At their core, all of the class readings this week seem to (either explicitly or implicitly) beg the question: What is Digital Humanities?

From which follows further questions:

  • How much of digital humanities is practice or (T)theory or a combination of the two?
  • Who gets to sit at the digital humanities table? Hackers? Yackers? Hackers who yack? Yackers who hack? Individuals who may not align themselves with the nomenclature, hacker or yacker?
  • Who decides who gets to sit? Those inside the academy? Those outside the academy?
  • Which types of “Theory” (literary, critical – the academic canon) or “theory” (1) generated from a rigorous investigation of one’s practice (2) embedded in a material object that serves to critique or is itself a critique of some phenomenon, should be employed or considered? And why?

Regarding hacking and yacking, in A Companion to Digital Humanities, Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth state that digital humanities uses “information technology to illuminate  the human record, and bringing an understanding of the human record to bear on the development and use of information technology.”  Hence hacking – the ‘doing’ i.e., the making of something such as a database or archive (which can also involve reflective writing about the process of ‘the doing’ in order to illuminate what was learned and which could also be useful to others) is as important as (T)theory – yacking.

Regarding the conversations in many of the articles about the tensions between the ways “Theory” and “theory” are used (or not) in digital humanities: could these tensions be considered paths to new possibilities of engagement for the digital humanities?

Moya Z. Bailey asks a question I too have been pondering: What counts as a digital humanities project?  She offers several examples of people engaged in digital humanities work within academia (but not in the digital humanities sector) and outside of academia whose socially and critically engaged projects fall outside of “mainstream digital humanities.” Which brings me back to my question – who gets to sit at the digital humanities table, and who decides this? Bailey offers propitious advice: “In re-imagining what counts as digital humanities, we can draw on the wisdom of scholars who have addressed related issues in their own fields of study.” And, “Work that is already aligned with the digital humanities and perhaps even pushing the field in new directions should be celebrated and sought out.”

Concurrently, Alexis Lothian, a founding member of the #transformDH collective (a collective engaged in writing and digital humanities projects that critique the status quo – culturally, socially, politically) is thinking along the same lines: “What conversations, art forms, databases, and archives might do the work of a transformative digital humanities, though they lack institutional status to be named as such?”

This seems like a good place to end this blog, and more importantly, start new conversations about What is Digital Humanities?

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