The Landscape of Digital Humanities

I liked Patrick Svensson’s definition of digital humanities as “a diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods” in the Landscape of Digital Humanities. That being said, I can see where someone just starting to explore digital humanities would be in a muddle, and even turn around and run, after reading this manifesto, The Landscape of Digital Humanities. It was a difficult read, especially compared to the other manifestos used for this class. I felt like there were a lot of ‘yah – buts’, and rather than declaring his intentions, Svensson was more of trying to describe all of various points of view and how they intertwine and conflict, which at times was quite confusing. That may very well be because it is such a fledgling field that not clearly defined. Svensson pointed out divergent views in his summary of the two types of digital humanities. “The very questions that the humanities disciplines ask have changed.” (30)  was stated in his analysis of Stanford University’s proposed Digital Humanities major. In contrast, the King University Centre for Computing in the Humanities recognized that digital humanities “…teaches students to use computing as an instrument to investigate how we know what we know, hence to strengthen and extend our knowledge of the world past and present.” (31). This was written in 2010, and Svensson noted that incorporation and use of digital technology had been slow on the uptake.  Dr. Pignetti pointed out an example in class where professors pursuing tenure have been reluctant to use newer technology. There are a number of reasons for that, including that the people who are reviewing the information like to ‘stick to the old ways’ or may not be familiar with the newer technology.  Svensson also noted that undergraduate students are much more likely to incorporate technology into their programs, partly because they are likely to be more adept at using the newer media, and they understand that it will be necessary as they pursue a careers.  The exploding development of digital humanities programs at colleges and universities around the world, including the PCEM degree and the digital humanities concentration here at UW-Stout exemplify how attitudes and interest are quickly changing.

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