Last thoughts on DH


In the first week of this program I compared the work of making digital scholarship to the action of creating a flower arrangement. I said that with arrangements, there is a great deal of grunt work that goes in to making a beautiful finished product, and that grunt work is often unseen. It is the end product that matters and it is for others to enjoy. I think that in many ways this stands true. I have been thinking this week especially about the public facing aspect of the digital humanities. I think that this especially changes it essentially from traditional scholarship. I’ve discussed this before in meetings and sessions, but traditional scholarship is often about allowing the maker to form themselves as a person. A liberal arts education is meant to allow experimentation and failure so that we can grow in knowledge and wisdom. This goes away a bit with digital scholarship. When you have something that must be ready to be viewed by others, you have less room for error, you have less room for experimentation, and you have less room for growth. Now, that being said, when you practice digital scholarship in an undergraduate setting, the chance for failure is a little bit more possible. This was many of our first tries in the digital field. And because of this, the pressure was slightly less to produce something perfect. Therefore, we were able to grow. Maybe not as much as we do with traditional scholarship in terms of ideas, but certainly through learning specific tools.

I think that the essential way in which my idea of digital humanities has changed since the beginning of the program is that I underestimated how much people would appreciate the work that I put into my project. When I compared it to making flower arrangements, I was thinking that people would dismiss the work that went into it because they just wanted to see it as a whole and beautiful. But everyone that I showed it to remarked that it looked like I had put so much work into it. Because everything is there and transparent, people are really able to see how much effort it took to create.

I think that I would also add now that the digital humanities are always about teaching. Because it is public facing, because you have to assume that the people who are viewing your project have never encountered the subject matter before, you must explain everything. You must have a teaching element. If you are more interested in ideas and furthering a particular premise rather than teaching, then having a digital project is probably not something that will work for you.

All in all, the digital humanities is a rejection of traditional scholarship in order to bring information to the public rather than keeping it in academic spheres. It comes in many forms, on many subjects. But it always tries to be revolutionary in this way.

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