A Different Look at DH

It was great to read some alternative theories about DH last week compared to what we’ve been reading. In Differences 25.1, both Matthew Kirschenbaum and Richard Grusin shed light on the idea of builders vs. critiquers; that DH is looking at someone else’s work. I thought it was interesting that Grusin questioned whether or not some things are considered DH work or not, because I wonder the same thing. I suppose the answers to that question would be different depending on who you’re talking to.

In class we talked about how DH brings intrinsic value to humanities. There seems to be this ongoing battle between traditional and digital humanities. Will traditional humanities still exist in the future, assuming that technology will continue to advance? Why do traditional and digital humanities remain so separate?

I really liked reading Trevor Owen’s Where to Start? On Research Questions in the Digital Humanities too. When researching a question for a DH project he suggests to “fit the tool to the question,” which I thought was pretty insightful. That’s not something someone would typically think about. He also explains that you don’t have to pick a research question to start your projects, and your questions can always change. The purpose of a question is to clarify what’s in the project and define where it should start and end.

We began brainstorming and taking notes for our own DH project and followed Owen’s steps to research design, which looks to be pretty useful so far (goals, conceptional framework, research questions, methods, and validity concerns). I’m looking forward to beginning our project in order to understand more about DH and its tools.

As we continue to read I’m starting to realize how complex DH really is and I’m feeling more comfortable as I learn more because even true DHers don’t know everything about it.

Kirschenbaum said a really compelling statement in his essay about DH that really got me thinking: “We will never know what digital humanities is because we don’t want to know nor is it useful for us to know.” What is useful to know about DH? Everyone seems to have their own very different definitions of DH, most likely because it’s a complex field and can be studied in so many different ways. I guess I won’t really know my own definition until I get more involved with it. I’m eager to start working and talking more about our class project this week.


5 thoughts on “A Different Look at DH

  1. I think the idea that knowing a definition of DH isn’t something that is actually useful is a really interesting concept. I agree with it in the sense that I really subscribe to the idea that Digital Humanities is whatever the scholars who identify with that term are interested in studying. In that way, having a concrete definition limits the research that can be done rather than allowing scholars to pursue new questions outside the boundaries of discipline.


  2. I liked how you asked the question of traditional and digital humanities remaining separate. I think that digital humanities can be used as a tool to help study the traditional humanities. The two disciplines should be working to merge together. I am also eager for our project and looking forward to class.


  3. I hope that, as we work on the project, some of these questions will be clarified for you. What’s your perspective on this seeming divide between the “traditional” and the digital right now?


    • I don’t doubt those questions will be answered. I think the possibility of the two different humanities could become one as technology advances. If traditional humanities are blocked off from the digital aspect they’re missing out on the technology that could assist their studies. Digital could also end up getting too tech-based and forget the humanist focus altogether. I think it’d be interesting to see how they both evolve and see what happens in the future. I never would’ve expected this to even be debated in academics. Since digital humanities derived from traditional it seems pointless to remain so separate.


  4. I like the whole not knowing your own definition of something until you start working with it. I feel like this mirrors life as we can’t always know what things are until the experience is available to us. It makes things more confusing sometimes, but also allows for more learning.


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