[globaloutlookDH-l] DH Awards

Daniel O'Donnell daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca
Wed Feb 5 12:23:37 MST 2014

On 14-02-05 10:17 AM, James Cummings wrote:
> On 05/02/14 16:52, Daniel O'Donnell wrote:
>> I put GO::DH in tools because I really missed an "other"
>> category, so I wouldn't complain beyond saying there should be an
>> other category
> Whereas I would have just not nominated it because it didn't really 
> fit any of the categories.  I don't think the categories *should* be 
> all encompassing of DH. Partly because that is impossible, partly 
> because voters would have even more choices, and partly because it 
> would need an 'other' category which would then just become a 
> repository for highly heterogeneous materials.  So voting in that 
> category would be comparing apples and elephants, rather than just the 
> apples and oranges that are compared in the current categories.
Wow! That seems to me to be a pretty aggressive stance.

Basically, that advice would reduce to "DHAwards is an awards programme 
for the type of things we (the organisers) decide represent DH. If your 
project doesn't fit our categories, it means we are not interested in it 
and our advice would be to go away." In other words, it would suggest 
something that is not an open competition at all, but an editors' choice 
award with a public voting round. That advice, coupled with a single 
year eligibility criteria, would mean that the project is as much about 
hiding projects from view (by excluding them categorically) as bringing 
other ones to the fore.

I'm sure that's /not/ what the actual goal is, but it would certainly be 
an unintended effect of "I wouldn't nominate it if the category isn't 
there." It strongly suggests that the categories are about trying to 
define the field in exclusionary terms as much as celebrate it. It also 
seems to me to be a recipe for missing innovation since it implies that 
the organisers can anticipate what is important in the discipline. Even 
if we assume, as I'm sure has to be the case, that this is not the 
original goal, that kind of exclusion does seem to be an unavoidable 
result of the approach.

I'm afraid in that case, I have to agree with Ernesto's criticism. The 
award implicitly seems to claim to be a very different thing than it 
actually, in practice, is. Its name and rhetoric imply that it is about 
celebrating the range of of practice in DH. The advice not to nominate a 
project if it doesn't fit the proposed categories, however, implies that 
it is really about celebrating whatever subset of DH the organisers 
think is important. That just seems really dangerous.

I hate to say it, because I still think it is a great and elegant idea 
at heart, but I don't think I can support a competition that seems to be 
willing to put its thumb on the scale like that. I thought that the 
category issue was growing pains coupled with an unfortunate one year 
eligibility period (if the eligibility were longer, you could presumably 
wait until a suitable category was proposed). But if the categories are 
/meant/ to be exclusionary and the fact that projects fall between the 
category cracks is not an accident but evidence that they should not be 
considered, then I think it may do more harm than good.

I'm really sorry to come to that conclusion, because it really is an 
initiative I want to support and think is good. But I think this may be 
showing that the category issue is actually maybe a fundamental thing.

>> (and that would be a mild complaint: having been
>> on the receiving end of complaints before, let me emphasise that
>> I think DHAwards is a great achievement, creating value out of
>> nothing on a budget of close to or exactly 0).
> For those interested the technical setup, dhawards.org is a mirror of 
> a similarly named sub-domain on my dreamhost.com fully-hosted personal 
> domain. It just mirrors the sub-domain DNS and so it appears at that 
> address but is hosted at the subdomain. Thus the only 'cost' is the 
> domain name registration as part of my dreamhost account. If one was 
> to cost the time... well you don't want to know. I would estimate that 
> any individual member of the nominations committee who actively 
> contributes to the debates and reviewing of the nominations, and 
> advertises it, is probably donating a couple full days of work 
> overall. As the one creating the spreadsheets, anonymising the 
> nominations, setting up the site, forms, prodding the committee, 
> emailing nominated resources, answering feedback, cleansing and 
> tallying votes, etc.  I probably spend about 1-2 weeks worth of time.  
> I should probably come up with a slightly better system for display 
> and review of the nominated resources -- currently people mark their 
> votes/notes in a google spreadsheet. (suggestions appreciated.)
And this is why I don't like where the category discussion is leading my 
thinking, anyway. We should be thankful for the initiative and the effort.
>> It didn't seem
>> like it was for fun, or that it was not-in-English, or that it
>> was a mobilisation effort (i.e. public-facing). I figured in an
>> imperfect world, a Community of Practice is sort of a tool if no
>> better category exists. It fit the narrative definition, anyway.
> I could see an argument for Public Audiences (erm, but not _really_ by 
> the definition). But again, we decided to err on the side of including 
> it. But yes, if we had a 'Community of Practice' category this coming 
> year, then it would miss out...not having been created in that year. 
> (As others have argued here.)
>> And all the members of this list can vote for it and we will be
>> the one tool to rule them all. Mwah hah hah!
> Perhaps. I probably shouldn't note this (since it is probably unfair 
> on the others in that category) but you are currently the second 
> runner-up.  But that people have seen it, voted for it, learned about 
> it, is hopefully the real benefit. But also I've not gone through a 
> removed duplicate voters yet, so someone who votes for you under lots 
> of different accounts or the same account many times may lower your 
> score. ;-)

I actually might have accidentally voted twice.

Since we're not a tool in the classic sense 
(<northAmericanDialectJokeAlert>well my brothers often argued that I 
was</northAmericanDialectJokeAlert>), it wouldn't surprise me if we 
don't win. And indeed, there are some great tools there, in the more 
normal sense, that deserve to.

I'm being critical above, but really want to emphasise that I think it 
is a great initiative and I am grateful to you for the work you put into 
it. I do think that category issue (and/or the eligibility period) is 
going to have to be addressed if it isn't going to end up marginalising 
itself. But I really want it to succeed.

> -James

Daniel Paul O'Donnell
Professor of English
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4

+1 403 393-2539

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