How do you define something that hasn’t defined itself? What I like about Digital Humanities is that it is a new and emerging field. It is still growing and figuring out what it is and is organic in a technical way.
Two of the articles this week (“Digital Humanities Triumphant?” and “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments”) referred to Wikipedia for their definitions and Wikipedia, to me, is digital humanities itself. Wikipedia is a collaborative effort to use technology to explore, define, and distribute knowledge to masses.
My favorite of the the articles was “Why Digital Humanities Is ‘Nice’”. The way Scheinfeldt writes about Digital Humanities reminds me of how Reddit is. Scheinfeldt notes that digital humanists are “often more concerned with method than [they] are with theory…the methodical focus makes it easy for [them] to ‘call bullshit.’ If anyone takes an argument too far afield, the community of practitioners can always put the argument to rest by asking to see some working code, a useable standard, or some other tangible result.” If you have ever been on Reddit (if you haven’t, go now), that is exactly how it feels. People often get called out to support their statements. It creates an interactive learning environment. You can easily link to articles, videos, pictures, blogs, etc. and from there learn more. It makes learning become three dimensional.
I also liked Mark Sample’s “Notes Towards a Deformed Humanities.” In regards to taking works apart and putting them back together Sample writes:
“I don’t want to put Humpty Dumpty back together. Let him lie there, a cracked shell oozing yoke. He is broken. And he is beautiful. The smell, the colors, the flow, the texture, the mess. All of it, is is unavailable until we break things. And let’s not soften our critical blow by calling it deformable. Name it what it is, a deformation. In my vision of Deformed Humanities, there is little need to go back to the original. We work…not to go back to the original text with a revitalized perspective, but to make an entirely new text or artifact.”
His take on a Deformed Humanities is a lot like technology itself. Don’t take apart and then rebuild a clock. Take apart a clock and make a radio. Digital Humanities isn’t about doing what has been done over and over, but trying something new. I went to a seminar about social media in the workplace and a lot of people talked about how life was better without social media and how it is ruining knowledge. I asked them if they just weren’t using it correctly. Most had never thought about it that way and were inclined to stick with social media=bad, but a couple talked to me after and we had a great discussion. Social media takes apart previous communication conventions and makes something new and that new can be amazing. Think about how social media has changed the way people receive information? When the Colorado shooting happened, I didn’t find out the next day reading the paper, I found out within a half hour through Facebook.
The Internet has the biggest library and is the largest classroom. You can learn anything. Heck, I spent a couple hours this week learning to do Cups from YouTube videos (video below, apologies for my lack of rhythm).
So what is Digital Humanities? To me it is collaborative learning through all available platforms. It is organic and pretty much anyone who has an online presence is already taking part without realizing it.