Digital Humanities Part 2

Sorry I’m later than planned posting this– one thing after another today.  Anyway, just like part 1, we’ll talk about the second group of digital humanities readings right here; they are:

So, in “order of appearance,” a few thoughts:

Alex Reid makes more clear (perhaps than the previous readings) that part of what is at stake here in the terminology “digital humanities” is money because the N.E.H. specifically names “digital humanities”  as being eligible for grant money. But mostly what he’s talking about here is the increasing relationship between scholarship and teaching with “technology.” It’s always been there– think back to Ong and his discussion of literacy as a technology– but it is increasingly important. That’s important for would-be scholars, especially in fields like literature because increasingly, “reading books” just isn’t enough anymore.

Of course, I think we assume a certain familiarity with the digital from up and coming composition and rhetoric scholars.  As Reid points out, you would be hard-pressed to find a PhD program in comp/rhet right now where there isn’t at least one (and often times many) faculty invested in “computers and composition,” and where students aren’t required to take at least one (often times several) courses that explore the connections between comp/rhet and technology. This is not the case for literary studies.

Speaking of which: I think what Mark Sample is saying in his brief essay is completely true, that we should be pushing beyond the “form of writing that is not meant for anyone to read,” the academic essay. His example of the student driftwood project is interesting– and a picture of that project (along with a previous version of this essay) are visible here. But again, here’s someone coming from (more or less) a literary background and bringing up ideas that I think have been bubbling up in comp/rhet for a while now. This is basically the kinds of projects Jody Shipka was writing about in her book.

Last but far from least, Cathy Davidson: I think this is a nice “bookend” piece in terms of the history of where DH is coming coming relative to past movements and connections with technology. It’s a bold assertion to me that technological advances have always lead to artistic advances, but I see the basic point.  Like Bogost suggested, the problem is not with the rise of the sciences so much as it is the constant crisis of the humanities. Her basic points about how “Humanities 2.0″ challenges assumptions about things like disciplinary boundaries, peer review and collaboration make sense to me, but those assumptions are so entrenched that it seems to me it will take a lot for these things to really change globally.  I like the bibliography with this piece too. Oh, and Cathy Davidson is a pretty big deal.

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10 Responses to Digital Humanities Part 2

  1. Sarah K. says:

    To me, Davidson’s article was the most amusing. Especially when she referred to humanists as “creatures” who occupy a variety of roles such as literary commentators, historians, philosophers, logicians, theologians, scholars of the arts, and other things. Like others, Davidson is also against the “academic humanist’s pervasive stance of isolation.” She she is in favor of using new methods to apply humanism to academic learning, such as using computers for writing.

    Waltzer seemed to talk a lot about the opportunities out there right now for regular humanists and those involved with the digital humanities. He says that “the digital humanities appear to be on the ascendance.” The job market for humanist is declining, yet lots of research universities have been hiring digital humanities faculty. Therefore, the digital humanities could be seen as a kind of progress for the humanities because it allows us to do more with the humanities.

    Reid asserts that the digital humanities is a means to add some nuance to the humanities. He states “Growing concerns over the general defunding of the humanities have led some to look to the digital humanities as a means to revitalize the humanities as a whole.”

  2. Melissa S says:

    I liked that Reid brought up a difference in digital pedagogy and methodology, saying where you put the focus of ‘digital’ matters a lot. It was an interesting distinction that I’ve been thinking about with our discussions of assessments (which seem to lend themselves to either a humanities computing or digital humanities lens).

    Waltzer then sort of forgets about this difference and takes hold of digital humanities as a way to do humanities with a focus on digital culture. This is more in line with my understanding of DH and with my experience of it here at EMU. I agree with Krause that it is a totally valid point that we can and should use technological advances to advance/transform our ideas of humanity – humanity is in fact impacted by these tech advances so we cannot ignore it.

    I liked Davidson’s writing the best, as she seemed to have more fun with it. I like her notion of humanists having “a field day” whenever there is rapid technological advance. I think she makes many good points but it was a little hard to get over her initial assertion that seemed to go a little like well the scientists discovered gravity but we changed the world with it through the “epoch-defining paradigm-shift” we created. It seems a bit too much. I know that rhetoric and how we talk about something in the culture plays a major role in helping a paradigm-shift, but aren’t some things big enough that just the discovery is enough to cause the shift itself?

  3. Jackie K. says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m not too invested in the debate about whether people are involved in humanities computing or digital humanities, or whatever the two (or more) purported sides elect to go by. In class the other evening, my professor said that academics love to nominalize things, and I think this crops up a little with articles like Reid’s. Does it really matter if you’re called a digital humanist or a humanist computing or a technowizard or a digital paladin, level 26? Is it just such an issue because one name will get you grant money and another won’t?

