@mlemweb hi! Sorry for messaging you out of nowhere. I was listening to LibreLounge and looked the hosts up on the fediverse and on birdsite, which suggested me your profile. I'm an academic in the field of music history and musicology and a free software enthusiast, so I got interested in the "digital humanities" and even more the "free software in academia" mentioned in your profile, as I've been trying to bridge these interests of mine. Do you have any resources to point me to, please?

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Hi! It's always great to find someone else with a similar background. Not a lot of people talk about free software and digital humanities together. Although a lot of academics use free software, they focus more on the free as in beer aspect than the free as in freedom. Not a lot of humanists attend programming conferences and not a lot of free software activists attend humanities conferences etc.

@mlemweb indeed, that’s exactly what I found out to be the case here too. It seems actually most academics in the Humanities don’t care at all about software freedom or anything like that. I sometimes get the impression that some of my colleagues are in fact a bit dazzled, sort of in love, with services and programs which are obviously violating their privacy and their freedom and also of their students.


Yes! A lot of people just listen to whatever the software reps tell them and use the proprietary software that's currently in fashion (if their university has the budget to buy it for them, and if not they'll settle for whatever the free software equivalent is)

@mlemweb I feel here it’s even worse or better depending on how you look at it: since there’s no such thing as the university paying for software for us to use (at least in my field, which is music), professors and lecturers will use whatever they like (and it almost always is what is hyped) and by they turn will hype it to the students, who will then “find a way” to get the software.

@mlemweb The silver lining is that maybe it’s easier to change it, since we don’t have to fight software reps actively coming to campus to sell their products.


A lot of the digital humanities work that really engages with free software is done by librarians or IT people rather than the principal investigators.

I was on a panel at last year's Libre Planet on Free Software in Academia that you might find interesting: I led a panel at LP2018 you may be interested in:

@mlemweb I haven’t been able to check the link yet, but thank you very much for sending me this. I’ll probably do it tonight or tomorrow morning and then get back to you. I’ve been teaching some MuseScore courses at the the university and we’re typesetting scores from Brazilian (I live in Brazil) composers whose work is already in the public domain. I plan to upload them to IMSLP when they’re ready.

@mlemweb sorry for taking so much time to get back to you. I heard the mention about the American Yawp and got deep down that rabbit hole. It is exactly the reason I contacted you in the first place: I’ve been thinking about doing a history of Brazilian music (which is the area I work in) for the last two years, but I couldn’t find a way to implement this, as I’ve not yet found a way to implement the collaborative part of it. Would you have any ideas or know where to point me to?


I think the problem is that there isn't necessarily an infrastructure in place, you just need to reach out to people. You probably know the people you would like to contribute, it wouldn't hurt to test the waters, point them to the American Yawp as a successful example, & see if anyone would be willing to collaborate. This kind of project disrupts the status quo of academic publishing, and we're just indoctrinated with an 'it is what it is' viewpoint that we don't break it.

@mlemweb yes, I have an article to finish by the end of the month and will be doing exactly this right after I deliver this paper.

@mlemweb (sorry, sent the message before finishing) but I’d need a way for them to access the text and work on it. Is simply use GitHub/Lab, but people will surely throw me a funny look as soon as I say “version control”...


Yes, "version control" is a sticky issue with academics. My DH project, when I came on board consisted of a spreadsheet transcription that the principal investigator downloaded from her email and we discovered after months of me working with that data that it wasn't even the most recent version of that document. I was the one to set up a github repo and nobody else knows how to use it other than the developer.


I'd maybe look at something like Pressbooks ( I think they have options for multiple author editing and contributions. I know scholars who have used it for seminar classes to create things like exhibition catalogs.

@mlemweb hahaha advisors... I kind of know how they feel, though. This doesn’t seem at all to be your case, but some students come to you all excited about their ideas just to change them all over the next month, and then the next again... and then often you get somewhat lost, especially when the number of students starts to grow.

@mlemweb with regards to the panel, I got greatly interested in taking part in whichever discussion group, mailing list or any other form of being in contact with people who are working in this field. By the way, I think DebConf this year will be here in Brazil. Is there anything planned related to these fields we’re talking about?


I've met several individuals at various conferences, but I haven't found a central location yet. I think what we need is more Free Software dialogue at Digital Humanities conferences.

I've never attended DebConf (I use Debian, but I'm not a Debian Developer), so I'm not sure what's planned. I attended LibrePlanet in 2017 and asked around for people working in FS & DH, and the response I frequently got was, 'why don't you do a talk on it', and I did, maybe you could do the same?

