This semester in the Digital Humanities seminar was an eye-opening experience and one that I will reflect on as I continue to grow and learn more about the digital world and academia. I took this class to satisfy the course requirement for the digital humanities certificate. Coming into the class, I was familiar about digital scholarship because of my own professional background and current doctoral program in rhetoric and writing, with a specialization in digital rhetoric and professional writing. So why need to take this class or even get a certificate in DH? What did I learn?
These are some of the questions I asked myself before the semester and during. But here are a few conclusions I have come to after engaging in the materials for the past 15 weeks.
Digital humanities is not needed in writing studies, specifically those engaging in technical communication or digital rhetoric, but it can benefit your work and scholarship as an interdisciplinary scholar. And If you ever consider doing scholarship that may need a bit more tools than your standard word processor to capture the depth, breadth, visual, and/or complexity of the research you are doing. DH may have a place for you.
One of the major takeaways I have leaving this course is having a better understanding of the many ways to present and conduct research using a variety of tools. I was introduced to various kinds of storymaps and the kinds of projects associated with them. I learned about the importance and complexities of data, and transforming that into different kinds of visualizations. As I think back on these moments however, there are still lingering questions I had. How is digital humanities interdisciplinary in terms of scholarship, and how does that knowledge transfer to those across fields – from science, social sciences, to the humanities?
I still don’t know.
But, what I can recognize is the need and desire disciplines have to do more digital work but are still more traditional in terms of the scholarship they are producing. In writing studies, I am exposed to more diverse forms of scholarship, but even that had to be advocated for at some point, and still is today. When we think about the genre of the dissertation, traditionally it is composed in a written essay format. However, many young scholars are pushing against that, wanting to represent their work in ways that best capture the research they are doing. This may take the shape and form of a documentary, webtext, or multimedia artifact. And rightly so. But how will that be accessed once published? How will it be reviewed to the “dissertation standards”
These are also questions we grappled with during the semester.
It seems the debates continue, even amongst the rise of DH studies. So for me, the question is not so much how will others receive a digital humanities project or even if it counts. It all goes back to your research question and the product that reflects it.
When you consider the research question, it provides a guide on how to best represent your findings. That may be visually – orally- or through some sort of mixed media tool. Digital Humanities creates a space to think expansively on the kinds of ways that can happen.
If you asked me to define digital humanities, I would sum it up as a way to bridge the gap between disciplines in the humanities while providing tools and resources to conduct scholarly work in various platforms. I wouldn’t say the value is AS apparent in fields where digital scholarship is already being produced, but it can be a particularly useful arch to reach across fields and see how best interdisciplinary research can be done. As I continue on in my own work, I plan to use some of the concepts I’ve learned in the class to help me think about how I use the digital. Its more than just throwing a thing on a website, or create an audio recording and publishing it.
Its about process, and all the steps it takes to create a finished piece.