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A New ADHO Year, A Renewing ADHO

I’m honoured to be writing this as the new president of ADHO’s Constituent Organisations Board, and inspired to be following in the footsteps of Isabel Galina, Elisabeth Burr, and Matt Gold in this role. 

I feel extremely fortunate about the timing. This is the year when ADHO will finish the massive governance overhaul that has been underway since 2013. It’s taken almost a decade to effect the major transformation in the structure of ADHO which aimed, in the words of Karina van Dalem-Oskam,

to change the ADHO organization into an open, friendly, and efficient community that can continue to work on its mission to further Digital Humanities with more and more new organizations all over the world.”

ADHO began in 2005 with just two organizations. It is now eleven, with more organizations from around the world seeking to join.

The restructuring process has been the work of many hands and it is almost done! There are just a few more things to decide related to the financial model and admissions criteria. We aim to get these done this calendar year, so the decks are clear for fresh thinking about where we go next. Finishing the process will allow us to grow further, since admissions have been stalled lately pending governance decisions. Several exciting applications are pending. Finishing the governance work will be a landmark and a real opportunity to reflect on what ADHO is now and what ADHO wants to become. The Identity project (see below) will help point us in the right direction.

My number one goal for my year as president is to get momentum behind our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion. After a challenging start due to a failed RFP for a consultant, ADHO turned to the DH community within and beyond ADHO in early 2022 to form a Task Force that will help us work towards the July 2020 commitments made in the Statement on Black Lives Matter, Structural Racism, and Establishment Violence. The Intersectional Inclusion Task Force is currently firming up an exciting list of initiatives that will be released soon. The task force can be contacted directly at edi/at/adho/dot/org or you can join the conversation on the DH Slack where there is an #adho-iitf channel. However, we must remember that the Task Force was not charged with fulfilling the commitments made in the statement: it is charged to help set ADHO on that path. ADHO took on those priorities as an organization, and there are matters like data collection related to the conference and journals that we can and should begin to move on, with IITF input, in parallel with the work that the Task Force will undertake. I want to see us make real progress on the commitments this year, including creating a progress report for the community at large, developed with an understanding that diversity looks very different in different parts of the globe and that no single perspective can be allowed to dominate. I look forward to working with the IITF, the Constituent Organisations Board, and the Executive Board to advance these important goals.

Multilingualism is an important aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion in ADHO; we’re due to review and broaden our current policy so that it covers not only the conference but also the website, for which we’ve been piloting a translation process for French and Spanish with students at Université Laval and McGill University. Our translators have received funding via ADHO and advising from Cecily Raynor (MLMC Chair) and Marie-France Guénette. We are committed to equitably supporting this translation work, and we’re looking for interested partners who can lead efforts to translate ADHO’s website into German, Italian, and additional languages as represented by our COs.

We need to do some hard thinking about the conference. Various changes have been taking place behind the scenes, but between the governance work and the constantly shifting landscape since 2020, we have not had the capacity to reevaluate the conference per se in light of the many changes in ADHO and the world. For instance, the question of format–now that we have so much experience of online conferences–is an important one; DH2024 will experiment with a hybrid model to increase accessibility, reduce structural inequities, and make the most of in-person interactions. And although the conference language protocols were updated as recently as 2019, we need a broader and more nuanced policy for addressing multilingualism in ADHO as a whole in light of the expanding number of languages spoken within our member organizations and the importance of accounting for local conditions. So reflecting with care on the conference is another big challenge, amplified by a forthcoming article in Digital Humanities Quarterly, and one that ADHO is eager to embrace.

I’m also interested in hearing more of what the DH community at large would like ADHO to do, and what members of the community would like to join us in doing. Because ADHO with its formal membership of Constituent Organisations is somewhat remote from individuals unless they are already involved in the executive of a CO, I want to create more opportunities for people to get involved on a shorter-term basis in efforts to make a difference on specific projects. So we’re going to pilot small and nimble ADHO Community, or ADHOC, initiatives, which will advance specific objectives. The first of these will be the ADHOC Identity project, which will explore ADHO’s identity in dialogue with its organizations and help us decide how best to shape it as we look past governance restructuring. Look for more on this from Quinn Dombrowski, who is leading this effort, in an upcoming post. I’d also love to see projects go forward on priorities that we have the will but not enough bodies to pursue. If there is an ADHOC project you would like to suggest and advance, please be in touch.

So, in short, I am ambitious for ADHO, thanks to all of the hard work of those who have gone before me in the presidency, the Executive Board, the Constituent Organisations Board and former Steering Committee, all the committee chairs and members, and volunteers in many other capacities, including the governance restructuring Implementation Committee. The past two and a half years have been extremely hard, with the pandemic slowing everything down and taking a toll on these many, many generous volunteers who keep ADHO going, and especially causing real pain and extra labour for those organizing our conferences–which are where we have regularly connected, shared our work and our lives, and come away recharged and inspired by the insights gained from learning about new work in the field. Three ADHO conferences have been either cancelled or deferred. Then there is the drain associated with the painful political matters on which ADHO has taken a public stance. We are collectively tired, and we need to continue to take stock of our personal needs and take care of ourselves and each other. 

However, we should also congratulate ourselves on the extent to which we have, despite the challenges, kept going. We pivoted to deliver DH2020 partially online in the first summer of the pandemic, supported CO conferences around the world in 2021, and just had the fully online, fully engaging DH2022 in July, with the prospect of our first in-person conference in three years on the horizon for next summer in Graz. (CFP deadline now extended to Nov. 4th!) Our journals continue to disseminate excellent DH work to multiple communities. The Communications team has made ADHO much more transparent already, with a shiny new website, an active social media presence, and an amazing podcast series

ADHO is ready now to move forward with what we’ve learned from our growth, our restructuring, and these past few challenging years, to think in new ways about who we are and what matters to us. There are numerous ways for members of the DH community to join in that process: you are most welcome! Let’s see what the new ADHO can become!

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Susan Brown

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