How to build a national digital humanities infrastructure

DARIAH has published the results of a survey into the state of the digital humanities in Greece that should interest New Zealand humanists. Greece is at an early stage of development and work is being done to identify present and future requirements. The report can be read here. It may interest more traditional researchers to learn how digital humanities infrastructures are being built around the world; simply put, it isn’t as organic as it was in the ‘early days’, when communities of like-minded researchers found each other and worked to gain critical mass. While this still provides an essential foundation for future development, these days the sheer scale of the undertaking (building robust virtual research environments, shared publishing platforms and associated infrastructure) means that a nationally coherent top-down approach is required, often involving digital humanities collectives that draw on expertise from national universities, libraries, central government agencies and industry. I’m particularly interested in the approach that is being taken by smaller countries like Greece. Countries like ours need to identify and then leverage our collective capabilities, to avoid excessive competition for scarce resources. The thing to remember is that we’re talking about engineered solutions and governance of those solutions, which is a major undertaking: we need to think about design, implementation, funding and maintenance. When the time comes, the way to start will be to sit down and identify requirements, like they’ve done in Greece. I wonder what a New Zealand survey would produce for the following question?

Identify the main obstacles for the implementation of a national digital infrastructure that would serve the arts and humanities.

When asked to choose the main barriers from a list of predefined answers, most of the interviewees cited lack of funding sources, lack of education was also implicated as an important deterrent, while government responsibility and researchers’ attitude came last in the priority list. It is obvious that organizations are increasingly aware of the significance of a national infrastructure and feel the need for additional information in order to contribute to building it.