- Jun 2017
p. 75 We now believe that the introduction of "Digital Humanities" represents not only an administrative change, but also a change in the way electronic texts were consumed. The increasing use of the web by humanists in the mid 1990s transformed the field, as the Web provided a way of distributing and publishing electronic editions of texts. This may explain why less and <pb n="76">less of our discussion was about hardware and software and more and more was about services.</pb>
p. 70 In only a few years, Digital Humanities seems to have gone from a marginal field trying to gain respect to a favorite of university administrators. Digital humanists now need to define and justify what DH is to people who ask, rather than attempting to convince anyone willing to listen. It is difficult to pin down exactly when this transition happened.
p. 9 Since its inception, Digital Humanities has been committed to communities of practice; community has been in its fabric. Historically, it was a field that included service units that supported computing for humanities departments in universities and brought faculty members, staff members, programmers, and students together to run labs, manage servers, and develop tools.
Rockwell, Geoffrey, and Stéfan Sinclair. 2016. Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities. Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London, England: The MIT Press.
- Jul 2016
One benefit of traditional hermeneutical practices such as close reading is that the trained reader need not install anything, run any software, wrestle with settings, or wait for results. The experienced reader can just enjoy iteratively reading, thinking, and rereading. Similarly the reader of another person's interpretation, if the book being interpreted is at hand, can just pick it up, follow the references, and recapitulate the reading. To be as effective as close reading, analytical methods have to be significantly easier to apply and understand. They have to be like reading, or, better yet, a part of reading. Those invested in the use of digital analytics need to think differently about what is shown and what is hidden: the rhetorical presentation of analytics matters. Further, literary readers of interpretive works want to learn about the interpretation. Much of the literature in journals devoted to humanities computing suffers from being mostly about the computing; it is hard to find scholarship that is addressed to literary scholars and is based in computing practices.
Rockwell and Sinclair on the importance of staying up-to-date on commercial developments in text mining and text-handling:
we are practicing thinking in the humanities while the way people read, the tools of reading, and information privacy and organization are shifting around us. These shifts matter. If we continue to treat textuality as a subject, we need to understand how text can be mined.
Rockwell and Sinclair call for
a new kind of literacy that allows us to continue our pursuits as humanities scholars in the changing world we find ourselves in.
Rockwell and Sinclair note that corporations are mining text including our email; as they say here:
more and more of our private textual correspondence is available for large-scale analysis and interpretation. We need to learn more about these methods to be able to think through the ethical, social, and political consequences. The humanities have traditions of engaging with issues of literacy, and big data should be not an exception. How to analyze interpret, and exploit big data are big problems for the humanities.
Rockwell and Sinclair note that HTML and PDF documents account for 17.8% and 9.2% of (I think) all data on the web while images and movies account for 23.2% and 4.3%.
Rockwell and Sinclair talk here about developing an “agile hermeneutics” by which they mean an approach to fast/extreme writing. An example of this is that they tried to write a short essay in one day from the initial research but they also do things such as working in pairs with one person typing and the others talking things through.
Computer-assisted research in the humanities, by contrast to the Cartesian story and traditional humanities practices, has almost always been collaborative. This is due to the variety of skills needed to implement digital humanities projects. It is also linked to the relationship between the practices of interpretation in the development of the tools of interpretation, be the tools for analyzing text or digital editions. Anyone who has used tools forged by another person is in collaboration, even if one isn't personally influencing the provider of the tools. The need to collaborate, though acknowledged in various ways, has been a professional hindrance, as anyone who submits a curriculum vitae for promotion listing nothing but co-authored papers knows.
Collaboration is not always good. It separates the interpreter/scholar from the designer/programmer who implements the scholarly methods. Willard McCarthy notes that the introduction of software "separated the conception of the problems (domain of the scholar) from the computational means of working them out (baliwick of the programmer) and so came at a significant cost.” As computing is introduced into research, it separates consumption, implementation, and interpretation in ways that can be overcome only through dialogue and collaboration across very different fields. Typically, humanities scholars know little about programming and software engineering, and programmers know little about humanities scholarship. Going it alone is an option only for the few who have time to master both. The rest of us and up depending on others.
… Practices are changing. Older forms of communal inquiry are being remixed into modern research. We have come to recognize how intellectual work is participatory even when it includes moments of solitary meditation. Internet conferencing tools allow us to remediate dialogical practices, collaborative communities such as Wikipedia and Twitter depend on contributions by a large group of users, and the communal research cultures of the arts collective or engineering lab are influencing the humanities. Accessible computing, data availability, and new media opportunities have provoked textual disciplines to think again about our practices and methods as we build digital libraries, process millions of books, and imagine research cyber-infrastructure that can support the next generation of scholars. We have recently begun imagining large-scale humanities-based projects that require a variety of skills for implementation – skills rarely found in a solitary scholar/programmer, let alone in a Cartesian humanist. We find ourselves working in teams, reflecting on how to best organize them and then reflecting on what it means to think through with others. This inevitably turns to methodological reflection that takes new media into account as we try to balance our traditional Cartesian values with the opportunities of open and communal work.
- computer literacy
- agile programming
- close reading
- rockwell and sinclair 2016
- humanities data
- distant reading
- digital humanities
- credit practices
- extreme programming
- big data