The circus we deserve? A front row look at the organization of the annual academic conference for the Digital Humanities

Laura Estill, Jennifer Guiliano*, Élika Ortega, Melissa Terras, Deb Verhoeven, Glen Layne-Worthey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Academic conferences are considered central to the dissemination of research and play a key role in the prestige systems of academia. And yet the organization of these, and the power systems they maintain, have been little discussed. What is a conference supposed to achieve? Who and what is it for? The annual Alliance of Digital Humanities Organization (ADHO) conference is a central occasion in the digital humanities academic calendar, and, as an international, interdisciplinary, regular, long-standing, large-scale event, it provides an ideal locus to consider various aspects of contemporary academic conference organization, and how this impacts the shape and definition of a scholarly field. Examining this annual event allows us to clarify ADHO’s policies and procedures to consider how they frame the digital humanities at large. This paper approaches the annual Digital Humanities conference via a Reflection-in-Action approach encompassing the experiences of various people formally involved in organizing the conference over the past decade. Considering the last seven years of the conference as well as its broader history, we argue that conferences are central mechanisms for agenda setting and fostering a community of digital humanities practitioners. Through analyses of the selection of Program Committees, the choosing of conference themes, the preparation of calls for papers, the peer review process, and the selection of keynotes, we contend that existing structures and processes inadequately address concerns around representation, diversity, multilingualism, and labor. Our recommendations, including aligning the conference budget with its priorities, fostering fair labor practices, and creating accountability structures will be useful to those organizing future Digital Humanities events, and conference organizers throughout academia interested in making academic conferences more inclusive, welcoming environments that encourage a plurality of voices to fully partake in academic discourse.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Humanities Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2022


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