Saturday, April 5, 2008

The State of Digital Humanities

From “Rise of the Digital NEH”:

... some question whether the [NEH] digital initiative should be separate from the overall goal of promoting the humanities. “The definition of scholarly work in the digital realm in the humanities is still in flux ...,” said Tom Elliott, associate director for digital programs at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, which received one of the NEH grants announced last week. “You can argue, and I’ve heard people say, that really there shouldn’t be a separate angle for the digital humanities because ... it ought to be part and parcel.... But I think the prominence it’s getting at the NEH right now is going to help with the normalizing of digital practice across the humanities writ large. From where I sit I think it’s a good thing."

Critical to the development of a “digital ecosystem,” as Adrian Johns, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, put it, is to “help get towards the point where all of these tools become as routine and second nature as word processing is right now. Obviously, you can’t do that in one step.” At the same time, scholars can’t allow new tools to entirely dictate the questions they ask. The discipline still needs to come to a consensus on how to get “across that integration between technology, criticism and method,” he said, not using technology for its own sake but melding it into the work that humanists already do, while at the same time allowing it to suggest new modes of discovery.

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