A few themes I discerned from our first meeting. This is quickly written and meant to inspire corrections, negations, queries, wonderments, questions. Please add your own perspective, perceptions, affirmations, theories, frustrations, curiosities, concerns:
DH, D vs. H, D & H, DH as R&D
The question is not only what does the digital offer the humanities, but also what can the humanities offer the digital? Both questions are important, and the dialectic between them might be especially productive.
DH and Research
How does DH help us to frame old questions in new ways? How might it help to develop new questions? Can definitions of DH constrain? Can more constrained definitions of the emerging field be helpful at times? How might each of us in our work (as scholars, teachers, technology folk, librarians) dive into the the “transductive plasma of interpretation” that Rafael Alvarado describes in his essay on Debates in the Digital Humanities?
DH and Scale
DH seems to increase awareness of scale—of the oscillation, often rapid, between difference amounts of evidence or information. Does it have something to offer humanities scholars in this movement between the small (zooming in on the hi-res detail of a famous painting) and the large (a huge text corpus or dataset)?
DH and Speed
DH similarly seems to pose the possibility of both speeding up humanities research/teaching and also, more surprisingly, slowing it down. You can search across vast pools of data or text or information quickly. You can also use the digital to slow down concentration on particular evidence, arguments, phenomena, methodologies, practices. Once again the key modality to explore may well be the oscillation between different speeds of research/teaching.
DH as Episteme
How does DH relate to the current historical moment? Is it a weird instantiation in the academic world of new managerial practices and structural phenomena? Are we experiencing the transformation of knowledge into “information” so that the urge is not to understand so much as to “do something” with what we are studying? Is modularity replacing the specificity, friction, resistance of humanities theory and critique? Is there a rapprochement between poststructural critique and larger systems of which we are part (Lane Relyea’s fascinating observation)? Is there a growing emphasis on large-scale and small-scale levels of knowledge and interaction but a loss of the middle-ground between the macro and the micro? Is DH a kind of shadow world of larger structural and cultural systems? Does this mean that it is an ominous development or something that takes or even subverts the dominant ideas and practices of our era in potentially new directions?
DH and Democracy
Two very different (or perhaps not?) questions of inclusivity and exclusivity arose. First, in what ways do the digital humanities pose new linkages between specialized scholarly work and broader public outreach? Second, are the digital humanities an intervention, either explicitly or implicitly, in the existing hierarchies of the academy itself? The first question is about the kind of work going on with a group such as Imagining America or the Public Humanities in a Digital World initiative at University of Iowa (two of many examples in the US context alone). The second is far more fraught, particularly for graduate students and junior scholars, in that the modes of exploring scholarly questions through the digital humanities (cooperative rather than solo, through new modes of communication and publication, in new forms and formats) potentially reshape the ways in which individual distinction leads to prominence or even just a foothold or halfway decent position in a humanities discipline. How many risks does a young, aspiring scholar in the humanities want to take? What kinds of structural changes in the academy (tenure and promotion questions being the most fraught and pressing) would preserve the best aspects of vetting while allowing scholars to take more of these kinds of risks? Is it possible to picture a humanities landscape in which the current superstar system is replaced by something more democratic and egalitarian? Could the digital help in this project?
DH and Print Culture/Embodied Culture
We tend to start out by thinking of the digital as opposed to the book and print culture, as well as to face-to-face culture of the traditional classroom, but might we actually be able to find ways that the digital weaves through (streams through?) the material in transformative and productive ways? The digital not as a rupture from prior technologies, practices, and modes of scholarship/teaching/life but rather as a continuation? If so, how? In what ways? To what ends?
DH and Pedagogy
What should DH in the classroom look like? Coursera? New kinds of interactions between face-to-face and online teaching? Should it be more efficient and cheaper or more complex and expensive?
What else? What did I miss?