Debates in Digital Humanities- Take 3

The theme of part three of our readings this week seem to be focusing on the “user”. I put that in quotes for a couple reasons. First we think of the user as the person who is viewing the Digital humanities project. That would be the main focus of the majority of the articles.  These users span from race, gender, disability, and level of technical experience. The second interpretation of user I got from the readings was the people who are participating on behalf of the digital humanities initiative. 

I will begin by talking about the end user. In Williams’ article, I related to many of the techniques so these tools can be used by everyone. I have worked on many projects that require me to add components to the code or the interface to make sure that it works for the blind or hard of hearing. For 13 years now, I have been a part creating and designing content for online course work. It was introduced to as assistive technology. It was an eye opener for me. I just figured you created a site and let it fly. I learned quickly that not only did I have to make sure our sites worked on different platforms and interfaces, but it had to be compatible for screen readers, ipad apps and external devices. (here is the archive page from the project 13 years ago As I would attend meetings with other organizations about online instruction or just plan anything online, I would bring up the universal design of the tool. Nobody knew what I was talking about. I had to explain it time and time again. I was happy to repeat myself based on the importance of it. It use to be a lot of work, ( as the article states) but it is getting easier. I have taken road trips to the school for the blind to test our new online course work with students and their devices. The resources that we are creating need to work for everyone everywhere. Digitizing is happening and when it does, we need to make sure that everyone can connect with ease.    The things that were suggested in the edits of our big projects were the following: ability to change the contrast of the page, change font size and color, tags used heavily for direction and guidance, and the use of invisible gifs (included in article). The other accessibility suggestions from the article was to have plug ins for content management systems eg. Joomla. This confused me for a while.  It is important, but there are some many other techniques that can be done to fix some of these issues. I do agree that they are needed, but think that they are becoming more obsolete based on new apps that read text, change text, and modify the user interface for ease of deciphering. A lot of these tools or add ons require assistance, knowledge and time.

In the article The Digital Humanities and its Users by Charlie Edward, we are given a different perspective of the user. The usability of the system and the ease of learning how to use it efficiently will create more user satisfaction. Sometimes digital humanities may create exclusivity and therefore users become outsiders. It is important that the designer ask “who is going to use this and for what?” More people will be happy with the fill in the blank of your tool if it is easy to use by a larger body of people. This article defines this as builder essentialism. It also states that this could be tough to fund.

I have an issue with the builder intellect when it comes to this portion of the article. I hire several students from the university to work with our organization. We are working on several online projects. When I bring up old school, basic concepts of universal design with these projects, the majority of these students do not understand what I’m talking about. So at this point I ask you, Where is the issue? Is it in the educating of these students through the humanities or the digital aspect? Who is to be responsible for this missing information?  I have an idea, but I will leave that for debate here.

I found the next article, Digital Humanities Triumphant? to be a little too familiar with the atmosphere of our posts. Whenever I bring up that I’m in this class, people ask me what digital humanities is. The reason they ask, is because they haven’t heard of it. Just as in the article that I’m talking about, digital humanities has been around a long time. It isn’t the next big thing because it is the thing. It has been the thing for more than 20 years. I can see how this field would develop a little bit of an attitude for the respect that they are neglected. I do like the comment that was made that “soon digital humanities will just be the humanities”. All dynamics of this field will be just considered as one.

What do Girls dig? and the article about DeLillo, touch on the “who is using it” theme.

Shanna already touched on the Digging into Data Challenge in her blog post so I won’t say much about this. I thought the format of the article was creative and interesting. I know that isn’t the point of the article and this post, but I believe we need to show our voice through scholarly exploration and she definitely did it with her style.  The question of what do women dig has been going on for awhile in education. Gaming and coding have been the focus of getting girls interested in this field. Programs have been developed to create an easier way of designing and learning these somewhat difficult trades. I don’t buy into that of course, (the fact that it was too hard so we need to make it easier). It had nothing to do with intelligence; I believe that line of work just wasn’t culturally accepted for women at the time. These trends are changing and women are beginning to gain ground and respect.

In the DeLillo article, I like the timeline that is utilized to prove the point of what is the future of writers. It made me think more about the lose of hisotrical texts from Whitman, Blake, Shakespeare etc.  We had this discussion in the last readings about ruining the art. Well at this point I feel as if we don’t digitize, the art dies. We could debate about hyperreality and simulation regarding this topic which might add a little more depth to this post. Hyperrealty is when we see the clone or duplicate to bigger and better than the original so much that we don’t recognize that it is not the real one. Simulation is the same thing, but a little simpler. The simulation of the real activity becomes better than the thing itself so we destroy the natural world.

