[Humanist] 29.208 the end of digital humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Aug 11 08:33:14 CEST 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 208.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Matthew Battles <matthew at metalab.harvard.edu>            (182)
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?

  [2]   From:    James Cummings <James.Cummings at it.ox.ac.uk>               (79)
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?

  [3]   From:    Marco Petris <marco.petris at web.de>                        (52)
        Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?

  [4]   From:    Hannah Scates Kettler <hannah.scates at gmail.com>          (188)
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 05:29:44 -0400
        From: Matthew Battles <matthew at metalab.harvard.edu>
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?
        In-Reply-To: <20150810070757.9F6396964 at digitalhumanities.org>


I'd suggest that DH holds onto the appellation "digital" because the
humanities are/have become reflexive practices in ways the natural sciences
have't done. Although DH is considered by many to constitute a fairly
radical break with the "theory era" in the humanities, it may be a
lingering effect of certain strands of poststructuralism, etc. that we're
constantly looking at our tools & reviewing our roles in social & political
realms. It's interesting to imagine what practice in the natural sciences
might look like if it incorporated—not as water-cooler banter but
*method*—a similar blend of anxiety and amour-propre...

On Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 3:07 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 205.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>   [1]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
>  (64)
>         Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?
>
>   [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>   (48)
>         Subject: the end
>
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 09:55:18 +1000
>         From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
>         Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?
>         In-Reply-To: <20150809101940.33CC068A5 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
> Hi Paul,
>
> I initially thought that making a comparison between astronomy and the
> humanities is simply invalid. There are aspects of humanities research that
> have nothing whatever to do with digital methods. Interpretation of texts,
> for example. But then I thought about concept mining and textual analysis
> tools that *aid* interpretation, and so the question then became: 'are
> there
> any aspects of humanistic research that will *never* succumb to digital
> methods?' I can't think of any.
>
> Indeed, is the meteoritic growth of DH due to an increased interest in our
> cultural heritage or just humanists going digital? In the latter case,
> digital
> humanities seems bound to become just 'humanities' - eventually.
>
> So, will the last true humanist please remember to turn off the lights?
>
> Desmond Schmidt
> University of Queensland
>
> On Sun, Aug 9, 2015 at 8:19 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
> willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>
> >
> >                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 203.
> >             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
> >                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
> >                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> >
> > [The following message was not included in Humanist 29.198 for reasons
> > unknown. --WM]
> >
> >         Date: Fri, 7 Aug 2015 10:52:01 -0500
> >         From: Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>
> >         Subject: the end?
> >
> >
> > My colleague whose office is next to mine just published this. Comments?
> >
> >
> >
> http://malina.diatrope.com/2015/08/06/yes-again-to-the-end-of-the-digital-humanities-please/
> >
> > -p
> >
> > Paul Fishwick, PhD
> > Chair, ACM SIGSIM
> > Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging
> > Communication
> > Professor of Computer Science
> > Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
> > The University of Texas at Dallas
> > Arts & Technology
> > 800 West Campbell Road, AT10
> > Richardson, TX 75080-3021
> > Home: utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
> > Blog: creative-automata.com
>
>
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 07:46:23 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: the end
>         In-Reply-To: <20150809101940.33CC068A5 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
> Some arguments get tired by seemingly endless repetition despite all the
> attempts to counter them. I suppose logically this can be because they
> articulate a persistent truth that a persistent ambition or fear tries
> to put down or the reverse. For me the interesting question is why this
> happens. Appeal to the unknowable future, by direct prediction or by
> analogy, is a handwaving way of escaping that question I hope we can put
> aside here. While it is possible, of course, that digital humanities
> might disappear, be absorbed into the disciplines etc, we should be
> asking whether this is what we want to happen and if asked can say why.
>
> I have two whys for wanting it not to happen: (1) the collision of
> digital representation and interpretation I find an endlessly productive
> intellectual cornucopia; (2) the digitization of our cultural heritage (as
> Jerome McGann has argued at length) demands that we pay attention
> to it if we wish not to be devastatingly impoverished.
>
> Brian Cantwell Smith (in 1995, I think) argued that the great thing
> about digital computing is that it rendered the fact of being digital
> irrelevant. Let us for purposes of argument deny that analogue vinyl
> records and vacuum tube (valve) amplifiers produce a superior, warmer
> etc sound to that put forth from digital files by means of digital
> equipment. Certainly in that case the means of recording and
> reproduction is to the listener completely irrelevant. But to the audio
> engineer, who can detect if not hear the differences, these differences
> matter a great deal, I would think. To whom, looking for what, are these
> very real differences irrelevant?
>
> Consider the perspective of the (en)coder, the database designer, the
> programmer who is pursuing research in the humanities him- or herself
> by digital means. Consider digital humanities as means to do research
> in the humanities, not as a job performed for an "end user" who will then
> go off to do his or her research elsewhere by other means. Consider
> someone who comes moment by moment up against the difference
> between binary representation and interpretative perception.
>
> Let us rid digital humanities permanently of the class distinction
> between technician servant and academic master. Let us look closely at
> what this class distinction has done to both master and servant (by
> reading historical studies of servitude, not by watching Downton Abbey).
>
> Missing also from the tired argument that has surfaced here once again
> is any awareness of the 70-year history of digital humanities, indeed of
> close knowledge of what is actually happening in the research of actual
> digital humanists now. True, this knowledge is difficult to come by amidst
> all the bandwagon handwaving and shouting, all the hype that hides that
> history, as Mike Mahoney used to say. Disciplines are what disciplined
> people do. It seems to me a profound category error to treat any
> discipline as a thing to be defined, as if sense could be made e.g. of
> history, English, computer science, cultural studies and all the rest
> that way, from the outside. (Who as a child was not told, "those who
> live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".) Having made that
> category error is it surprising that the attempts we have for digital
> humanities are such poor things?
>
> Comments?
>
> Yours,
> WM
>
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney

