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Report of the Steering Committee Chair (July 2016 – July 2017)

After the very successful conference in Montréal, the work of the ADHO Steering Committee mostly deals with looking forward and preparing for next year’s conference in Mexico City. In this message I’d like to give a short overview of my main tasks in the past year as chair of the Steering Committee.

Diversity and inclusivity are still one of the most prominent issues on my agenda as chair of the Steering Committee. I have addressed this in several ways and I will only mention the most important ones.

On last year’s Sunday meeting (July 10, 2016) of the Steering Committee, the agenda had an informative round in which each CO presented what was done during the previous year to address diversity issues and what was scheduled for the next year, followed by an informative discussion addressing diversity issues at the ADHO level. To further raise awareness, a one-hour mini-workshop on diversity was scheduled in the second part of the SC Meeting, on the morning of Tuesday 12 July 2016, which was open for outgoing and incoming SC members. The workshop was led by Barbara Bordalejo and was found very useful. The meeting unanimously decided that a comparable workshop would be scheduled around the 2017 conference, open for all interested parties. I am very grateful to Barbara Bordalejo for having agreed to organize this workshop, which was held in the afternoon of Tuesday 8 August 2017. The workshop dealt with Collaboration and Diversity and was organized and lead by Barbara Bordalejo and Dan O’Donnell, whohave done a great job in informing the participants about the diverse ways of collaborating in the Digital Humanities and the many lessons we have learned from each other. They gave a good introduction to the principles of diversity, dealing with such topics as privilege and cultural cloning. This very successful workshop will be back on the program next year.

In the closing plenary of the 2016 conference I reminded everyone of the ADHO code of conduct and how it invites participants to approach local organizers when they experience problems in this respect. I mentioned the issues that had been referred to me, and stated: “ADHO will not be able to solve these immediately, but I will make sure that the issues will be addressed in an appropriate way to help make the next conferences even better. If you have also felt you were being treated incorrectly or have felt unsafe, please come up to me later today or tomorrow and let me know. This is very important to me and to ADHO, so I hope I can encourage you to share this with me.” This led to several informal messages with relevant issues and to one formal complaint. Dealing with these made clear to me that ADHO does indeed have a code of conduct, but that this is not enough. We also need a way to actually enforce it. Currently, we do not have a good protocol that addresses how to deal with any complaints. We need to discuss what is the best way forward. On this year’s Sunday meeting, the Steering Committee decided to work towards an extended code of conduct and an accompanying protocol for dealing with formal complaints. The Steering Committee also agreed with sending out a protocol for only this year’s conference. The text that ultimately went out to all participants of the 2017 conference, and which was also read during the opening ceremony, goes as follows:  “For this conference, please contact Diane Jakacki or Karina van Dalen-Oskam if you feel unsafe. We will in confidence listen, discuss, and advise, and if necessary address the issue with all people involved. We will then decide on the best course of action. Sometimes, an informal resolution will be possible. Other times, we may have to take formal action up to and including ejection from the conference and advising the Steering Committee to consider further measures.”

Vacancies. In the first months of 2017 I have submitted to the Steering Committee a proposal on how to fill vacancies in the Steering Committee of non-voting members. Voting members are representatives from the different Constituent Organizations (COs) and are appointed by their own CO. The Steering Committee also includes non-voting chairs of other committees of ADHO. These chairs are appointed by the voting members of the Steering Committee and generally come from different COs. See the overview of committees on Other non-voting members are the treasurer and the two members of the secretariat. Normally new non-voting members are appointed by vote during the yearly meeting of the Steering Committee just before the conference. Sometimes, changes also need to be made throughout the year. In the past, nominations have often been arranged on an ad hoc basis, and the criteria for nominations were not transparent. Many possible candidates were never considered. Since our COs are still growing, the risk of missing good candidates only becomes larger. The key point of my proposal was to send out an open call and invite (self-)nominations as widely as possible. The Steering Committee discussed the proposal and accepted a new version of the protocol. The call was sent out three weeks before the Steering Committee meeting (see and a wealth of nominations have been received. In its Tuesday meeting, the Steering Committee was able to fill most of the vacancies.

Governance. ADHO is on its way to a new governance structure. Digital Humanities has grown so much the last ten years that the organizational structure of ADHO is no longer efficient. Based on discussions in 2014 and 2015, a proposal for a new structure has been drawn up and accepted (see Last year, it was decided that I would appoint an Implementation Committee to further advise on the planning and fine-tuning of the change. I submitted a document to the Steering Committee providing the intended Implementation Committee with the rationale and status of the governance change, a proposed timeline, and a list of issues that the Implementation Committee will have to address. This draft was discussed and a new version was accepted. The official date for the change of governance has been decided on as the 1st of July 2018. The implementation Committee has very recently been established. Its members are Jennifer Giuliano, Melissa Terras, Christian-Emil Ore, and Geoffrey Rockwell (chair). Its first meeting took place in Montréal on Monday 7 August. I also find it extremely important that the Implementation Committee make optimal use of ideas from all interested digital humanists who may share their ideas through the website This website will be filled with the needed information and with reply functionality. More information about this will follow soon.

The ADHO Secretariat has done an enormous amount of work again this year. I am immensely grateful to Hannah Jacobs for stepping in as interim secretary, next to continuing her amazing work as chair of the ADHO communication team and its communications fellows. Glen Worthey also has done wonders in his work for the secretariat, while also preparing to be one of the PC chairs for next year’s conference. I thank both Glen and Hannah for all their work. They have been absolutely instrumental in helping ADHO run smoothly – and a veritable joy to work with.


Karina van Dalen-Oskam

September 17, 2017