Emily Arcuri

I admit, in class on Friday, I was starting to wonder if maybe we were all digital humanists. I was beginning to think that blogging was a form of digital humanities because after all, blogging is a form of communication. Once I read Schreibman and Siemens’ Introduction to Digital Humanities, though, my opinion changed. In their introduction, they claim digital humanities is the act of using information technology to illuminate written artifacts, while incorporating newfound understandings of these written artifacts into the development of and use of information technology. This definition of digital humanities was very valuable to my understanding of the field because it helped me realize that digital humanities is about finding new models and new ways of understanding written documents. Shreibman and Siemens also stated that digital humanities goes beyond simply preserving the written artifacts on the web; it also analyzes the artifact to find traits that were not noticeable in the native form. I strongly agree with Schreibman and Siemens’ definition of digital humanities. I have come to the conclusion that even though blogging is a way to communicate and share ideas, publically, it should not be categorized as digital humanities unless it is a research tool. Therefore, I must disagree with Lincoln Mullen’s idea that we are all digital humanists. He makes several good points, such as the claim that we are all being transformed by technology. I agree with this, but I don’t necessarily think this makes us digital humanists. His discussion of the spectrum is also a very strong argument, but once again, he seems to be saying we are all digital humanists, just on different levels. I disagree with the idea of a spectrum because like Unsworth writes, using the computer does not mean you are a digital humanist.

I furthered my understanding of Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth’s argument at the World of Dante website. The editorial page shows the reasoning behind the idea for the website. First, the editors aimed to appeal to all readers, not only scholars. Then, they edited all of Dante’s poems with XML, presenting a new way of looking at Dante’s works. I think this website is a true work of digital humanities because it provides a new model and a new way of understanding Dante’s poems. The editors did not simply copy and paste Dante’s poems into a website. They communicated a new model with the entire world, which allows their website to be used as a research tool. I believe this is what digital humanities is about.

Therefore, my definition of digital humanities has been strongly affected by these scholars’ articles. I still believe the appropriate word that embodies DH is communication. I believe a digital humanist strives to share their research with the world because they want others to benefit from their research models. In essence, this is communication. It is not the type of communication many of us seem to relate to, though. Communicating through Facebook and blogs are excellent uses of technology, but this type of communication is not what digital humanities is about. Digital humanities is about not only circulating pieces of literature, or copies of novels on the web, but finding new ways to research, understand, and model these documents on the web. This idea stems from Unsworth’s idea that we must distinguish the tool from the application. Is what I am doing now considered digital humanities or is it simply the act of using the computer to share my ideas with the class? It is tough to distinguish the difference between these two ideas, but once we understand that digital humanities goes beyond simply typing up our ideas on the computer, we will truly grasp this complicated field.

I still believe in the importance of using actual text, and writing with pen and paper. I think it is equally as important to communicate without technology. According to Julia Flanders, digital humanities is about noticing and reflecting on how technology has affected the humanities. It is understanding how the two (technology and humanities) go hand and hand. It is understanding the importance of developing technological skills to enhance your understanding of the humanities. What she is saying is entirely true. We can come up with great new research models but if we are not able to use technology to create and enhance them, what is the use of the research? How will readers see and understand the research without technology? Digital humanities is pushing us to learn and improve our use of technology so we can communicate in both the digital world and the real world. We may already have understandings of humanities from what we’ve read in text, or from what we’ve written down, but technology can enhance our understandings even more, and it can help us create greater, newer ideas.

I think that by embracing digital humanities, but continuing to value the use of non-digital tools, like books, we become well-informed individuals. Digital humanities is offering us a whole new network of information and communication, and I think it is important for us to use this network. Because of digital humanities, we can create research tools, ontological documents, and new understandings of the humanities. This exciting new field is so important because it allows scholarly intellect to be communicated into a public setting. I think everyone can benefit from digital humanities, and if we are informed and able to communicate in both the digital and written worlds, I believe it will be extremely valuable for jobs, learning, and personal interest in the humanities.

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