Deb Verhoeven appointed University of Alberta Canada 150 Research Chair

Prominent Australian scholar to build feminist digital archive

Donna McKinnon - 17 July 2018

The Government of Canada has named Australian researcherDeb Verhoeven as its newest Canada 150 Research Chair - the 25th appointment across Canada and the first at the University of Alberta.

Described as Australia's "most innovative academic," Verhoeven is a leading scholar in the emerging field of gender and cultural informatics - a field that combines digital technology, big data, cultural forms, and social justice. She will join the Faculty of Arts in April, 2019 for a seven year joint-appointment with Women's and Gender Studies and Digital Humanities.

Her research proposal, Hothousing Feminist Collections: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Digital Archive, seeks to create an open-linked, open-data knowledge base of feminist content sourced from a wide range of Canadian cultural collections, with the goal of establishing an inclusive and pro-ethical approach to data infrastructure for the digital humanities.

Verhoeven says this ambitious infrastructure will "build in" the lived and imaginative experiences of diverse communities, [producing] a truly open digital cultural archive in Canada using innovative machine learning approaches, crowdsourcing techniques, intersectional feminist design principles, and new data interoperability frameworks.

With an impressive record of field-defining research and, as a committed public intellectual specialising in policy-relevant knowledge dissemination, Verhoeven is uniquely prepared to take on this bold, new initiative at the University of Alberta.

Canada 150 Research Chair Deb Verhoeven

The Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, announced in Budget 2017, invests $117.6 million to enhance Canada's reputation as a global centre for science, research, and innovation excellence, in celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary.

The program's key objectives are to:

strengthen Canada's research capacity through the recruitment and retention of top-tier, internationally based scholars and researchers;

enhance Canada's reputation as a global centre for science, research and innovation excellence;

improve universities' capacity to generate and apply new knowledge; and

improve the training and development of highly qualified research personnel.

Susanne Luhmann, Chair of Women's and Gender Studies, says Verhoeven's big data project stands to become a nationally and internationally utilized resource, and at the same time, advance a research framework for ethical digital feminist archiving.

"[Her] proposed online system will help people interested in feminism make meaning out of the rich archive of the women's movement and cultural production. And, as a Canada 150 Chair, Dr. Verhoeven will further strengthen and bring visibility to [UAlberta's] Research at the Intersections of Gender (RIG) initiative."

Mo Engel, Director of Digital Humanities, is "thrilled" to welcome Verhoeven to campus.

"Students and faculty across the Faculty of Arts will benefit from her rigorous scholarship, which is truly on the vanguard of digital humanities methods, big data analysis, and feminist praxis," she says, adding that this appointment clearly solidifies the University of Alberta as a global leader in digital humanities.

Verhoeven, who works as the Associate Dean of Engagement and Innovation at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, has served as Chair of Media and Communication at Deakin University, Deputy Chair of the National Film and Sound Archive, CEO of the Australian Film Institute, and was a founding executive member of the Australasian Association of the Digital Humanities, among other roles. She has published across a wide range of interdisciplinary subject matter, most recently on gender bias in the Australian film industry.

Though her appointment doesn't officially begin until April, 2019, Verhoeven is keen to take on this prestigious and influential new role.

"I am incredibly grateful to be named a Canada 150 Research Chair", she says, from her home in Australia. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to advance - carefully and collaboratively - a new digital platform that I hope will go some way to redressing the uneven patterns of interaction and co-existence that shape our day-to-day lives."

Deb Verhoeven will be speaking at the University of Alberta on Thursday, November 22
as part of the Women's and Gender Studies Feminist Research Speaker Series.
Her lecture, "From Accountability to Accountability Developing an Intersectional Feminist Digital Humanities", will take place from 12:30 to 1:50 p.m., 134 Telus Centre. All are welcome!