Thursday, June 25, 2015

What is this Digital Humanities Thing?

It seems that no one is able to adhere a solid definition to what it is we call the digital humanities.  After reading, I believe that the most understandable definition to grasp is that DH utilizes technology, networking, and software to organize, analyze, and create texts. It should be mentioned that “texts” when applied to the world of digital humanities is an extremely broad term. Within the realm of the digital humanities, a text is not just a literary piece. A text can be a multimedia work. I suppose that within the digital humanities, a text is more of an experience than a solitary piece.

It seems that at this point in time the digital humanities is extremely self-reflective. Digital humanists seem to spend a great deal of time pondering about who exactly they are and what it is they are studying. Matthew Kirschenbaum begins his exploration into digital humanities with this: “’What is digital humanities?’ essays like this one are already genre pieces.” Adam Kirsch, in his critique of DH claims that the extent to which “DHers” are trying to define the field “is a sign of a field suffering an identity crisis, trying to determine what, if anything, unites the disparate activities carried on under its banner.”

When I took critical theory this past spring semester, it occurred to me that the digital humanities, in a theoretical way, is the personification of literary post-structuralism. I think it is fair to say that the digital humanities completely subscribes to the post-structural question of authorship and its acceptance of language metonymy. I would say that it takes metonymy very literally, especially when you examine its use of hypertext. Linking via hypertext allows for the endless jumping from one word or idea to another.

I have never really been the first rider on the technology bandwagon. I have my basic social media sites which I use for observing more so than for participating. I would much rather read a book, poem, article, essay on paper than on a screen. Tech has never really been my forte. As progressive as I want or claim to be, I tended to agree with Kirsch in his cowering in the face of the digital movement. I do not want to lose the human in the humanities. However, I do not join Kirsch as he shrugs off the digital humanities as a doomed or fad-like field. I believe that it is useful, and it is the natural progression of the humanities field. I simply think that perhaps it could be honed. Or, more likely, perhaps I need to know it better.

Cheers to an exploration of digilit! 

Works Cited:

Kirsch, Adam. "Technology is Taking Over English Departments: The False Promise of the Digital Humanities." New Republic (2 May 2014). Web.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “What is Digital Humanities and What’s it Doing in English Departments?ADE Bulletin 150 (2010).

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