Probing questions in the Digital Humanities?

The ‘Digital Humanities’ is a problematic field partly because is traverses the treacherous chasm between the academic and non-academic. Here is a polemic I wrote on on a forum for the DRHA Conference that starts in Belfast today (and if you ask me nicely, I will give examples).



The essence of the humanities is rational and informed debate. It is about divergent positions of narrative-based authorial argument, both political and interpretative, to understand the human condition. I am very concerned that the field of ‘Digital Humanities’ if this is what DRHA is about, has become separated from the broader concerns and methods of the humanities. I am also worried that the field lacks the academic confidence and conceptual sophistication needed to engage with the complexities of the human condition and has become technocratic, neutral, managerial, and increasingly socially irrelevant.

Where is the passion in the field, where is the esteem, where is the fields sense of social justice, academic merit, and purposeful academic direction? And where is the energy for academic debate focussed upon meaningful and non-trivial, probing questions posed to plum the dark mysteries of humanity? What sort of empirical trivia have we allowed to colonise the humanities through our digital experiments, to usurp the more challenging academic ‘methods’ of synthesis, empathy, and judgement? Where is the conceptual innovation in the field?

I have been to the past DRHA conferences and have generally enjoyed them, but I am increasingly frustrated with ‘technological parochialism’ and the increasing computerisation of what is already know. I wish I was coming this year so I could critically challenge and perhaps applaud some of the assumptions and claims in your work; this is after all our jobs, but I can only manage a few online posts here this year.

Good luck, go hard, and keep engaging with significant questions and if the computer cant help you on this journey, throw it in the Lagen River and get on with it.




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