A little over a year ago, at the Digital Humanities conference at Stanford, I sat in on a luncheon speech by Dr. Alan Liu from UCSB where he put out a call to the attendees to start local chapters of his new organization, 4Humanities, at their universities. This organization advocates for humanities scholarship and research, garnering support both locally and on a national level. I took his call to heart, and, when I returned to CSUN in the fall, I started a local chapter: 4Humanities@CSUN. Our chapter was also fortunate enough to be sponsored by CSUN’s new Center for the Digital Humanities.
The academic year 2011-2012 proved to be one of planning. We laid the foundation for many of the projects we hope to produce this year. One of the main focuses of our group, a project called the Mini-Documentary Project, stems from the idea that many people do not support the humanities because they simply don’t know what it is or what humanists do. This project involves our chapter buying a high-quality personal documentary camera that we could use to document humanities scholarship. My idea is to make small, 5-7 minute films that show the discovery and research process, as well as the output (a publication or conference talk) of humanities work. I believe this would put the “human” back into the “humanities,” giving a face and personality to a piece of scholarship, thus making it more accessible and interesting for someone who is not familiar with scholarly work. These documentaries would include interviews with the scholar(s), dialogue or debate, places and the process of research, and the reception of a work or project. They not only could be circulated throughout the 4Humanities and DH communities on their blogs and websites, but also on Youtube and other non-scholarly forums to reach a wider audience.
My officers and I spent months during last academic year thinking up ways to get funding for the camera. At first we thought of fundraising activities, but seeing as the camera and accessories would total $2300, we decided that might take a while. Instead, over the course of the year, we were very fortunate to receive private donations from Dr. Alan Liu and Oliver Pinchot, as well as some funding from Associated Students at CSUN. Michael Green (the current acting president) and I each donated as well, and after quite a bit of process, the camera is finally here!! I am thrilled my idea has become a reality, and I cannot wait to see the projects that come from this purchase. We already have three planned recordings, so hopefully we will see some output in the next few months.
A great deal of thanks belongs to Dr. Alan Liu, Oliver Pinchot, and Michael Green for facilitating and supporting this process.