While the term "Digital Humanities" dates back only to the early 2000s, the communities from which its current practitioners hail are quite a bit older. This website presents a growing record of those communities through their conferences.
The site presents conference metadata, and linked records within that data. You will find details about conference series and stand-alone academic events reaching back to the 1960s. In a subset, you will find works presented at these conferences: titles and authors, and occasionally additional information such as keywords, languages, and unformatted versions of abstracts or the full work text.
This database should not be treated as a direct representation of the communities for which these conferences are named. Many scholars foundational to these fields do not appear at all in this database, for a host of reasons. This resource should be taken as it is: one historical record among many.
The database is a labor of love, built by many hands over many years. It is necessarily incomplete and riddled with errors. We welcome new conference data and dedicated collaborators who can help improve this historical record and keep it up to date. Please email Scott B. Weingart (scottbot at cmu dot edu) to contribute.
To determine which recommended citation to use, flip a coin. Heads is the first version, tails the second.
Although The Index of Digital Humanities Conferences offers a historical record, it is an ahistorical initiative. We began with Digital Humanities in the year 2020 and looked backward towards its antecedents. If you were to ask all who do work they call digital humanities from which academic communities that work draws its lineage, the scope of those answers would match the intended scope of this project. From that wide pool, we focus specifically on the subsets of those communities where technology or computation and the humanities intersect.
Conferences are sites of identity-building in scholarly communities. As opposed to other such sites, like academic departments or journals, few institutions exist to ensure their records survive and are centrally accessible. This project aims to fill that gap for the digital humanities.
With that said, conferences themselves offer insight into only a small corner of a scholarly community. This project, and the database structure it uses, enforces a narrow view of the digital humanities. Like any archive, the structure of the Index of Digital Humanities Conferences preferences certain types of scholars and work, often reinforcing oppressive or hegemonic perspectives. We plead that this database be used as intended: as one narrow avenue of historical exploration. We hope, in that respect, it will be useful.
The Index includes several layers of data at different granularities. At its core all information pertains to two types of entities:
Many points of data are gathered in the service of contextualizing the collected conferences and works. Although no information is collected about authors outside of their record in a conference program, for example, we do attempt to connect these authorial records between conference works, thus allowing you to browse what else an author has written (See the project colophon for a more in-depth discussion of the data model.) Similarly, we record the institutional locations of conferences and author affiliations, which can then be browsed.
We offer links to schedules and abstracts for many more recent conferences, but this is a race against time. Even with efforts like the Internet Archive, on which the Index heavily relies, a link that works when first entered may cease to function the following week. Conference websites are especially prone to vanishing, as the temporary program committees who created them move on to other tasks.
To help centralize, preserve, and make accessible these records, we are slowly entering schedules and full-text records of every conference for which we have those materials. Although this can sometimes be automated, most often it must be done by hand. Each conference takes many hours to record. At the time of this website's public release (Fall 2020), we have only recorded schedule information for about 60 of the conferences in the Index.
Although where possible we are copying (unformatted) abstracts or full-text transcripts from conference programs, most of those abstracts are not visible on the public site. We are still figuring out how to strike a balance between respecting intellectual property rights and ensuring these records are preserved.
In addition to the public interface, the Index offers its data for download. Public data downloads include everything from the database except private user data and the abstracts from works for which we do not have explicit permission to reshare their materials. These data downloads will occasionally be deposited in Carnegie Mellon University's institutional repository, to ensure long-term preservation. An additional, privately accessible data dump will be deposited into the institutional repository containing all abstracts and full text, which can become available once we sort out the intellectual property issues, but at least will be preserved.
The Index is a living record, and an always incomplete one. Our nearly 500 conferences since 1960 represent only a subset of all such events, and are constrained by the languages, regions, disciplines, and time spans of the team that collected them. We rely on your recommendations to help expand this perspective.
For most conferences we know existed, our knowledge ends there. We have only found conference schedules for about 10% of events taking place before 1997, and we have found even fewer abstracts or presentation transcripts for those conferences. For those we do have access to, many are still in printed books, waiting to be scanned. We ask for your patience and understanding in what is almost entirely a volunteer-driven effort.