UNL graduate student Brian Sarnacki has a funny and smart post about the emotional journey into the digital humanities.
What’s so smart about it is that it evokes what is at once exhilarating and bewildering about exploring the field (can we officially call it a field yet?) right now.
Because the discipline (can we call it a discipline yet?) of digital humanities is such a wild mix of contending perspectives (hack vs. yack, spatialization vs. textual analysis, skills-based vs. knowledge-based, for-the-public vs. specialized, and other false or somewhat-false binaries), it inspires precisely the see-sawing of feelings that Brian describes so well.
I would only add to Brian’s notes that we’re talking about more than just career options, though lord knows those are important for graduate students and junior scholars right now. We’re also talking about knowledge itself, about what the digital gets us in relation to long-running avenues of humanistic inquiry into understanding the world (the humanities part) and brand-new ways of pursuing that understanding (the digital part).
In the end, my hope is that the “realist” perspective that Brian ends with is also, imperfectly but powerfully, the most productive one: not some kind of crackpot realism or brittle sense of the field, but rather, as Brian writes, an area of career possibilities and intellectual study that oscillates between “Bum out Optimists” and “Cheer up Pessimists.” Most of all, a field that unites serious, challenging inquiry with both good jobs and the idea that, as Brian puts it, one can “have fun” doing them.