This week’s readings in Digital_Humanities introduced me to the the broadest sense of the field. I came into this class expecting to gain a strictly historical perspective on digital tools, but I now realize I am only a small part of a much larger field.
Digital_Humanities begins with the author’s primary motivations in the use of the underscore in the title of their work. The underscore acknowledges the “undefined future of the humanities in a world fundamentally transformed by everything digital” (DH p. x) as well as the interconnect nature of humanity in this age.
The authors break the book into three primary chapters, along with a “Short Guide to the Digital Humanities” acting as a final chapter. The first chapter of the work essentially summarizes and defines the field of humanities, as well as locates the shift to the digital realm with the advent of the computational world we live in. Upon digitization, humanities became a field and curriculum that focuses on unification through “its emphasis on making connecting, interpreting, and collaborating,” particularly through the project. (DH p. 24)
The case studies of the second chapter seek to immerse the reader in the core concept of the Digital Humanities, the project. With different styles, goals, and uses of media, the author successfully communicates the wide-range of application of digital humanity projects, including gaming and animated archives. A case study particularly interesting to me was the one involving Jewish ritual object in Diaspora. Here, the goal of the project was to create an animated archive of the primary source materials and artifacts located in the holding of said museum. It aims to create an archive in which you can view the objects without actually visiting the archive itself, as well as creating a database of metadata that can assign connecting between objects that shows their significance to one another.
The third chapter, “The Social Life of the Digital Humanities,” analyzes the relatively new field and discipline of the Digital Humanities. The primary discussions in this section revolve around the ideas of publishing, participation, and ownership. Authorship in the digital humanities is the primary concept that I believe I will struggle with. Traditionally in academia, authorship is a quite simple idea being that he/she who writes the text and provides new ideas, approaches, or evidence is considered the author. IN the Digital Humanities, the projects undertaking almost always require a group of people, or collaborative authorship as the text puts it. To solve this problem, the digital humanities have loosely enforced the role in the project, being Principal Investigator to curator to programmer, in an effort to allow legitimate understanding of authorship by a third party.
Ultimately, I believe the book’s purpose to be to provide an understanding of the digital humanities, it’s history, and it’s current role in academia, including all of the quirks that come with it such as collaboration and the problem of authorship. After reading the book, as well as the Short Guide, I came to a slightly troubling conclusion for myself and other moving on in the digital humanities from a more traditional previous role. This book seems focused, almost entirely, on the technical side of the digital humanities. Dr. French had mentioned the, almost derogatory, phrase “more hack, less yack” during our first class meeting when discussing the turns in the field. This worries someone like myself, a self defined yacker. The vast majority of competencies in the Short Guide are technical competencies, with only a few truly intellectual ones, these being communication, imagination, and lateral thinking. My larger implication regarding historians revolves around the usage of digital tools in research. This book seems to focus heavily on how to organize digital projects and material, rather than why you need to. I believe an increased focus on this will change the historian’s role to the cataloging of information rather than the drawing of conclusions from that information.