    I can understand the point of speculating on what the future of humanities studies might look like, because that’s where many of us will be one day. But as to what they call it… meh. I’m just not invested. I did, though, enjoy Reid’s discussion of how writing online does offer avenues for more immediate feedback between colleagues.

    As an etymology fan, what I appreciated about Sample’s essay was his discussion of the root of ‘text': “The word text, after all, derives from the Latin textus, meaning ‘that which is woven,’ strands of different material intertwined together.” It connected well to his overall argument for the integration of things other than essays into the composition classroom.

    I was most impressed, I think, with Davidson’s claims in her article. I appreciated a lot of what she had to say about the sciences and humanities, and I agree that the two are more connected than many people today would think (there are lots of archaeological sites where art and technology appeared to have flourished together, side-by-side; very few, if any, existed as one without the other). And one thing that I do worry about today with the rapid advance of technology is that it’s advancing too fast for people to critically assess. New technology? Many people jump on it immediately, without weighing the ramifications of it. And things like Davidson’s discussion of just how much Google controls or what digital pies has its cybernetic fingers in are pretty sobering. As much as I enjoy several of Google’s products… I’m not sure if I trust Google. 😉

  4. Steve K. says:

    “Does it really matter if you’re called a digital humanist or a humanist computing or a technowizard or a digital paladin, level 26? Is it just such an issue because one name will get you grant money and another won’t?”

    Well, yeah, it kinda does.

    I totally understand where Jackie is coming from here in asking this, and in the grand scheme of things, I think she’s right. But within the weird turns and trials of academia, this terminology actually does matter quite a bit. Just to give you an institutional taste of what I mean: every time we propose to develop a new course that has a title like “visual rhetoric,” we need to go through various processes and politicking to make sure that folks in the art department or the communications department don’t feel like their turf is being encroached upon because of the terminology.

    In higher education, the politics are often so ugly because the stakes are so low. 😉

  5. Danielle N says:

    I share Jackie’s sentiments about the naming of the field. I get that it’s tied to funding and all that, but to me it’s just hard to care. On the other hand, regarding Reid’s article, I did like his discussion of how digital humanities has begun to shape the ways in which traditional humanities scholarship has been written. He notes that technologies have made it easier for humanities scholars (who normally work alone) to collaborate with others. As a result, they may be able to take on larger and more elaborate projects.

    The problem with this, though, is that traditional humanities scholars are not used to this kind of work because it was not taught to them while they were students in grad. school. Reid notes that “It is in this sense that all the humanities becomes subsumed within the digital, and it is at this level that the concern for a digital education in graduate programs affects everyone in the humanities.”

  6. I’m still trying to understand the difference between humanities computing (humanities folks on the computer?) and digital humanists (umm, so, humanists that embrace digitization of things? obviously not). Also, I feel like an idiot, but I am left to assume that anyone practicing scholarship in the humanities is a humanist in these discussions. It really throws me off, as I use the term humanist to mean…someone that subscribes to humanism (which is certainly not everyone in the humanities).
    I get the political aspect of terms, but it seems like the terminology discussions are one place where what Waltzer was talking about can take place. If we can see by fighting over the names of classes that there is an overlap that is critically significant to all the fields, we must be that much closer to “fixing” higher education. As Waltzer points out, the digital humanities (still not sure on this term) are uniquely positioned to make the relevance of the humanities to both the general public and the rest of academia more apparent.

  7. Jackie K. says:

    Ahhhh, all boiling down to politics. Ain’t that always the way.

    I personally like digital paladin, level 26. Would that step on any departmental toes? 😉

  8. Bryan A says:

    I too am on the “so what?” train. While I understand the political squabbling that can ensue from terminology that different groups don’t agree upon, I think that some of these arguments are splitting hairs over little to nothing.

    However, I am curious as to exactly what Professor Krause is referring to as far as the “stakes being so low”?

  9. Steve K. says:

    This is a cliche of academia: because academics spend a lot of time focusing on little details of things (it’s common in English for faculty to spend their entire careers studying a single author, a single concept, a single disease, etc.), they tend to often see distinctions that aren’t necessarily apparent to everyone else. So that’s what I mean by the stakes being low.

    So, it is easy to look at the “digital humanities” debate and the selections we’ve read and wonder why this matters, especially in comparison to so many other things– not only in academia, but in the world at large. I mean, who cares about the definition of this stuff, especially relative to things like funding in higher education or the national debt or the crazy stuff going on in North Korea. But that doesn’t mean that the debates about “digital humanities” isn’t important, especially to folks like us (presumably us, at least) who are invested in these topics.

  10. Bryan A says:

    Thank you for clarifying that point; it makes a lot more sense in that context.

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