What is Critical DH?
Critical Digital Humanities is an emerging, intersectional field that emphasizes questions of power, social justice, and critical theory in making and analyzing digital technologies. This is a version of digital humanities that places anti-racist, decolonial, feminist, and queer/trans/non-binary work at its core, and which understands our current historic shift in digital technology as an opportunity for social and political transformation. Critical Digital Humanities foregrounds creative praxis, co-creation, public engagement, and community-based research.
The Critical Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI) at the University of Toronto enables trans-disciplinary collaborations that emphasize questions of power, social justice, and critical theory in digital humanities research. Its vision is to harness the very tools of the digital revolution to forge a new paradigm of critical humanities scholarship, one that bridges the humanities’ emphasis on power and culture in historical perspective with the tools and analysis of digital technology. The CDHI is new mix of research workshop and design atelier, equipping humanities researchers with the technical and design expertise to use digital tools to ask new questions, share new knowledge, and analyze power and inequality in historical perspective.
The CDHI emerged in 2020-2021 out of a lengthy planning process at the University of Toronto, convened by the Digital Humanities Network (DHN). The CDHI is a tri-campus research initiative was funded by the University of Toronto’s Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) Program in December 2020 for 3 years (Jan 2021-April 30, 2024). The CDHI has the financial support of four divisions at the University (UTM, UTSC, the Faculty of Information, and FAS); their contributions, along with that of the ISI, provides a budget of $2,424,215 to support collaborative critical digital humanities research for the next three years.
As critical digital humanities scholars, our grand challenge is to understand how digital technologies are reshaping the production and circulation of knowledge while, at the same time, to use these technologies—along with our training in questions of ethics, power, and inequality–to create a more equitable world. Our vision is to create a new mix of research workshop and design atelier, equipping humanities researchers with the technical and design expertise they need to use digital tools to ask new questions, to share new knowledge, and to analyze the power and inequality in historical perspective.
We recognize that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen our research community, the quality, relevance and impact of research, and the opportunities for the full pool of potential participants in digital humanities research and training at the University of Toronto. Members of under-represented and/or disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2+ people, Indigenous peoples, and members of racialized groups, face systemic barriers to equity and inclusion. We commit to reducing and eliminating these barriers through anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial praxis in every aspect of our work, from the composition of adjudication committees and governance structure to our programming and fellowship programs. We are including an emphasis on anti-racist and decolonial praxis in our Strategic Planning Process and will make our plan available here, once this process is complete.
We wish to acknowledge the land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.
The Critical Digital Humanities Initiative’s governance structure includes a Steering Committee which provides support, guidance, and oversight for the CDHI programs, initiatives, and financial decisions. Through deliberation, brainstorming, planning, and high-level decision making, the Steering Committee will guide CDHI activities to achieve its goals. The Steering Committee meets three times annually and is comprised of 15 members from both the University of Toronto (faculty, librarians, and one postdoctoral fellow, from across the tri-campus) and from community partner organizations which are collaborating with U of T researchers.
For 2022–2023, the Steering Committee includes:
- Claire Battershill, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information (FoI), cross-appointed with English (FAS).
- Alexandra Bolintineanu, Assistant Professor Teaching Stream, Centre for Medieval Studies (FAS), cross-appointed with Woodsworth College.
- Marcel Fortin, Head of Map and Data Library, UTL.
- James Ginther, Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto Chair in Theology, University of St. Micheal’s College.
- Timothy Harrison, Professor, Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations (FAS).
- Linda Hazzan, Director of Communications, Programming, and Customer Engagement, Toronto Public Library.
- Sian Meikle, Associate Chief Librarian for Digital Strategies and Technology (UTSG).
- Jasmine Rault, Assistant Professor, Department of Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC).
- Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, Chair, Historical and Cultural Studies, (UTSC).
- Sarah Sharma, Associate Professor, Chair, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology (UTM).
- Avery Slater, Assistant Professor, English (UTM).
- Krista Stapelfaldt, Digital Scholarship Unit Coordinator (UTSC).
- Jennifer Wemigwans, Assistant Professor, OISE (UTSG).
- Chris Young, Coordinator, Digital Scholarship (UTM).
The CDHI has five levels of governance. These are: the leadership team; the Steering Committee, and our External Advisory Board. In addition to these two, the Vice-President, Research & Innovation’s Strategic Initiatives Office convenes two other groups to whom we report: the Dean’s Council (meets annually) and the Implementation Committee (meets three times annually).
1. The Dean’s Council
The mandate of the Dean’s Council is to support the development, approval, and execution of a strategic plan; marshall the resources of the University to support the Initiative where appropriate; advise on and approve major changes to the research program or budget (greater than $200K); Evaluate progress against targets and relevant benchmarks; and based on the evaluation of progress, approve the release of ISI funding and carry-over requests. The Deans Council meets once per year.
Member of the Dean’s Council will include: Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives or delegate; Principal, University of Toronto Mississauga or delegate; Principal, University of Toronto Scarborough or delegate; Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences or delegate; Dean, Faculty of Information or delegate; Academic Lead, Critical Digital Humanities Initiative; and ISI Representative.
This Council is organized by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives. To learn more about this Council, as well as its current membership, please contact Dr. Sean Caffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. The Implementation Committee
The mandate of the Implementation Committee is to Provide ongoing advice and help the Initiative overcome challenges and identify and secure opportunities; provide access to divisional resources that support the Initiative in meeting its targets; and advise on and approve changes to the research program or budget with funding implications between $15K and $200K. Implementation Committee meets three times annually.
The membership of the Committee includes as co-chairs: Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives or delegate and Vice-Principal, Research, University of Toronto Mississauga or delegate. Members include: Vice-Principal Research & Innovation, University of Toronto Scarborough or delegate; Vice-Dean, Research, Faculty of Arts & Science or delegate; Associate Dean, Research, Faculty of Information or delegate; one FAS Department Chair; Academic Lead, Critical Digital Humanities Initiative; and ISI Representative.
This Implementation Committee is organized by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives. To learn more about this Committee, as well as its current membership, please contact Dr. Sean Caffrey at email@example.com.
External Advisory Board
Our External Advisory Board is comprised of 9 members drawn from 3 constituencies: global leaders in critical digital humanities (university-based); community partners of national and international visibility; and members supporting financial sustainability, drawn from foundations, government, and industry.
The External Advisory Board meets twice per year. We have commitments from most members now and are finalizing the composition.