Bridging the Gap: Connecting South African Humanities and Social Sciences through DH-IGNITE

South Africa’s rich history, which spans the full spectrum of the arts, humanities, and social sciences, is often considered within silos. Researchers are faced with a situation which frequently amounts to gatekeeping, although that may not be the intention, because they are not connected to all the relevant silos. The only way to remedy the current situation is to tear down such silos and instead build bridges which can be traversed by all roleplayers and stakeholders.

“[This is the] future of Humanities and Social Sciences. The resources [are] available.”

Past participant describing the DH-IGNITE event held in KwaZulu-Natal

Limited access to resources and funding stare many South African humanities researchers in the face. Building and sharing networks can grant them access to individuals and organisations that offer support. There are the usual considerations, such as financial support, but also other resources that often provide even more value. Institutional repositories can be a source of data of which people might have been ignorant. Yet, such data shine a light not only on contemporary society, but the past – how we came to the present – and may light our way going forward.

Collaboration among colleagues, even across different fields, can yield new insights and ultimately provide a fuller picture of our world. That is precisely a primary characteristic of digital humanities (DH).

“Exposure to multidisciplinary uses of DH.”

Past participant on what they enjoyed most about DH-IGNITE

Such collaboration starts with people sharing their work – research projects, methodologies, teaching practices, technologies which can assist in getting from point A to point B more easily – and piquing others’ interest. In short, it’s about sharing expertise in a way that is not intimidating. In an environment that is congenial.

DH-IGNITE is a platform that immediately and integrally fosters such sharing. From the popular, structured items in the programme, conversations spill over into tea breaks and lunchtime.

It is at this intersection, where individuals meet, communities form, and institutions are linked through the most precious resource – humans – that engagement with data and research questions and societal issues proceeds in new ways. These ways are not merely responsive to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but proactively leverage the opportunities the 4IR offers for our South African context. And at this intersection innovation spreads outward, in a connected infrastructure of roads, bridges, and pathways which are all connected.

The slogan for DH-IGNITE is CONNECT, LEARN, GROW. One past participant summarised this opportunity for CONNECTION in one word: “Empowering”.