I had a bit of an “Ah Ha” moment while I read Dave Parry’s “The Digital Humanities or a Digital Humanism” essay. In this section of the text, various authors discuss the future of DH and their interpretation of DH. Parry, however, captures and, in my opinion, eloquently defines Digital Humanities (even though he claims it is impossible to do so). He starts his essay by describing the lack of control scholars have over DH and how it is defined. Though, after reading the rest of the text, DH and the possibilities of DH have never been clearer to me. Parry argues that there isn’t a foundational project that exists that other DH projects can be based upon. However, I believe Parry captures the foundation when he says, “digital humanities is largely, or primarily, about using computing technologies as tools to do traditional humanities-based research.” Now, he makes it clear that what constitutes “research” is open-ended and SHOULD expand from texts to social media and beyond.
He wants the division between the “two humanisms” he describes to dissolve, and it should. And this idea ties nicely into his point that we are a digital society. With our heads filled with earbuds, our eyes constantly distracted by some sort of digital image, and our hands constantly filled with some sort of device, how can we argue otherwise? To ignore recognizing Digital Humanities as its own entity is to ignore our daily living. As for Parry, his hope is that DH will continue to thrive and grow, and there is no reason why it should not. Our scholarship is digital, our culture is digital, our lives our digital, and our world is digital.
Parry asks important questions in his piece, and I think it transitions nicely into Matthew Kirschenbaum’s piece. What makes the answer to the question “What is DH” so crucial? Are people annoyed that it’s so vague? Do they really want an answer? Or is the openness of DH part of the intrigue? Do we really need an answer? Or are the powers at be just taking a stance in something that even they don’t understand?
In my opinion, Kirschenbaum challenges the million dollar questions in his essay. Kirschenbaum, in “Digital Humanities As/Is a Tactical Term,” makes it very clear that DH is becoming a stronger presence in the world of academia. Though I didn’t know what Digital Humanities was before I began this class, I can’t help but agree. In his essay, Kirschenbaum makes it clear that the Digital Humanities is far away from sinking back into the humanities and losing its relevance at the collegiate level. Kirschenbaum states, “I believe those who insist that ‘digital’ humanities is but a transitory term that will soon fall away in favor of just the humanities once again, or perhaps humanities 2.0, are mistaken.” He supports this idea by explaining how Digital Humanities came about, its history, and its potential to continue to make change in the future. And he concludes his essay with an interesting idea. He almost expresses concern when he says that, right now, too “much energy is now being expended on defining what digital humanities is” and how staff are dealing with the limitations that this misunderstood outsider causes in academia. Kirschenbaum argues that this should be a time of productivity! DHers and non-DHers shouldn’t be worrying about a dictionary definition to embrace this ever-changing realm; instead of defining it, define it by taking action.
Is this possible? Can studying DH still occur? Can progression still happen without an answer to the question? I believe it has, it can, and it will.
Lev Manovich’s “Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data” highlights the popularity of DH programs. Though there are challenges in DH, particularly with programs and funding, a lot of Manovich’s examples made me realize how DH has affected my life, and I didn’t even know it! For example, Manovich discusses different programs that reminded me of my Kroger Plus card. Because I run that card, DH technologies help the company keep track of what I am buying. In turn, I get coupons based upon my most common purchases, which results in me constantly returning to Kroger to buy the items I need at a discounted price. A complex system, I am sure. However, it’s simplistically brilliant and changes my life for the better. How can someone argue that projects similar to this one will eventually go to the wayside?
Now, there will always be those who challenge the world of DH, as David Greetham states in “The Resistance to Digital Humanities.” Scholars are reluctant to consider digital publications equal to the typical print to paper publications. Tenure tracks are more likely to be upheld if the work can be held in readers’ hands instead of a computer screen. Is this a just way to handle scholarly work? Will things ever be different? This idea makes me think of the time my mom had a “bag cell phone” for her car. It hooked up awkwardly to her car outlet, the antenna protruded from her ceiling, and conversations were screamed instead of spoken in order to be heard. It was very old-school. It was awkward, looking back, but it was all she knew. She was content with what she had, but there was room for improvement. I can remember her getting frustrated with dropped calls and fuzzy sounds through the receiver. Then . . . change happened. Could my mom have imagined a time when her phone would transition to her pocket? Never. My mother hates change. But now, I am certain she cannot imagine life without the ability to FaceTime her granddaughter living miles and miles away. Though she resisted the transition, she now welcomes the new technology. She hated the idea of getting rid of her “reliable” bag phone for some new fad technology (I actually think she still has her bag phone in the basement somewhere). Sometimes we aren’t ready for change, but sometimes we cannot prevent it, and in hindsight, it ends up being the best move for us. That is my prediction for DH. There will come a time when we have scholars who grew up with Twitter, blogs, and digitalization. To sign up for a DH class would be like signing up for an English class: normal and expected. They have grown up working with Digital Humanities projects throughout school and for fun. So, in the future, to consider an online publication for a tenure track wouldn’t seem outrageous to them. Just like my daughter Rory will never think it’s outrageous to see her grandmother’s face on a small device. Things are moving slowly, or “gradually,” or “carefully,” as Parry describes. But either way, things are moving. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be taking this class. Like Cathy N. Davidson says in “Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions,” “. . . it took professional astronomers several years before they came to appreciate that their field would be richer if they were more open to the energetic observations and theories of amateur astronomers.” Eventually, the new will be embraced, the youth will be heard, and a new way of thinking will be adapted. Unfortunately, time is the enemy for DH. And what it’s going to take is time.
I think it’s also to consider the fact that the issues occurring in DH are happening in other realms of academia. For instance, my roommate considered pursuing a career path in Literature, hoping to teach at the collegiate level. However, after speaking to several faculty members at our undergraduate college, her mind was changed instantly. They warned her of the terrible path of the tenure track, the time it would take to find a position, the lack in ability to “move up” because of budget cuts in programs that support full-time faculty. I witnessed the negative effect of “budget” issues when I worked on the FogDog review as an editor at Wright State. We were constantly fighting to raise money because our budget continued to get smaller and smaller until, eventually, my teacher had to turn it into a class in order to keep the project afloat. One of my acting professors was out of a job when the requirements for graduation were changed, and she happened to be the lowest on the totem pole. Similar issues are echoed throughout our DH readings: budget cuts, lack of funding, and eliminating staff. Are these happening across the board? It’s hard to ignore the severity of these occurrences in DH and how negatively it affects its progression, but is it the only victim of these issues in academia?
Overall, I walk away from these articles thinking and believe that DH is going to be okay. One day, my daughter Rory will ask me to help her with some basic coding that is required as a general education course during her undergraduate, and I will recognize it, remember it, and see even more changes than I could have imagined.