Erik

Sorry this is so long, guys.  Thank Derek, Keenan, and Natalie for having inspirational posts and getting my wheels turning.

Mark Bauerlein has called us the dumbest generation.  Does that anger me?  Maybe a little.  Is it a gross generalization, supported by out-of-context statistics?  You bet.  Sure, we only read one chapter (“Screen Time”) from The Dumbest Generation, but it became apparent all too quickly that he was only scratching the surface of this issue.  At first glance, Mr. Bauerlein and other pessimists is right: we probably look like bums, something akin to the lethargic, technology-dependent humans in the movie Wall-E (that’s right – I just referenced a movie).

To look at our present situation a bit more realistically, our supposed idle use of social networking sites, iPods, and Kindles needs to be reexamined by our critics.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that as Digital Natives, we are unconsciously gaining skills every single day that may be utilized in the promotion of Digital Humanities.  So why aren’t we?  “We want them to grow up and to blow us away…but we just don’t see it happening,” says Mr. Bauerlein in this video from the PBS special, Digital Nation.  We’ve read and heard enough statistics to know that he’s not just making this up.  But what exactly are we doing wrong?  I’d like to argue that we haven’t done anything wrong; we’ve simply been misguided.

In their article, “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age,” Davidson and Goldberg have this to say about our current education system: “Only the Catholic Church has been around longer and, like the Catholic Church, universities today bear a striking structural resemblance to what they were in medieval times.” What’s the deal with that? Canon Law 1084 denies certain disabled people the right to marriage and centralized learning is inconsistent and resistant to our internet culture. Everything is wrong with that. There was a time for Egyptian scribes, a time for Carolingian monks, a time for Ben Franklin at the printing press, a time for Kerouac at his typewriter, and likewise, a time for the Digital Native at his laptop.  Our digital world isn’t just another technological advancement — it has changed the way we think and learn.  It isn’t a question — we need a pedagogical shift. And who better to lead the charge than us?

In order for that to happen, Digital Humanities must be taught at the undergraduate level.  If I’ve learned one thing this semester, it’s that we actually do have the power to take control of a flawed system and shape the future.  I’m not big on cliches and I know that’s cutting it close, but we’re the natives here.  We’ve proven ourselves (in this class, at least) capable of being innovative, creative thinkers.  We just need to be given the chance to show that in an environment that promotes it.

I imagine undergraduate Digital Humanities being an interdisciplinary study.  To have its own major at this point in the game is just silly, because nobody knows what they’re getting themselves into.  It could be a minor or concentration, sure, but in what?  Probably in a number of things.  To quote our About page: “In this course we’ll explore some of the new ways humanists are bridging the cultural divide by applying technologically-driven methods within the humanities.”  Rather than fussing over a definition of DH, why not kick back and embrace its multifarious nature?

Because it’s different for everyone.  The science major approaches things differently than the literature major — this diversity is a necessity to the field of Digital Humanities.  I’m thinking back to our group research project.  John and I were interested in Beat Literature and chose that as our starting point.  When we mentioned to Chemistry Kenneth that the Beats were wont to experiment with various drugs, he and Derek took our project somewhere that John and I never could have imagined because we just don’t have that sort of knowledge.  Using a mass spectronomy spectomotron spectrometer to look for traces of drugs of the actual manuscripts?  Blew my mind.  The rest is history.

Granted, we examined some pretty dense material in this course.  Therefore, I wouldn’t throw a blanket requirement over Digital Humanities as either a general education requirement or elective; there’s simply too much covered that requires several different levels of thinking.  Why not, then, split it up into a couple different classes, making the DH basics and concepts the requirements.  It’s an exciting field, there’s no denying that. Breaking the course up would help ease the task of writing an adequate course description (which Schlitz admittedly grappled with).  There are so many interesting current issues and social implications involved in the field of DH, between visualizations of data, the future of print, and Web 2.0, just to name a few.  Perhaps a course in those sorts of things would spark interest in text encoding and the technical world of XML transcription, which I personally found to be quite engaging.

At the beginning of the semester, I was both intrigued and frightened by this course.  As we began to explore all that DH has to offer, however, I found myself stumbling over relevant magazine articles and youtube videos and NPR headlines.  I firmly believe that, given the opportunity, my peers at the undergraduate level could not help but find the field of Digital Humanities to be an engaging one.  The tools are right in front of us every minute of every day.  How can we prove our skills and creativity unless we’re given the chance to? I am by no means an expert, but my first-hand experience tells me that change needs to come quickly.

One Response to Erik

Leave a Reply