I popped up to Cambridge, just for the afternoon, on Tuesday, to partake in a couple of sessions at Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts 2008.
(Those of you who know me will know its the first time I’ve really been out and about for about 5 months – given I’ve been learning to walk again – and I was pleased to be able to hobble about without even crutches for a few hours, inbetween being dropped off and picked up at the door. (Thanks, Os.) It was great to chew the fat/ shoot the breeze / smoke the peace pipe with some friends and colleagues over a coffee or two, and to see a few papers. (Thanks to Claire Warwick who gave the VERA paper, given my head is still a little addled). A nice intro back into academia. I’m not actually back from maternity leave until April, but I dont think you can really switch your brain off entirely for that long – and I have no plans to!).
But while it was grand for me on a personal level, I noticed the conference was a little…. quiet. Tumbleweedy. Some of the usual suspects weren’t there, and there didnt seem to be too many non-usual suspects filling up the numbers – the attendance at the couple of sessions I went to was relatively poor. I wonder whether I hit the conference at a lull, or is this says something about the tides of our subject? Is it usual wax and wane, or are people moving onto other conferences, other topic matters, other more subject-based meetings?
I’ve argued before that digital humanities will be a true success when the technologies are just integrated into usual working practices within the various domains in the humanities, and there will be no need for conferences about “using computers” as people will just be using computers in the humanities, without a big hoopla. There should come a time where conferences on, say, English Lit or History will welcome those using computational methods as bona fide scholars. Is that where we are already? I suspect not yet. But DRHA felt a long way from the heady days of, say, Sheffield 2000 or Glasgow 98, which both had a large attendance, and a real buzz about the subject.