Book Review of Matthew K. Golds (2012) Debates in the digital humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Matthew K. Gold (ed.). (2012). Debates in the digital humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816677955.516 pages. USD 34.95.

Matthew K. Gold has brought together several leading figures in Debates in the Digital Humanities in a broad-ranging collection of articles that outline the contested, eclectic, and progressing landscape of computing in the humanities.   At first glance, the book’s premise may seem odd to those new to the field: the very idea that there are high-level academic debates about the construction and application of computing technology within humanities research. However, apart from the distinctive culture of building and coding digital tools, these often heated debates essentially constitute the field of the digital humanities and reveal its growing maturity. Gold’s book is a commendable attempt to delineate the discursive nature of computational tools within societies rather than reconstitute a formulaic, passive and instrumental understanding of computing.

In Gold’s introduction and framing of the book, mainly focusing on North American issues, he overstates the so-called rise of the digital humanities. The field is probably not advancing more quickly than any other field in the humanities, and often, the determinist and overly optimistic lens in which computing is viewed clouds other realities. A sophisticated, contextual and applied understanding of computing is far from the norm in humanities education, and the field is not so much rising but merely broadening to encompass all sorts of computing in education. And unfortunately, much of this is not research or humanities. Patrik Svensson discusses this in his article Beyond the Big Tent where he reflects upon the boundary-making in the community and the highly contested and different modes of engagement with computing in the humanities (link to the full review)



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