[Humanist] 26.172 fundamental research question?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jul 19 22:34:26 CEST 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 172.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2012 15:44:44 +0200
        From: Claire Clivaz <claire.clivaz at unil.ch>
        Subject: What does it mean, a fundamental research question?


Dear all,

Scholars reluctant to the DH scholarship often say: "OK... you build 
tools, you are able to deal with a huge amount of data, and what? What 
is the purpose? What do you get as new ideas, results?". As far as I 
can see today, I guess that "fundamental research questions" are 
coming very often at a second time in the DH approach, by nature one can 
say, as I will argue.

With a lot of various scholars, I am also frustrated to see so often 
"fundamental research questions" apparently omitted. For example, I 
was this afternoon to a DH short paper here in Hamburg on "Experiments 
in Digital Philosophy" by Lou Bernard. The paper did not offer a word 
about a fundamental question in philosophy, but only questions regarding 
TEI encoding of texts and new ways to observe the academic production. 
Such a phenomenon occurs often in the DH papers. Why?

In May, an Harvard Magazine article clearly explained that "Scholars 
traditionally begin projects by figuring out what the good research 
questions are in a given field, and connecting with others interested in 
the same topics; they then gather and organize data; then analyze it; 
and finally, disseminate their findings through teaching or publication. 
Scholarship in a digital environment raises questions about every aspect 
of this process. For example, in gathering and organizing data" 
(http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/05/the-humanities-digitized).

Digital Humanities are Humanities *made with the fingers*, the Latin 
 *digitus*. Scholars have begun with a *Homo Faber* step in the 
DH scholarship, by literaly *making* them. I am not arguing that it 
is good or not: it is the present situation. We are facing now a lot, a 
lot of diverse tools, particularly in the field of history, timelines 
and cartography representations, but we have got also a lot of diverse 
tools to analyze textuality. But - at a certain point - that's logical.
Indeed, as the example developed this morning by Debbie Rabina and 
Anthony Cocciolo in their paper shows, user research and user 
interaction can preceed and lead to theory and Humanities Content 
research 
(http://www.dh2012.uni-hamburg.de/conference/programme/abstracts/uncoverin
g-lost-histories-through-geostoryteller-a-digital-geohumanities-project/).


That's the point: Humanities made with the fingers - "Digital" 
Humanities - open next to the research on the content and to reconsider 
then the produced tools again.

Opinions? Ideas? What do you answer to colleagues arguing that there is 
no *fundamental research question* in DH?

Claire Clivaz, Lausanne (http://cclivaz.wordpress.com)



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