The ‘what is’ question?

The ‘what is’ question is a tough one. Researchers get it a lot. And it is probably more prevalent in Australia than any where else because of our excessively modern penchant for simplicity and speed. Australia’s want simple answers quickly and if they aren’t provided, then there must be something wrong with the search engine. This is why it is difficult to describe the Digital Humanities. To understand the Digital Humanities it is important to understand a whole bunch of philosophical traditions; many of which computing sit within; positivism, empiricism, logic, and perhaps utilitarianism. And even Modernism; all of these ideas may take a lifetime to understand and without them the Digital Humanities simply becomes highly skilled work rather than highly skilled scholarship (and the world needs both).

Defining the Digital Humanities is much simpler than defining History or defining Philosophy or defining Modernism. Yet people still ask the annoying question ‘what is the Digital Humanities?’. I am not sure why this is the case; perhaps it is because lack of certainty requires a certain independence of thinking that definitions do not. What is an Australian, what is a man, what is an animal? If we just accept that these things exist and get on with it, then we wouldn’t get bogged down in asking banal questions in the first place.

And getting into a heated argument about the existence of something is as exhausting as it is futile.



2 responses to “The ‘what is’ question?”

  1. jeremy hunsinger Avatar

    bleg on the definitions. It is less important to ask what the definition is… than to ask, who is digital humanities. and it is less important to look at the self-indentifiers than to look at those who the last 50 years have been doing the work across any number of fields.

  2. cbellamy Avatar

    Yes I agree Jeremy. This is my approach as well.

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