Reply To: Theorizing the Digital Humanities

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Alex Koch

This group of readings intrigued me – as I found debating (aloud and alone) Ramsay/Rockwell’s case and I still feel caught between both sides. To me it appears DH’s identity and evaluation issues largely stem from those fixed atop academia’s hierarchy – which I believe we touched on during our discussion of Macroanalysis a few weeks ago. Backtracking a bit further, I recall nearly all of the pieces in Part 1 of “Debates in DH” referenced the MLA conference as THE moment Digital Humanities arrived…yet Ramsay and Rockwell seemingly chalk this up as the first offense.

“How dare they expect me, the code-changing, data-mining, app-building, mastermind to document my work?! Can’t they just appreciate the results?!”

My answer, once again, is yes and no. While irritating to DHers and those of us chasing tenure-track positions, this is decidedly a step in the right direction as it at least presents an opportunity for digital scholarship to be evaluated in what remains traditionally controlled discourse. Additionally, it seems if one doesn’t like documenting their process – they could simply look for grants. One might contest, that traditionally scholars didn’t have to dedicate additional time to grant proposals for their work to carry weight. Then again, the vast majority of them are/were not non-traditional scholars, so it’s simply a matter of playing the game. If grant money seemingly equates to credibility (which may continue to be further embraced as we see more university administrations become populated with bean counters), then it’s on Digital Humanists to play the game. So although traditional scholarship still carries a bit more weight I think all of us can recognize this is a liminal period, and progress has / continues to be made. Though as Matt addressed, this is something that could be occurring at a quicker pace if the old guard would be more comfortable holding a tablet instead of their favorite monographs.

Digital scholarship, like “digital humanities,” seems like an umbrella term – which unknowingly features a comically large umbrella. This could include digital tools or traditional textual analysis of digital media, both of which are equally large umbrellas. Yet regardless of the medium, I think Drucker is wise to remind us that “the role of humanities scholars is crucial in the production and interpretation of cultural materials.” So while I may be sidestepping Dr. Schocket’s original question a bit, I think this does lean on what Dan was getting at in his post – we need to focus on the mission of work and how it relates to the larger discourse, rather than burying our heads in the HTML sand.

  • This reply was modified 10 years, 4 months ago by Alex Koch. Reason: Fixing a format issue