@mlemweb don’t you think we could try to create some form of “online gathering point” (I’m sure there’s a better word for this in English, but it’s not coming to me now) for people who are interested in this? I don’t know, a discourse forum, a website, a podcast... I’m really interested in working towards improving this. Most people simply don’t realize the implications...

@fredmbarros I think this would be a great idea. I'd be interested, but I don't know that I have the time right now to set it up myself. I do however know someone with a free software podcast ... @cwebber ?

@mlemweb @fredmbarros I think bridging free software / culture and digital humanities / academia is a great topic for a future @librelounge. What do you think @emacsen ?

@cwebber @mlemweb @fredmbarros @librelounge @emacsen Great ideas, this is a topic I am really interested into as a daily user of free softwares in academia. May I join - whatever it would be ;-) ?

@teinturs @cwebber @fredmbarros @librelounge @emacsen

Absolutely, lets lay the foundations on the fediverse! Feel free to recruit anyone else you think would be interested.

@teinturs @cwebber @mlemweb @librelounge @emacsen consider yourself part of it already. I see you’re in the field of social sciences. Although I teach musicology/music history, my formal training has all been in history and sociology and actually I feel some colleagues in the field of music treat me as if I were not part of their group vc of that.

@cwebber @mlemweb @fredmbarros @librelounge I think it's worth discussing. We're also discussing other issues around academia that people brought up.

I'd like to hear more specifics about what we'd discuss. Email me and let's talk more.

@emacsen, how can we all get this conversation going?

(Off topic: though probably deviating from its initial purpose, sometimes I feel it would be a great feature if Mastodon had something like lists or groups of users...)

cc: @teinturs @cwebber @mlemweb

@mlemweb @cwebber I don’t have much time either, but I’ll see what I can do in terms of making this a joint effort with the Brazilian music history thing... I have to sort out the linguistic barrier thing, though, as this history would be written in Portuguese at first.

@fredmbarros You also might want to look into the Open Education community. They focus more on Free Culture than Free Software, but it might be an easier gap to bridge than Digital Humanities

@mlemweb probably it will be easier, yes, especially with students (some colleagues are indeed a lost cause, it seems)


I think one of the main things that Digital Humanities can learn from Free Software is community collaboration.


I think that the best way would be to incorporate discussions of free software as a social movement into papers/panels/meetups at DH conferences. But as a lowly grad student I'm not sure how much clout I've got to do so. I've also seen panelists ripped to shreds in the Q&A by senior scholars who think things like cc licenses are antithetical to academic research.

@mlemweb wow, I hope some of these senior scholars give me the opportunity to discuss this. Let’s let them talk about antithetical and we throw an antiethical at them... The colleagues I’ve spoken to about the Yawp-inspired history of Brazilian music just looked at me like “I’m not going to work in a book which won’t be sold”... like, as if they’d earn any money from selling a book of Brazilian music history!

@fredmbarros Yeah, it's hard to get people on board sometimes, but I think it's a good new direction to head in academia. In a world where survey textbooks are too expensive for students to buy, collaborative resources are necessary -- unless the goal is to reinforce the classist nature of academia.

@mlemweb sometimes I think this is precisely the goal to some of my colleagues, even if they can’t acknowledge it even to themselves...

@fredmbarros Sadly accurate. Perhaps it is because Art History books have lots of glossy color photos and cost ridiculously more than other survey books, but I feel we owe it to our students to try and make their education affordable in any way we as instructors can

@mlemweb indeed, books in your field are incredibly expensive! Some music materials are expensive too, but very rarely come even close to what you have in art history and architecture. In my case, I teach at a federal university. I’m paid by the state, so I think it’s sort of ridiculous and actually unethical to not give anything back to society.

@fredmbarros Yeah, officially I'm a state employee at University of Wisconsin, but academics have a very prescribed way of 'giving back to society' that I don't always agree with.

@mlemweb but what do you see happening in this regard in the US?

@fredmbarros @mlemweb @librelounge

Hi! I'm another music person turned free-software evangelist. I gave up doing a PhD in cross-cultural musicology / music cognition to co-found @snowdrift ( to fund music, software and any other public goods.

I have an old music-free-software page on my site:

And it's through my teaching and pedagogy / research etc. that free/libre/open concerns play out most clearly…

Amen to everything else I see in this thread…

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