Building Support for Digital Humanities

By John Simpson, Compute Canada’s Digital Humanities Specialist

Digital Humanities - Compute Canada


Since joining Compute Canada/WestGrid in January, my focus has been on building awareness of the advanced research computing capabilities and support that are available to the digital humanities (DH) community. The unofficial slogan for this awareness building campaign has been “Starting Thinking Bigger” and the community has stepped up and started to do just that. In order to help maintain the pace, I’d like to share some information about three events that are going to begin small but signal significant shifts in the support we will need to provide DH-based research.

CFI Cyberinfrastructure Grants

While it is currently true that there are no truly big data / big compute DH projects in Canada at this point, there are applications going into the competition looking to radically alter the current state of affairs. From semantic web based triplestores, to the processing of massive quantities of audio and video, these projects stand to change how we think about supporting advanced research computing. The Notices of Intent were due May 22 with invitations to submit full proposals going out on June 30. While it is probable that only one DH application will be accepted, it is likely to be a game changer.

CSDH-SCHN (pronounced “Citizen”)

The Canadian Society for Digital Humanities / Société Canadienne des Humanitiés Numériques held its annual conference the first week of June within a larger event known as the Congress of the Humanities. I was on site this year promoting Compute Canada and the services of the regional consortia. In addition to a presence at the Digital Demos session, Compute Canada also sponsored the University of Ottawa libraries’ Hackfest by offering cloud support for the projects produced.


Held at the University of Victoria each year, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) is the largest gathering of people within the DH community, supporting each other through training courses drawn from within its membership. This year alone, 700+ people attended courses at the main site and many more at satellite events at Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, and the University of Ottawa. Compute Canada sponsored this year’s event and also offered a unique scholarship competition: two pairs of scholarships where one member of each application was to come from the research community and one from the Compute Canada support community. I also taught the Programming Fundamentals course and offered an un-conference session on Compute Canada and a workshop on getting started with our cloud tools. More exciting than this, I am pleased to announce that DHSI 2016 will see three additional course offerings from Compute Canada with heavy support from WestGrid team members. The three courses will be:

  • Big Data for DH
  • Cloud for DH
  • Scientific Visualization for DH

If you’re interested in learning more about DH and how Compute Canada / WestGrid can support your research, then please send me a note. Also, have a look at the new DH section of the Compute Canada website, there are some really strong research stories shared there.