Jones: What Might Redesigning the Tools of DH Look like?

After this weeks readings, I’m interested in the idea of creating specific tools for DH. I’m interested in both Ramsay’s  and Svensson’s focus on building an infrastructure or tools for DH that would be “based on core and central needs of the humanities”.[1] I believe that the needs for DH resources are currently being met by scholars who provide access to pre-existing resources, and these resources are often called “DH Toolkits.” From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that these resources are often defined in a list in order to be fitted to a model or project. This seems different from what Ramsay meant when he implied that he wanted a “new blast pattern”. Perhaps Svensson and Ramsay did not require the building of a wholly new set of tools, but I wonder how the tools or infrastructure would be created.  Can entirely new tools be redesigned or built specifically for DH? Or will the existing tools be continually adapted for laboratory work? Are these tool kits the solution or is creating new programming languages for building truly the notion?

Perhaps redesigning a new set of tools is too great a task, but this could potentially reshape the way that DH is viewed internally and externally. The focus of building appears instead for some DH labs to resides in projects that use tools like XML, Google or other industry tool and then providing a list of what’s already out there. Perhaps the new infrastructure could include outlining methodologies for using or finding the tools of DH work, and then how to adapt them. For some of the labs that I’ve looked into this week, (trying to find if there are any particularly “new” DH tools), the  “DH Toolkits” act as long introductory lists of different resources.  The University of North Carolina’s cdhi, or Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, offers such a detailed list of tools for DHers, along with other colleges and universities.

If there are so many tools available, why does Ramsay ask, “Should we redesign our own tools, metadata protocols, archive frameworks, languages, and ‘content management systems”? [2] What is specifically wrong with the tools available? What  are the constraints of current resources? While blogs and their temporality and the way that they privileging recent work was mentioned, what else is going wrong? Also, what’s holding current scholars back from “the new?” If Ramsay will not be writing a book, a blog, a manifesto, then what will the “new blast pattern” be? I’m not trying to be entirely critical, but I’m interested in the possibilities. How could scholars overcome limitations of time, ability, and funding to make new DH tools? When trying to formulate for myself what this may look like, I tried to again think of the values of DH work, but on a smaller more technical level. Is permanence valued in the humanities? Or is it the movement “from critical sensibility to creative[3]” that Svensson mentions?

I tried to use Kirschenbaum’s article to think about some of these issues. I think that Kirschenbaum’s call to critique the work may offer the insights into outlining what humanities based needs may be when figuring out how to build “the new”. Kirschenbaum mentions in his article, “that ‘digital humanities’ is in fact a diversified set of practices, one who details and methodologies responsible critique has a responsivity to understand and engage.”[4] This lends a material, historicist, multicultural, and formalist (among other perspectives) view to understanding DH work. The humanities then appear to be interested in exploring many avenues, so the “new tools” must be able to capture or encapsulate this varied world of social, historical, and cultural exploration. This would necessarily need to include the creative along with the quantitative, but if not a blog, then what? Would this be virtual reality reconstructions of theories? Would this be a lab hosted domain where blogs, representational data (charts, graphs, and more), along with archives and queries be accessible to all? Would it include 24/7 feeds and open “sand boxes” where the new languages could be used to develop new projects? Would this be similar to Earhart’s explorations of labs that “emphasize a laboratory model as one that privileges traditional humanistic inquiry through material and spatial construction?”[5] Once built, would scholars use Kirschenbaum’s theories about how to read DH work: “Let us read citation networks and publication venues. Let us examine the usage patterns around particular tools” and “reading the working involves reading the tools”?[6] If the tools were to be redefined and redesigned, a new reading may need to be developed so that it could read the methods and tools of DH work. This seems like such an exciting notion to put forward, but now I wonder how it’s to be accomplished and will humanities scholars be at the forefront of this development?

Bibliography

Earhart, Amy E. 2015. ““The Digital Humanities As a Laboratory.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by David Theo Goldberg, Patrik Svensson, 391-400. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accessed September 26, 2015. https://dhtoph.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/earhartdhaslaboratory.pdf.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?” differences 1-17. Accessed September 25, 2015. https://dhtoph.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/dhterriblethingskirschenbaum.pdf.

Ramsay, Stephen. 2013. Why I’m In It. Accessed September 25, 2015. http://stephenramsay.us/2013/09/12/why_im_in_it/.

Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Patrick Svensson and David Theo Goldberg, 337-353. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accessed September 26, 2015. https://dhtoph.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/svenssonhumanistiscope.pdf.

 

Notes

[1] Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Patrick Svensson and David Theo Goldberg, 337-353, 337.

[2] Ramsay, Stephen. 2013. Why I’m In It. Accessed September 25, 2015. http://stephenramsay.us/2013/09/12/why_im_in_it/

[3] Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure”, 337

[4] Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?” differences 1-17. Accessed September 25, 2015. https://dhtoph.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/dhterriblethingskirschenbaum.pdf., 14

[5] Earhart, Amy E. 2015. ““The Digital Humanities As a Laboratory.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by David Theo Goldberg, Patrik Svensson, 391-400. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 395

[6] Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?”, 14 & 16.

Advertisements

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: