My session is on making sure the digital is humanistic, and a tension I’ve seen running between a couple lines of argument in DH literature.
Humanists have long recognized that our needs are rarely met by tools imported from natural or social sciences. Echoing this longstanding objection, Johanna Drucker argued last year that humanists require fully humanistic representations that glory in ambiguity, in information as taken and interpreted, not given, and that the most common uses of software built for representing data, whether it is spatial or tabular, rarely meets this goal.
Yet digital humanists have also been attuned to the ways that new technologies, tools not originally built for humanistic ends, can lead to intellectual breakthroughs. Databases are their own genres to be read. GIS brings to the eye patterns unidentifiable without visualization. These and other technologies yield new interpretations of the phenomena they represent by breaking them into discrete events and units that might be measured, analyzed, seen.
I would like to see a session that deals with the seeming tension in these two lines of argument: one, that new technologies yield intellectual breakthroughs and contribute to new humanistic knowledge precisely because of their ability to cast information in different light; the other, that these new technologies often fail to bring any insight identifiable as specifically humanistic. So let’s talk about specific technologies and how they might bring new insight because they lead to new digital and humanistic readings.
Oh, and I also really want to attend Eric’s session.