[globaloutlookDH-l] DH Awards

James Cummings James.Cummings at it.ox.ac.uk
Wed Feb 5 13:15:11 MST 2014

On 05/02/14 19:23, Daniel O'Donnell wrote:
> Wow! That seems to me to be a pretty aggressive stance.

Hrrm. It isn't intended as such.

> 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.

Not at all! The problem is that if we have either many many 
categories for everything, or one category for 'everything else 
we didn't think of' then I suspect the number of resources 
nominated will become unmanageable. The limited categories, and 
limited year, are all an attempt to make this something that is 
possible to do.  If we have to have any type of DH activity 
(which could be *vast*) or any year of activity (also *vast*) 
then we just simply would not be to run this activity. I'm 
certainly not trying to exclude any particular category of DH 
activity... that is just a necessary side effect.

> 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."

That might have been a bit of a flippant response.

> 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.

Erm no, I think that isn't the case as well. We certainly don't 
know every field in DH nor would expect to. Each year I've asked 
for feedback and especially made a note of suggestions for 
categories. I didn't receive many last year (more confirmation of 
particular categories -- people liked the 'fun' and 'viz' 
categories), this year there has been more suggestions of 
additional categories and if the nominations committee routinely 
ignored the suggestion of a particular topic then it would be 
being exclusionary. If you have categories of DH work you'd like 
to see highlighted, then I'm happy to report back those 
suggestions.  I'll try toencourage feedback when announcing the 
results, or point to a survey. Moreover the categories we have 
are not really about particular topics of DH work, but a mix of 
modalities of working and target audiences.

> 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.

If you have another approach that allows open nomination and open 
voting in an easy manner I'd like to hear it.

> 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'm sorry, I still feel it is about celebrating _a_ range of 
practice in DH. But I just don't think we can celebrate an 
unlimited range. We can change what is covered by that range each 

> 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'm sorry you feel like that, it certainly isn't our intention.

> 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.

If the awards covered multiple years, then why would you repeat 
them every year? Surely you'd have to have them only every 5 
years or something and then also be able to have a vast number of 
categories. That seems more detrimental to me for something 
intended as a DH awareness activity. It is not meant to 
encapsulate the entirety of DH, just some small segments of it 
for that year.

> 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.

I would be interested in proposed solutions. If you *have* to 
have categories, then which would you have and why? If you have 
to only have a set number, (we could maybe increase by 1 or 2) 
then which would you not include?

> I actually might have accidentally voted twice.

Your ballot will be rationalised if you only voted twice. (I'll 
take the common elements). If you voted hundreds of times all of 
them will be removed.

> 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.

Yes, I try never to express my opinions over which nominations 
should win in which categories.  I also don't vote, or nominate 
any projects I'm involved in.  (A project I was very tangentially 
involved in was nominated but I don't think there was any 
conflict.) This doesn't (and shouldn't) hold true for the rest of 
the nomination committee however, as long as their nominations 
are treated fairly.

> 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.

I'm happy to receive your proposals for modifications remembering 
the limited time that can be given to it. I think it is best to 
have annual awards because there is an annual chance to remind 
people of DH resources. I suppose that could be annually for the 
last 2 years or something... but that seems problematic in other 
ways. I think we need to have categories (to get multiple 
winners) and that we can't have unlimited categories.  If you 
want to sketch out how you'd run it I'm sure I could find similar 
deficiencies...but I am interested to get the best/fairest system 


Dr James Cummings, James.Cummings at it.ox.ac.uk
Academic IT Services, University of Oxford

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