In sum, there’s a whole lot of new in the Digital Humanities, including what I think is already an extremely sophisticated intellectual move to cut through stale assumptions about old disciplinary boundaries, approaches to evidence, understandings of authorship, and more. The bits and bytes of the critical theory that Gibbs calls for is already happening, in my opinion, on numerous Twitter feeds, countless blogs, and at various conferences and un-conferences.

But even as we find ourselves experiencing the new, it’s just as worthwhile to locate Digital Humanities in relation to the old. For there is a return, a circling back, to pursue if we so choose. DH takes us back—in deeply illuminating ways—to age-old issues in various fields across the arts and sciences.

I have problems with the idea of infrastructure, particularly that of the e-research variety. It seems like we always end up talking about huge amounts of money and multi-institutional partnerships. It just doesn’t seem like a great model for innovation. As I’ve previously argued, I’d like to see something more like the funding schemes offered by the NEH Office for Digital Humanities. Encourage people with ideas, don’t just reward the good networkers. Build tools and apis, not portals and platforms.

Of course I’d still like to see the digital humanities well represented in the list of Virtual Laboratories and eResearch Tools currently under consideration by NeCTAR. It’s time the digital research needs of the humanities were properly recognised.

I want to talk about how the evolution of the forms of delivery and analysis of text inherent in the creation of the online, problematizes and historicises the notion of the book as an object, and as a technology; and in the process problematizes the discipline of history itself as we practise it in the digital present.

First, it has allowed us to begin to escape the intellectual shackles that the book as a form of delivery, imposed upon us.  If we can escape the self-delusion that we are reading ‘books’, the development of the infinite archive, and the creation of a new technology of distribution,  actually allows us to move beyond the linear and episodic structures the book demands, to something different and more complex.

Teaching historical empathy through gaming is an important area in digital media and learning, but collaborations between university professors and game designers aren’t always easy.  Nonetheless, UC San Diego Theater and Dance Professor Emily Roxworthy, who leads a National Endowment for the Humanities funded project about Japanese American  internment camps in the American South during World War II that also used resources from the San Diego Supercomputing Center to bring the action to life, argues that the challenges are well worth the rewards.

My interest in the role and nature of criticism in the Digital Humanities grows out of a question that Alan Liu has asked in a few places this year: Where is the cultural criticism in the digital humanities? Although I’m not convinced that DH needs its own brand of cultural criticism beyond what its constituents would normally do as humanists, the question resonated with me because it made me wonder (with only silence to follow): where is the criticism in the digital humanities?

Editors’ Note:

In the past month scholars have been writing more extensively about the intersections between digital humanities, hacking, and theory. Below are several pieces exploring the place of theory in digital humanities work, each with comments and links to earlier discussions. This conversation also has led to the creation of @THATCampTheory, being planned for 2012.

Natalia Cecire: American Nerds Go to THATCamp, November 3, 2011

  • “But one concern continues to resurface in all of these posts, as well as in the Twitter conversation around my initial post, namely that theory, too, can be a site of power, one that has played all too well with the academic star system in the past, leaving people who now greatly

For me, the lines between digital humanities, libraries, and scholarly communication are so faint as to be insignificant.  And my perception of the equivalences among these entities that often seem siloed to my colleagues presents a real challenge as I try to help people–both at my own institution and at other campuses–think about possible futures for higher education in our digital culture.

The source of my perception lies in my having begun to learn about how digital innovations are changing libraries and publishing as a result of my first forays into digital humanities.

 

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