DHA2012: Building the field of practice…

The weeks after Digital Humanities Australasia have been productive in that I have had time to reflect upon my practice and thinking within the field. The Digital Humanities is a somewhat ill-defined space in Australia, so it requires specific diplomatic skills and cognitive talent to find productive links in disparate research and teaching practices. And I think that one of the strengths of our conference is that it not only brought together a broad range of people who are new to computing in the humanities (or arrived at it from the related new media fields), but it also brought together many of the key people in the development of the field over the past couple of decades (John Unsworth, Harold Short, Julia Flanders etc.). It is essential to acknowledge the hard work of these innovators and build upon their contributions to the theoretical base and technical achievements of the Digital Humanities. If we don’t, then there is a need to start all over again, and the digital humanities, in its various manifestations, have had numerous false starts in the Australian context.

I think the people who deny that the digital humanities is a field or a professional practice do not want to learn all these technical skills or read all those books.   All knowledge can only advance in a context, and research can only go in a research context. Without positioning digital humanities innovations within a focused literature review or the debates in the field, there is no way to communicate innovations to others. Thus, areas are essential. They bring accountability, context, and rigour to research, allowing it to advance by building on other research. Otherwise, we are trapped in the parochialism of the present; a flat empirical wasteland of seeing is believing or, worse still, believing what you see.



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