the goals and the methodology of Tools criticism in general as well as to illustrate how tools criticism may illuminate the bias introduced by digital research instruments. The editors invite contributions on the following five aspects of tools criticism.

  1. Rationale of tools criticism: Why do we need tools criticism? Is it possible and desirable to trace the social or political implications of tools? What are or should be the aims of tools criticism? How may digital humanities research benefit from tools criticism?
  2. Data criticism: What does data criticism entail? How does it differ from tools criticism? What are or should be the aims of data criticism?
  3. Methodologies in tools criticism: Is it possible to evaluate the degree to which tools affect the outcomes of scholarly research? Can the bias that is introduced by tools be demonstrated or even quantified? Assuming that tools mostly make implicit statements, is it possible to make these statements explicit? Which methods can we use to make these statements explicit?
  4. Responsibility: What type of skills are necessary to critique data and tools? Is it necessary to be proficient in programming and in statistics? Does tools criticism demand an understanding of the inner workings of the tools, or can a tool also be criticized if it is treated as a black box? Is it necessary for full open access to be provided to the code in which the logic of the tool is implemented?
  5. Ethical implications: Can tools criticism lead to a fair and impartial comparison of tools? What are the practical implications of tools criticism? If it is found that a tool displays a heavy bias, for instance, should a use of this tool be discouraged?  

Important Dates

Deadline for submission of abstract: 15 December 2017
Notification of acceptance: 1 February 2018
Deadline for final paper submission: 15 March 2018
Proposals and inquiries may be sent to Peter Verhaar, P.A.F.Verhaar@library.leidenuniv.nl

Call for Papers

Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities
Special Issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly (2018)

Guest editors: Tarez Samra Graban, Paul F. Marty, Allen Romano, and Micah Vandegrift
Florida State University

Project Description

At a recent symposium at Florida State University, digital humanists, librarians, and technology specialists explored the challenges of diverging expectations, unequal labor, and invisible work in the digital humanities -- http://iwdh.cci.fsu.edu/. The symposium provided an opportunity for participants to address questions such as the following: In intellectual and economic climates that prioritize external over internal validation, how do we define and defend the value of the digital humanities work? Whom do our projects and conversations include and exclude? How can we make the invisible work of digital humanities workers more visible? and What is the epistemic potential for questioning agency, access, participation, and use in digital humanities projects?

To further explore these questions, the symposium organizers are pleased to announce a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) to be published in late 2018. For this special issue, we seek contributions that theorize, highlight, and illustrate the challenges facing researchers and practitioners in the digital humanities when their work is invisible to a wide range of audiences and stakeholders. Questions to be addressed in this issue include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the nature of invisible work in the digital humanities, to whom is this work invisible, and why might they not see it?
  • What problems arise when invisible work in the digital humanities remains invisible, and how can we address those problems?
  • To whom should we strive to make invisible work in the digital humanities visible, and why should we focus our efforts on those entities or individuals?
  • Conversely, should "visibility" be an unquestioned value in the digital humanities, within or without of the academic institution, or is there an inherent value to work being invisible?
  • How might we write a counter-narrative to the kinds of external validation that often drive (and often kill) most digital humanities initiatives? What would that counter-narrative look like?
  • How might we argue for making invisible work in the digital humanities more visible internally (to ourselves) rather than externally (to outside observers), and what might the consequences of such a decision be?
  • How can a focus on the internal or external validation of invisible work in the digital humanities heighten the unique methodologies of practitioners in certain disciplines, or bring their fields' critical questions into deeper relief?

Submission Instructions

For this special issue, we seek contributions of two principal types:

  • Article-length pieces describing original research (~8000 words in length); and
  • Substantive, provocative, opinion-driven short essays (~1500 words in length).

If you wish, you may submit an optional abstract for feedback from the editors by emailing your abstract (max. 500 words) to Tarez Samra Graban (tgraban@fsu.edu) by June 1, 2017.

Please follow Digital Humanities Quarterly's guidelines for preparation, content, formatting, and submission: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/submissions/. All submissions should be marked as intended for the special issue on "Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities." We prefer submissions in RTF, OpenOffice, or Word, but may be able to work with other formats as needed.

If you have any questions about this special issue, please contact the editors by emailing Tarez Samra Graban at tgraban@fsu.edu.

Important Dates

  • Optional Abstract Deadline: June 1, 2017
  • Manuscript Submission Deadline: November 15, 2017
  • Review Decisions/Acceptances: May 15, 2018
  • Final Versions Due: September 1, 2018
  • Publication: End of 2018

A PDF version of this CFP is available at http://iwdh.cci.fsu.edu/dhq_cfp.pdf