Jones Post 3: Thinking About Values and Technology

Debates on Digital Humanities offers varying theories on the discourses taking place about DH. A few of those discussions were particularly interesting: creating a set of values to unify the DH community, and using technology to create and build. I feel that these two issues converge on the subject: what is the responsibility of digital humanities? Or, what should we expect from DH? I think this is a point of convergence because although DH is trying to define itself, DH is tied to technology and technology is evolving rapidly. From the readings it appears that many scholars are still not entirely sure what DH or technology is fully capable of and that question may never fully be answered as technology continues to change. During this constant state of transition, DH should be subject to critical critiques and attempts to define it, but DH may be a field that should be allowed to exist in some state of uncertainty and experimentation.

I thought that the blog post “Where’s the Beef?” articulates this issue well, but does not entirely acknowledge that technology is not static.[1] Scholars should be allowed time to understand their tools, but with computing, this may never be fully possible. There’s always a new language or innovation. Although DH is scrutinized and questioned on its ability and scope, the changing landscape of technology appears to create misunderstanding and anxieties that splinter the DH community.[2] Spiro appears to offer a type of salve by realizing that technology is often an abstraction in flux, and that the field may instead require the drawing of values and goals. Technology’s changing presence has plagued the Luddites and even scholars now, it constantly creates “growing pains.”[3] We’ve discussed the binary of technology as tool or object, but this is a temporal designation. As technology expands and improves, technology may do more that is unknown now. Spiro’s focus on values then becomes essential as any field on the edge of development involving technology will continually transform into newer forms.

Having flexible values and aims in humanities and computing  leaves space for using nascent methods of research. This construction of values may offer the ability to unify the community, but may also allow space for expansion into bold new opportunities.  What more is coming down the line? Technology is capable of more operations since humanities computing’s beginnings. This means that scholars in DH should remain flexible while always remembering those values delineated by Spiro “Openness”, “collaboration”, “collegiality”, “connectedness” “diversity’ and “experimentation”.[4] This would also allow for the time to “articulate” the tools.[5]

I mention this need for time and Scheinfledt’s post because it reminded me of my interview with Professor Radcliffe from the CATH lab.  In the interview, Radcliffe mentioned that before the labs were discussing theory, they were practicing technolog0y by building and creating. It was experimentation that created a field to question and observe. The theories then started to follow the work. Perhaps in the value of “openness” DH scholars should be allowed the flexibility to see what technology is capable of, publish theories and findings and that work can then be evaluated and critiqued. From here scholars will inevitably return to the drawing board to reinvigorate the humanities, but this is a process over time.  This practice acknowledges the way that the future is unknown and could also encourage further research to explode the field open again and again, allowing the humanities to be a field that can be renewed or transformed, while adhering to the values and goals of the humanities.

The values of DH should then be open to critiques. This theoretical process can help to try and prevent hierarchies from developing. In the article by Johanna Drucker, she quotes another scholar, Berry: “If code and software are to become objects of research for the humanities and social sciences, including philosophy, we will need to grasp both the ontic and ontological dimensions of computer code.”[6] I believe this could be taken even further, as Drucker suggests. While flexibility should be given to experimentation, the theories of experimentation or the language of technology should always be subject to social, cultural, gender, racial, (and more) critiques. Is there a hierarchy to technology and DH? If so, how can this be constructed to allow for Spiro’s “diversity?” These questions will always be relevant, even as scholars are trying to find ways to “articulate” the phenomena of technology.

Bibliography

Alvarado, Rafael C. 2012. “The Digital Humanities Situation.” In Debates In the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Drucker, Johanna. 2012. “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.” In Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Ramsay, Stephen and Rockwell Geoffrey. “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities. In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold, 16-35. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Scheinfledt, Tom. 2012. “Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?” In Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Spiro, Lisa. 2012. “”This is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold, 16-35. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015.

 

Notes

[1] Scheinfledt, Tom. 2012. “Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?” In Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015

[2] Spiro, Lisa. 2012. “”This is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold, 16-35. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015, 16.

[3] Alvarado, Rafael C. 2012. “The Digital Humanities Situation.” In Debates In the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015, 51.

[4] Spiro, Lisa. “This is Why We Fight”, 24-28

[5] Scheinfledt, Tom. 2012. “Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?” In Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015, 56.

[6] Drucker, Johanna. 2012. “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.” In Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold. The University of Minnesota Press. Accessed September 20, 2015, 100.

 

Advertisements

One thought on “Jones Post 3: Thinking About Values and Technology

  1. georgie a says:

    I really like your claim that “DH may be a field that should be allowed to exist in some state of uncertainty and experimentation,” especially taking into account the rapidly advancing nature of digital technologies. I’m absolutely for the fluidity and possibility that the non-defined ‘field’ of DH opens up, and I found some of Jeff McClurken’s lecture relevant on this point. He discusses the way that the UMW Department of History envisages its students as graduating with a sense of digital literacy. This includes exposure to some of the complex new approaches to the digital consumption and production of knowledge, but (more importantly) the Department would like a student’s tertiary experience to result in a willingness to feel “comfortable at being uncomfortable” when faced with new digital challenges and tools, and happy to tinker about and experiment in order to learn how to create or read a new system of information. In this manner, students will be able adapt to and figure out new technologies on the go. Which will no doubt become an increasingly essential attribute for both the personal and career spheres!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: