Over the last twenty-five years, humanities disciplines have been developing specific branches such as environmental history, environmental philosophy and ethics, environmental literary theory, environmental education and art, in order to respond ethically, historically, creatively and critically to issues related to the relationship between humans and the environment. What these different branches share is the understanding that the humanities play a key role in understanding how environmental problems are socially and politically driven. Moreover, they are keenly aware of the need for interdisciplinary scholarship when attending to complex environmental issues and concerns. Despite these similar interests and approaches, these different branches have only recently begun to come together under the umbrella term of the environmental humanities.
Better understanding the nature of the work being done in the environmental humanities here in Canada is one of the objectives of the workshop that will be held at McGill University in the Fall, 2013. Bringing together scholars in the environmental and the digital humanities from across Canada, the SSHRC-funded workshop will explore how new digital technologies and tools might be better used to showcase environmental humanities research in Canada. Although following separate paths until recently, the digital and the environmental humanities share similar interests and goals in terms of asserting the importance of the humanities in today’s contemporary society, the nature of interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems, and the need to provide students with practical tools with which to live in this complex world. Building on these similarities as well as exploring their differences, the workshop will outline what the digital environmental humanities might look like in the particular case of research being done in Canada.
The current website is the first initiative of this larger research project that aims to use digital technology to promote the environmental humanities in Canada. Although still in beta form, the Canadian Environmental Humanities Digital Commons (CEHDC) will be discussed at the workshop in order to determine how to build a robust, extensible, interactive, public, web-based gathering place. New content created during the workshop will be posted in various forms on the website with opportunities for later editing, curating and analysis. Future developments of this larger research project include using digital humanities tools such as text analysis, topic modeling, and visualization to better understand the interdisciplinary nature of the environmental humanities. While still a relatively new field, the environmental humanities are changing the way the humanities are done as are the digital humanities. Understanding these transformations is at the heart of the Canadian Environmental Humanities research initiative.