Technology is changing the study of the humanities by offering new ways to conduct research, analyze data, collaborate with other scholars, and engage students, says Christopher Ohge, the new Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities who will help the University of Maine Humanities Initiative as it transitions to the University of Maine Humanities Center.
“I am excited at the prospect of serving in a leadership role to build something from the ground up that will make the University of Maine a presence among universities active in digital humanities, a budding field that combines emerging information technologies with methods and approaches from traditional humanities disciplines,” says Ohge, who earned a Ph.D. from Boston University’s Editorial Institute and who has been involved in digital humanities since he was an undergraduate at Boise State University in Idaho.
Focusing on using digital technology to bolster the humanities at UMaine and educate the public about the importance of the humanities, Ohge will organize conferences and symposiums as well as faculty workshops. He will increase and enhance dialogue across humanities disciplines on campus, develop research topics, courses, and workshops for the University’s humanities programs, and help orient UMaine faculty, staff, and students to digital humanities research, pedagogy, and learning.
Aiming to showcase the Humanities Initiative’s activities and events, he will create a website and establish a presence on Facebook. He also plans to connect with organizations such as Hastac.org, an online network of artists, social scientists, humanists, and computer scientists that uses new technologies to learn, teach, and collaborate.
“Since it’s important to get students involved, I hope to create an internship program for students who will work on a variety of digital projects,” says Ohge, who became interested in digital humanities as a student intern himself.
Establishing a Humanities Center is crucial in light of the tough economic times, according to Associate Professor of Art History Justin Wolff, director of the University of Maine Humanities Initiative.
“The Humanities Initiative is first and foremost a response to what is seen as a crisis in the humanities due to flagging enrollments, a tough economy, and a public misperception that studying humanities is somehow impractical,” he says. “In fact, the humanities teach critical thinking, writing, and communication skills — things that employers value.”
“The biggest mission of the Humanities Center will be to bring the humanities out into the public consciousness and to communicate what humanities programs mean to the State of Maine,” he continues. “We want people to realize that the humanities play a central role in a liberal arts education and help create a flourishing society with citizens who are literate, historically informed, ethically open, and socially aware.”
Established in 2010 by Dean Jeff Hecker, the Humanities Initiative is part of President Paul Ferguson’s strategic plan to help UMaine become one of the most distinctive universities in the country for student achievement and community engagement. The Humanities Initiative is funded through a $300,000 Pre-Vue Grant from the President’s Office as well as additional money from CLAS.