In this week’s readings, the focus is on practicing the Digital Humanities and DH’s role in academia. I found these readings to be thought-provoking and interesting. Overall, I believed I ended the readings with a comprehensive understanding of how DH factors into the university realm today. What I thought was most interesting and what I ended thinking about was the fact that the moment I stopped reading the text, there was probably some change or evolution occurring in DH at that very same moment. It’s a fascinating concept to me, since my English education at the collegiate level was so canonized and traditional. DH is constantly adjusting to its role at the university level, and though the authors did an excellent job of conveying their own interpretation of DH’s role, I couldn’t help but think that there are thousands of other ways that DH affects a university. This chapter was just a small, savory taste.
In Matthew Wilkens’s “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method,” he argues that canons exist (which is argued to be detrimental to authors of color in Amy E. Earhart’s “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon”), and DH can be a solution to an overwhelming amount of information being studied. He points out that canons are negative, and something should be done about them; this results in him asking the question “Why do we still have canons?” Simply put, Wilkens’s states that “[w]e don’t read any faster than we ever did, even as the quantity of text produced grows larger by the year.” Unlike early-history scholars, we are faced with the challenge of reading texts in the canon and contemporary texts. As Wilkens suggests, we are simply incapable of reading what is necessary to read. Scholars studying specific areas in time are limited to how much they are capable of reading. Wilkens argues that close reading needs to take a back seat to data driven analysis. Now, we have discussed close reading versus data analysis when we read Macroanalysis. And though the lit major in me could never fathom a world without close reading, the benefits of data analysis and text mining described by Wilkens is clear. He even suggests that interpreting the data may result a change in the way we look at literary history, specifically American regionalism. Wilkens really makes the connection between close reading and data analysis when he says, “Though we’re not used to framing our work in terms of rapid hypothesis testing and feature extraction, the process isn’t radically different from what we already do on a much smaller scale.” By comparing the two, Wilkens points out the processes’ similarities, making data driven analysis not so alien. Not that I agree with Wilkens’s suggestion that “we’ll almost certainly become worse close readers,” but his points do highlight the benefits of text mining. Along with that, Wilkens points out that it’s important to direct funding toward DH projects in order achieve what he suggests.
Wilkens’s piece transitions nicely to Paul Fyfe’s “Electronic Errata: Digital Publishing, Open, Review, and the Futures of Correction,” discussing the evolution of editing and Fyfe’s predictions on editing scholarly articles. Fyfe suggests that the types of publication of DH pieces need to be reconsidered; it is starting to become necessary for other types of publications, such as blogs, to be considered as scholarly by the academic world. What is more important to Fyfe is that changes are starting to occur in the digital print world, and they need attention. Overall, he argues that, in this ever-changing world, clearer plans need to be established when it comes to academic correction. With software like auto-correct, Fyfe questions whether or not editing will be necessary in the future. Various types of review have been introduced in place of typical review processes, which Fyfe reports stimulates a stronger engagement with the text, eliminating editing all together. So, what does this say about future academic scholarship? Do Fyfe’s ideas suggest that expectations for academia are diminishing? Will scholarly articles that we have studied become things of the past? Later in the unit, Daniel Cohen addresses this idea in “The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing.” He believes DHers are limited by the qualifications needed for publication. He gives the example of Twitter and following other DHers; he declares he learns more in this forum than in any other. Not only that, he believes these kinds of forums, as opposed to scholarly journals, are much more accessible to others outside of the DH world. Could these changes begin to happen in other areas of study? Are we seeing some of these changes already?
The next section of the unit transitions to Digital Humanities on campus and staffing. Neil Fraistat paints an informative picture of his campus’s digital humanities center in “The Function of Digital Humanities Centers at the Present Time.” He reveals that the competitiveness of the various digital humanities centers around the globe lack collaboration due to competition for grant money and funding. But he asserts centers’ importance by describing what takes place on a typical day in his DH atmosphere. His explanation made me wonder if I were to travel to another DH center, how different would the process be? My hope is that they would be very different because, as Fraistat states, the goals are limitless as long as centers serve as “an agent of change.” Julie Flanders is just as enlightening by explaining the track DH employees may encounter in “Time, Labor, and ‘Alternate Careers’ in Digital Humanities Knowledge Work.” Like Fraistat, I couldn’t help but wonder how diverse are the paths of other DHers? Digital Humanities is such a complex and evolving system, I’m sure there are so many other stories to tell!