This past June I had the pleasure of attending the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Housed at the University of Victoria in beautiful British Columbia, DHSI consisted of three weeks of courses focused on diverse topics within the digital humanities. Students may attend one, two or all three weeks of the Institute. With classes on everything from the basics of Ruby on Rails to technology-based literary analysis, DHSI is an excellent resource for scholars who want to learn a new skill, broaden their knowledge of the digital humanities, or delve more deeply into a particular subject area. I went to DHSI with only limited knowledge of the digital humanities and a desire to expand my horizons. While I was nervous that I would feel out of place surrounded by people much better versed in DH, I found that nearly every student I spoke to felt the same way – that they had no idea what they were doing. That was perhaps the most exciting thing about DHSI, because it created an environment of curiosity and comfort, functioning as a space in which students can try new things and take risks in a low-stakes situation.

Opening remarks for DHSI

The course I took was on electronic literature. Focusing on native digital literature (that which was both created and solely viewed on digital devices), the course provided instruction on the basic theory of the topic, how to curate an exhibit of electronic literature, how to create it, and how to teach it. Even though I came to the course largely ignorant of e-lit, I enjoyed learning a variety of new skills and exercising my creativity. With the help of instructors Dene Grigar and Davin Heckman, I designed an exhibition of electronic literature that focused on gender and embodiment. I also coded in JavaScript for the first time and created my own work of electronic literature. For a qualitative scholar who primarily engages in textual analysis and audience research, the course was a fun departure from my day-to-day work and allowed me to diversify my skillset.

In addition to the courses, DHSI also provides opportunities to hear the work of other scholars, network, and explore. Every evening, scholars presented their work during colloquium, allowing students to hear about topics other than that of their particular course. These colloquia were fascinating and occasionally heated; just scroll through #DHSI2015 on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. There were also organized meet-ups of scholars with similar interests that allowed for networking opportunities. For example, I went to a casual FemTechNet gathering and met other scholars from all over the US and Canada who were interested in feminist DH. DHSI also organizes weekend activities such as hiking and whale watching so students can explore all Victoria has to offer. Overall, I would highly recommend DHSI. Victoria is beautiful, the courses are highly enjoyable, and the other students and instructors are warm and welcoming. It is an excellent place to deepen your understanding of the digital humanities.

*Caitlin’s opportunity to attend DHSI was funded by the Department.