Matrix: the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences teamed up with the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR), the College of Arts and Letters and the Michigan State University (MSU) Libraries to host the eighth annual global conference of the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) at MSU from May 27-31, 2015.
“The conference went exceptionally well. The planning team did an excellent job of organizing the conference program and events,”Director of Matrix Dean Rehberger said. “The most exciting were the keynote speakers: young emerging scholars as well as two active, activist artists.”
The theme of the conference was “Art and Science of the Digital Humanities.” Scott Weingart, 28-year-old digital humanities specialist at Carnegie Mellon University, opened with his presentation, “Connecting the Dots.” Other speakers included Roopika Risam, who discussed the intersections of the digital humanities and the Global South, and Cezanne Charles and John Marshall, who talked about how contemporary media can utilize human fear as a tool of persuasion. The event also featured breakout sessions and workshops.
With day one advertised as an “unconference” and a lineup of early career keynote speakers, the HASTAC convention delivered an array of perspectives, with an emphasis on the ways emerging scholars are focusing diversity, gender, and race on DH.
“We wanted to learn from the vibrant, diverse group of young DH scholars who are helping to push the community to be more inclusive and more engaged with communities beyond academia,” said MSU Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Bill Hart-Davidson, who was the program chair for the 2015 HASTAC conference. “These are, of course, values that Michigan State very much shares, so it made sense for these to be driving our focus as hosts of HASTAC 2015.”
Founded in 2002, HASTAC aims to support, discuss and change the role of humanistic learning in the Information Age. A self-described “community of connection,” HASTAC lists a membership of nearly 13,000 social scientists, humanists, artists, technologists and scientists. The group’s yearly conference is widely considered one of the best in the digital humanities field. Last year’s event took place in Lima, Peru.
Rehberger says that MSU is home to several notable programs that made it a good place to host the HASTAC conference, pointing to the MSU Department of Anthropology’s Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative and the LEADR group as examples and the many initiatives and labs in the College of Arts & Letters.
“MSU has a growing, vibrant digital humanities community,” Rehberger said, “with a focus on innovation, global issues and the emergence of young scholars.”
Hart-Davidson agrees, calling the event “outstanding.” He says that the quality of the conference went beyond the events on the schedule.
“I have a hard time narrowing down my favorite moments, but I will say that I'm as proud of the informal ones—the poster sessions, the networking time in the morning and afternoon, the birds-of-a-feather dinners and our outings to the Broad Museum and to the Abrams Planetarium,” Hart-Davidson said. “Conferences like HASTAC can serve two important functions. One is the sharing of knowledge. But the other, just as important, is the building of professional relationships.”
By: Darby Hopper