I felt a small strain of scepticism about this concept, digital humanities, when I heard about it about a year ago. During these three quite intensive days last week we took it up for discussion now and then, is it really something new, is it a sort of trend that´ll pass or what is it? My idea with this first post is to try to sketch my own view of this problem.
I do realize from where this intially conservative strand comes from. During the first undergrad years at Umeå University you get lectured by historians who still remember a time when typewriters were used. Nothing strange with that of course, time flows like it should. But seeing things change, they tend to get defensive and sceptical which in someways trickle down to the new students. Thinking about my own position I can see that I can understand some parts of their turtleing conservatism, and agree with it, whilst in my daily work, I use all these criticized digital modern modes of workflow and has been doing so since I started studying. The borders of extreme digitalization of the historical field lies much farther away for me than for them.
So it seems that depending on your age and interests outside of the scholar related work, your view of what digital humanties is and should be seems to change. To use different software tools to help you in your workflow, or to read a digitalized source, or even to use webbased vizualizations is not in my opinion to ‘go digital.’ Thats just being effective or pedagogical, using optimized accessible tools. Whatever these tools might be, classic lectures or history computergames. Explaining troop movement, provision lines and such during Second World War probably gains tremendously from digital representations in different forms, but trying to understand Slavoj Zizek’s argument about capitalism’s inherent Zen Buddhistic spiritualism through a digital map would probably be less time effective and a lot more shallow in result.
Perhaps using analysing methods like textometrica as Simon Lindgren lies closer to some sort of digital ontological standpoint? But I cant help but to feel that it all kind of serves the same purpose in the end. Even his extremly computer dependant analysis involves considerable amounts of ‘manual’ work be it analog or digital in its form. The analytical skills lying behind his choice of concepts, sources and et cetera i would say, is no different from ‘analog’ scholarship (if such a thing even exists today). Impressive nonetheless.
The logic of computers in any form will allways restric some analysises and enable others. The schism between the qualitative and the quantitative is still there, stickin out its head from time to time.
Not sure if this argument is in anyway clear or finished, but I guess this form of posting allows me to pick up the thread in my next post…