-- 
matthew battles
associate director, metaLAB (at) harvard  http://metalab.harvard.edu/
fellow, berkman center for internet and society
 http://cyber.law.harvard.edu
twitter = @matthewbattles  http://twitter.com/matthewbattles



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 13:53:07 +0100
        From: James Cummings <James.Cummings at it.ox.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?
        In-Reply-To: <20150810070757.9F6396964 at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard,
>> Some arguments get tired by seemingly endless repetition despite all the
>> attempts to counter them. I suppose logically this can be because they
>> articulate a persistent truth that a persistent ambition or fear tries
>> to put down or the reverse. For me the interesting question is why this
>> happens. Appeal to the unknowable future, by direct prediction or by
>> analogy, is a handwaving way of escaping that question I hope we can put
>> aside here.

Is one of the reasons this discussion keeps surfacing that people 
are trained into looking towards the new, the next thing, the 
shiny shiny thing over the horizon? As with you, what bothers me 
most is the lack of context in the discussion which seems to 
assume digital humanities is something new. I've usually eschewed 
discussions of what is or is not Digital Humanities (except when 
various hats I wear force me to), so have no problem believing 
that there is a long continuum of DH from Humanities Computing 
and even much earlier terms and contexts. While your archetypical 
humanities professor (as if such a thing ever existed) on the 
Clapham omnibus now is fully immersed in a digital culture of 
conducting her correspondence by email, using online catalogues, 
looking at primary sources online, before writing up her thoughts 
for publication using a wordprocessor, this is merely humanities 
research in a digital culture. As our culture becomes 
increasingly digital, then the tools and methodologies used by 
the putative humanities professor will become so as well. But 
this humanities professor is not 'doing digital humanities' as I 
suspect you and I would define it. If the 'Digital Humanities' 
collapses back into the 'Humanities' then it is doing something 
wrong -- it is not living up to its potential.

>> While it is possible, of course, that digital humanities
>> might disappear, be absorbed into the disciplines etc, we should be
>> asking whether this is what we want to happen and if asked can say why.
>>
>> I have two whys for wanting it not to happen: (1) the collision of
>> digital representation and interpretation I find an endlessly productive
>> intellectual cornucopia; (2) the digitization of our cultural heritage (as
>> Jerome McGann has argued at length) demands that we pay attention
>> to it if we wish not to be devastatingly impoverished.

I think that "1" can always also be talking about collisions 
which the mainstream Humanities has not even though possible yet. 
With "2", it recalls arguments I've made in my own institution 
for the making openly available the cultural heritage riches 
which it happens to contain. The work of my colleagues in the 
Bodleian in producing a resource such as 
http://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ is a good start (but with many 
obvious areas for improvement).

