CDHI leverages and expands the role of the UNC Digital Innovation Lab (DIL), which was launched by the College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and is administratively housed in the Department of American Studies. The DIL undertakes all its work through interdisciplinary collaboration, involving scholars from a wide range of disciplinary orientations, technology experts, and digital humanities facilitators and project managers who bridge these domains. Across campus, the DIL cooperates and collaborates with a growing number of other units, including IAH, RENCI, University Library, OASIS, ITS (Research Computing), Center for Faculty Excellence, Program in the Humanities and Human Values, Southern Oral History Program, and ibiblio. Outside the university, DIL collaborates with cultural heritage organizations around the state, other branches of the UNC system, the National Humanities Center, and other digital humanities and supercomputing centers worldwide.
The DIL’s mission is to:
- advance digital humanities work as public goods: digital projects, products, tools, and applications that are of special social and cultural value, can be produced for free scholarly, pedagogic, and public use (or at a minimal marginal cost), are scalable, reusable and repurposable, and serve multiple audiences/end-users within and outside of the University;
- engage academic and non-academic users with large-scale, humanities-relevant data sources;
- develop tools and work processes that facilitate and expand the use of digital technologies and large data sources in public humanities, academic research, and teaching;
- collaborate with UNC faculty, data and technology experts, graduate and undergraduate students, other university units, cultural heritage organizations (particularly in N.C.), and digital humanities/supercomputing centers worldwide in project-based work that advances the goals above and/or develops best-practice models for realizing synergies among engaged scholarship, the effective use of digital technologies, and interdisciplinary collaboration;
- develop and test new strategies for the integration of digital humanities in graduate training and undergraduate learning.
As a key part of the CDHI, the DIL’s priorities over the next five years will be to:
- facilitate the engagement of CDHI-affiliated faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in digital humanities as a new form of collaborative academic practice;
- create and test vehicles for the integration of digital humanities approaches and projects in graduate and undergraduate learning;
- significantly lower the cost, time, and skills barriers to participation in digital humanities work for scholars, teachers, students, and cultural heritage organizations through the development, enhancement, and testing of low-cost, easy-to-use, open-source software tools, work processes, and platforms applicable to a wide range of digital humanities projects (follow the progress of the DIL/RENCI collaboration to develop DH Press, a WordPress-based digital humanities toolkit);
- develop large, publicly accessible, humanities-relevant data sets (to date: city directories, historical maps, historical newspapers, public documents, census enumerations) to serve as test-beds for research, analysis, visualization, spatialization, engaged scholarship, and teaching (follow the progress of DIL’s P³: People, Place, and Past);
- undertake collaborative, open-ended, public-facing, scalable digital humanities projects representing a range of interdisciplinary convergences and use-cases to serve as “agile-development” challenges/opportunities for software/work-processes and to provide opportunities for CDHI-affiliated faculty, post-docs, and graduate students to contribute and “learn by doing.”