Screwing Around

“There have always been two ways to deal with a library.”

Yes I’m sure we’ve all experienced both ways, whether we’ve realized it or not. In Stephen Ramsay’s The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books he talks about these two ways, which I found interesting.

To Ramsay, there is a searching way to navigate a library, and also a browsing way. Search is where you know what you’re looking for and browsing…well, it’s more like screwing around.

I’ve never thought about the different ways people navigate around a library and what they mean, but I’ve now noticed that I’ve used both ways without realizing it. Sometimes I may start a search for information for a paper and at times I’d end up in a browsing standpoint (whether it’s for my paper or just stuff I find interesting). I like that browsing/screwing around allows you to create your own path and lets your interests guide you, as opposed to searching where you’re there to get certain information and certain information only. “Will screwing around become the new research method?” Is a question to think about…and I think it very well could be.

Ramsay states a problem in his article that I think really explains exactly what humanists, especially DHers may run into, “That much information probably exceeds our ability to create reliable guides to it.”

DH uses tools and resources to put certain groups of information or texts in one single place so it’s easier to search for and navigate. When there’s too much information there’s no way there could be one place to put it all. That quote kind of breaks down what DH is about “creating reliable guides”. Ramsay uses the Library of Congress as an example because it contains over 500 human lifetimes of text! I’m curious to know how much really is too much information? I

After reading about IF which i’m still trying to understand), it’s weird to think that so many things i’ve seen or used on the web are a part of DH. Last week I also learned that CAPTCHAs not only help secure websites from bots, but also help the computer look at texts the way we do. We’ve looked at and talked about a lot of interesting things involving DH and I’m looking forward to learning a lot more. I can’t wait to start the class project and use different DH tools and resources to actually help me understand and apply all of the information we’ve been reading about.

Although I’m still trying to get a feel for DH and understand exactly what it’s all about, Ramsay’s inevitable and compelling statements make it much more interesting and exciting.

“Somewhere in there lies a manifesto for what the world looks like when digital humanities becomes the humanities.”


One thought on “Screwing Around

  1. I’d like to hear more–why do you think that screwing around could become the new research method? What kind of new knowledge or ways of looking at this material could you bring to the rest of the class?


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