>> Let us rid digital humanities permanently of the class distinction
>> between technician servant and academic master. Let us look closely at
>> what this class distinction has done to both master and servant (by
>> reading historical studies of servitude, not by watching Downton Abbey).

I'd wholeheartedly support this, but let's be clear that what you 
are asking flies in the face of the divisions inherent in many 
academic institutions. The academics with whom I partner in my 
own post always seem to conclude projects with a much clearer 
understanding of the academic nature of the work that happens on 
the technical side of research projects. It is rare these days 
where people approach my team assuming them to be merely 
technician servants, but institutional practices do more to 
highlight this than academics themselves.

>> It seems to me a profound category error to treat any
>> discipline as a thing to be defined, as if sense could be made e.g. of
>> history, English, computer science, cultural studies and all the rest
>> that way, from the outside. (Who as a child was not told, "those who
>> live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".) Having made that
>> category error is it surprising that the attempts we have for digital
>> humanities are such poor things?

While I agree that this is a category error, I'm not sure that is 
the reason for poor digital humanities. Maybe digital humanities 
would have gone the way of digital astronomy if we'd had their 
resources.  Instead of predicting that digital humanities will 
disappear in 30 years (if it does, it will only be because those 
who do it hide what they do under other terms), I'd predict that 
the next great leaps in astronomy will be people doing digital 
astronomy (but hiding it under other astronomy sub-disciplines 
for sake of funding).

-James

-- 
Dr James Cummings, James.Cummings at it.ox.ac.uk
Academic IT Services, University of Oxford



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 18:18:18 +0200
        From: Marco Petris <marco.petris at web.de>
        Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?
        In-Reply-To: <20150809101940.33CC068A5 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Paul,

I think there is nothing wrong in giving new research methods a name so
that people know what to look for (students looking for a subject of
study for example). Sometimes these names last longer than 30 years even
if the methods aren't that new anymore (computational linguistics) and
sometimes there is no need for a name even if the methods are used
(nothing on "computational archeology" from Google NGram Viewer). I
think what Roger Malina tries to say is that names fade away when they
are no longer needed and the methods will stay if they prove to be
useful, so what?

Best,

Marco

-- 
Marco Petris, Diplom-Informatiker
Universität Hamburg
CATMA
Fakultät für Geisteswissenschaften
c/o Institut für Germanistik
Von-Melle-Park 6, phil 1215
D-20146 Hamburg


--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:12:48 -0500
        From: Hannah Scates Kettler <hannah.scates at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.205 the end of digital humanities?
        In-Reply-To: <20150810070757.9F6396964 at digitalhumanities.org>


I believe the problem faced with Digital Humanities is the assumption that
it is only the incorporation of digital methods to conduct Humanities
research. This definition does contribute to the class problem between the
technician and the academic. To a degree the aforementioned definition is
correct, and if that remained the only distinguishing factor between DH and
H, then it is true that DH would become simply "The Humanities" in the
future. Yet, DH has grown to be much more than that. It is deeper than
visualization projects conducted for an end user and has the flavors of a
separate, burgeoning discipline.

The juxtaposition of DH v just plain H is akin to the different between
History and Anthropology (with the same debatable difference and likeness).
It is macro vs micro.
DH is more about process than product. It's the consideration of
assumptions made to generate an end user experience. It's more reflective
than simple digital methodologies. It's using the digital to speak about
our Humanity.

It's the discussion of the inevitable move to digital interfaces and what
that means in how we understand the world. What research is made available?
What new insights can we glean by using DH methods? What do our choices say
about how we construct arguments in a specific cultural context?
What does the distillation of the Humanities into binaries mean?

It's less about what we can glean by the dominance of pub scenes in the
works of James Joyce for example, and more about what we can glean about
ourselves because we've decided to do that (or not) digitally. The process
of text-mining the works of James Joyce may reveal new insights into the
influence of his life in his writing, but to me, this seems secondary to
the interplay of the writing/works and the digital platform. In my mind,
this is the difference between the *ahem* "true Humanist" and the Digital
Humanist.

Just my two cents.

Best wishes,

Hannah Scates Kettler
University of Iowa



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