I apologize for my ramblings, feel free to respond to my bold areas. Happy reading.



5 thoughts on “Debates in Digital Humanities- Take 3”

  1. The issue is that DH is just becoming popular. Yes it has existed for a long time but no one really ever knew what it was unless you worked in a related field. There weren’t any DH classes when I was in my undergrad at BG. I think I would have had to take it since my undergrad was Communications. It is a new trend, something that people are becoming interested in now. There are more classes offered, more programs and more job in the DH fields. So most people that you are trying to educate in this field have no clue what DH is, or have never thought of it. It is not anyone’s fault. As technology keeps improving and changing, there will always be people that have no idea how to work the latest phone, tablet or gaming system. Is it time to upgrade? Probably, but at the same time you have people that don’t need to and are perfectly fine operating a simple computer, and phone for their emails and calls. They don’t need anything fancy, they just need to get by, and they do. Unless you work in a computer related field, and need to know and understand coding, it is like pulling teeth and looking at a different language that you can’t understand. Even with the tutorials and the instructions sometimes that is not enough for people. I am pretty sure you know what you are doing and have a grasp on this stuff. However, alot of people don’t and they are struggling. With DH becoming more popular and more accessible in colleges, it is the teachers job to break it down, keep up with the latest trends and help their students understand and get through the course. Like I said this stuff didn’t exist when I was going through school.
    I don’t mean to offend anyone and I hope I didn’t, but some people just don’t get this stuff, and that’s not their fault. They were never exposed to it, just thrown into it and hope for the best.

  2. Tonya your writings about assistive technologies really resonated with me. Last year I was an intervention specialist at a virtual academy I helped create and using assistive technology was essential to our success. It’s amazing to see how one piece of assistive technology can change a child’s life. I had a couple nonverbal students that had an eye tracker attached to their computer and they could control the mouse and keyboards with their eyes. One started typing out this was the happiest they’ve ever been because they were in direct control of their speech and could directly control something. Because of this accessibility project some of my students were able to take back control of their lives even though they were wheelchair bound. I had never really considered assistive technologies as a Digital Humanities project but this week’s readings it makes sense. Assistive technologies change people’s lives for the better and in a sense so does Digital Humanities. While these technologies might not make headlines or are the “next big thing” in the tech world, they improve lives and I would rather have that than flashy headlines any day. Sorry for the long rant and great post!

    1. David,
      it is refreshing to hear your excitement related to assistive technology. It is important to be knowledgable and aware that assistive technology exists and is necessary. I appreciate your reply. Thanks

  3. Tonya and Sarah, both of you really sparked the flow of ideas in my mind!

    First– Tonya, I hadn’t truly thought that much about adaptive technologies and its relationship to DH when reading this. I believe that like everything else, DH should be accessible to everyone, however, up until reading your thoughts, I hadn’t really connected my idea of what DH is/isn’t with adaptive technologies. Surely, adapting a piece of Literature to meet the needs of the visually impaired would require DH skills, but I would never have categorized it as such before. It’s also scary to me to think there are others in positions similar to yours that hadn’t heard of tools to make this process easier, and thus, make things more available and accessible to students with special needs.

    Second– Sarah, I agree with what you’re saying in a lot of ways. I had taken quite a few communications, technology, and an abundance of humanities courses in my undergrad at BG, but none of them even mentioned DH despite its long-ish history in academia. Like Tonya pointed out, I think this could be in part because soon DH will be just known as “the humanities.” As I have alluded to in other posts this semester, I’m not sure there’s a real need (beyond grants) for the distinction of DH as its own entity. So much of science is reliant on technology, and yet we don’t call it “Digital Science,” so I wonder when the line will finally blur enough that everyone in the field of humanities, rather in the traditional sense, or in the new, digital sense will play on the same team, so to speak, and be given equal recognition. From a student and teacher’s perspective (unfortunately, those are the limited perspectives I can offer), I don’t see a need to cling so tightly to the definition of DH and who it includes or excludes, but instead, should just exist and be seen as more fluid. Like you, I struggle with a lot of the coding exercises, but I could almost see making more of a case for making basic coding a requirement of a lot of post-secondary education tracks than I could see making the world of DH and all it entails a requirement. Do you feel like there’s absolutely no use for learning the code, or at least having a high-level understanding of it?

    1. Cassie-
      To answer your question, in my personal opinion and for me and my career I do feel there is no use for me to learn about coding. I have no use for it currently and I would not have any use for it down the road. But that is just my opinion coming from the career I have. It would be beneficial if I had a technology or computer related job where I needed to know and understand that stuff.

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