What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?
By Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
The article “What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum was incredibly insightful. As a reader, it was easy to read because it was so easy to follow. Not knowing much about digital humanities myself, I appreciated the selection of this article as well as it being the first one listed. I felt that the article did a wonderful job of detailing digital humanities and the evolution from its creation to what it is now. I enjoyed the discussion of the name and the idea of “humanities” being more front and center than it was. I also really enjoyed the Wikipedia comment and how that definition essentially nails the term.
One thing I found interesting was the discussion of digital humanities at the 2009 MLA Annual Convention in Philadelphia. The text states, “Amid all the doom and gloom of the 2009 MLA Convention, one field seems to be alive and well: the digital humanities. More than that: Among all the contending subfields, the digital humanities seem like the first ‘next big thing’ in a long time (Kirschenbaum). I was wondering what the “doom and gloom” is in reference too. I was also surprised that it appeared digital humanities was accepted so openly that I wondered about some common issues, which the author brings up later in relation to collaboration amongst teachers and the outdated sensation of privacy in sharing materials.
Digital Humanities also began taking shape with the invention of Twitter. Twitter, which the article humorously mentions is not just for the ADHD population who can’t be bothered to compose more than a handful of words, but was a way to teach effective communication skills, especially using wit in a short amount of characters. At the 2009 MLA convention, 48% of the attendees at the digital Humanities conference were tweeting. Digital humanities is a culture that values connection to wider issues and collaboration amongst individuals. It fosters the idea of sharing resources and ideas, along with building a community. Brian Croxall, Emory PhD was able to publish his paper through blogs and interactive communities, when he was not able to attend a conference. As a teacher myself, I think resources like these, such as Twitter, or so important in our world today. The element of communication is elevated through these resources. I recently attended professional development with Kelly Gallagher, teacher and author of many professional texts, who mentioned kids vested interests with communication with others from different areas and all they can learn from each other.
The second text, “The LIterary, the Humanistic, the Digital: Toward a Research Agenda for Digital Literary Studies” by Julia Flanders, discusses the “crisis in humanities and the intervention that the specifically digital humanities might make in that crisis” (Flanders). The article appears to be an introduction to the large volume of essays composed on digital literacy. While I enjoyed reading the first article, I found this one to be a bit confusing. I felt that I had to keep going back and rereading to clarify what was being said, and even then, I found it difficult to focus. Overall, I found that this article could have gotten the point across more had they used more relatable terms and a simpler way form of expression.
But here’s what I did get from the text: The article suggests that we must recognize digital humanities must engage with change driven by institutional and economic forces. However, it warns about both retreating and opportunistic shifts where the individual is not considered and ends up lost in a web of of the system. What I gleaned from this article, is that through digital humanities we can take students outside of their small hub of learning, and take them outside the classroom.