Yes again to the end of the Digital Humanities ! Please !

Colleagues

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My colleague Paul Fishwick wanted to me to elaborate on the ‘end of the digital humanities”. I guess where I am coming from is that as a student in astronomy the  70s  I learned to use photographic plates to take pictures of the sky ( manufacturers of these have now gone out of business). I participated in the transition of astronomy to new ways of recording information about the sky, and was an ‘early adopter”  of electronic detectors ( eg photomultipliers) and first began to use electronic detectors, then helped to develop Charge Collection Devices ( CCDs) and then yes astronomy started using computers in a big way to analyse data ( that happened to be digital- which made it much easier to analyse lots of images that used to be photographically recorded). I participated in the filing patents in  electronicMicroChannel Plate detectors  ( very big pixels !!)( see the patent for the quadrant image sensor http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19770028987  ).

Astronomy went through a brief phase of “digital Astronomy” as a “transitional term” describing an emerging area of technical specialisation in astronomy ( a search search comes up pretty empty- as does google ngrams- digital astronomy has not been used as a term since the internet age -similarly the term ‘space astronomy ‘ peaked in 1989 according to google ngrams-also a transitional term ) . But this term has vanished from the vocabulary and it was clear that the ‘digital’ nature of the information was not conceptually useful but rather that the development enabled new astronomical research agendas facilitated by  easy cross correlation of data sets from different telescopes, coupled to computational and modelling methods ( this was briefly called ‘multi-wavelength’ astronomy, also a transitional term).

 

What has survived is”

The Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems (ADASS) conference is held each year at a different hosting astronomical institution. The conference provides a forum for scientists and programmers concerned with algorithms, software and software systems employed in the acquisition, reduction, analysis, and dissemination of astronomical data.

http://www.adass.org/

or Specialists in Astronomy and Computing

or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy_and_Computing

 

So I guess my thought is that the term ‘digital humanities’ is also a transitional term ( useful to funding agencies to focus on particular emerging practices) but is like digital astronomy not a conceptually or theoretically useful term.

For Instance

What Is Digital Humanities?

http://whatisdigitalhumanities.com/ 

At its core, the Digital Humanities is the use of digital tools to gather, organize, analyze, and present scholarly research in the humanities. Humanists seek to understand the world and cultures in which people live and have lived through a variety of disciplines including literature, English and other modern languages, philosophy, art, art history, and history. While many of the questions humanists seek to answer have not changed, new technology, like text mining, dynamic visualizations, and spatial analysis, provide humanists ways to ask new questions and view old questions differently. 
so why not just call it Humanities Data Analysis Software and Systems in comparison with Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems ?  or Specialists in Humanities and Computing ?
A more sophisticated definition is on the  Stanford Digital Humanities program site
At Stanford we find:
The Digital Humanities are a collection of practices and approaches combining computational methods with humanistic inquiry.
This makes a clear difference between the theoretical issue of ‘digital’ vs other forms of data, and emphasises the method of “computational’  as a research methodology- which indeed enables new kinds of questions that can be asked by combining different ( often large) data sets. And indeed computational methods enable attack of different research questions ) but does not surplant other research methodologies in the Humanities.
 Some of the new kinds of inquiry under way are presented for instance at our annual Leonardo Day on the Arts. Humanities and Complex Networks
( see http://ahcncompanion.info/ ) – organised by Max Schich, Isabel Meirelles and I. Computational methods using the math of complex networks and data that happens to be digital.
Max has set up his research lab at University of Texas at Dallas as the “Cultural Science’ Lab ( http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2013/10/28-27081_Professor-Cultivates-Cultural-Science-in-Arts-and–_story-wide.html ) to emphasise that his work in the Humanities and Art History exploits the new research methods that are now available to attack age old questions in art history.
In my previous post I mentioned that I had just agreed to join the editorial board for a new journal On_Culture: Open Journal for the Study of Culture ( http://malina.diatrope.com/2015/08/05/can-can-culture-be-open-and-the-end-of-the-digital-humanites/ )  being published out of International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) in Giessen Germany , which as announced by the Editor in Chief   Dr Nora Berning will be “specialized in questions about the processual nature of the study of culture”. Interesting ! Careful avoidance on the term ‘digital humanities” and emphasising  ” the processual nature of the study of culture’ which is one level of abstraction above “computing” ! ( side comment: Max Schich commented to me that the term ‘open’ which has gone viral these days will also be a transitional term)
Anyway I predict that 30 years from now the term “digital humanities” will have disappeared from our vocabulary ( as has digital astronomy and space astronomy )  and that the unhappy organisations that have the term “digital humanities” in their name will be busy rebranding.
The exciting thing is or course that the arts and humanities as well as the sciences and engineering are being transformed by the new research methods that are facilitated by the computational sciences in general. ( for the big picture see Peter Denning eg The Great Principles of Computing
In the art and technology field we have witnessed the parade of transitional terms, which mistook the map for the territory as they say, beginning with electronic art, digital art. computer art. interactive art, new media art ( in our program we call it ’emerging media’ whatever that is). The institutions with these terms in their names will be busy rebranding in the coming decades ( Gyorgy Kepes was pretty safe with his Center for Advanced Visual Study at MIT but he lost out to the … Media Lab whatever that is). In a recent blog post I complained about the term ‘artscience’ which it seemed to me is conceptually/theoretically flawed ( http://malina.diatrope.com/2015/07/19/concerning-human-understanding-redux-arguing-against-the-term-artscience/ )
Meawhile the term Digital Humanities is still a battle line with the born digital Humanists coming up for promotion and tenure at their universities. To be really depressed about the process on succession in ‘the academy’ and universities  read Randall Collins

The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sociology-Philosophies-Global-Intellectual/dp/0674001877 

Roger Malina

Not sure this helps

http://www.enago.com/blog/digital-humanities/

Defining “digital humanities”
Arriving at an authoritative definition of Digital Humanities (DH) is particularly difficult when those directly involved in the field have yet to arrive at a consensus of what it means. Some take a cartographic approach, describing it as being “at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities.” Others refer to it as a simple rebranding of the old “humanities computing” field. The most fervent advocates argue that it’s not really ready for definition because we are still exploring the potential of what can be done with the available tools and methodologies.

Read more: http://www.enago.com/blog/digital-humanities/#ixzz3iBPKKckM

2 Comments

  1. Not sure this helps

    http://www.enago.com/blog/digital-humanities/

    Defining “digital humanities”
    Arriving at an authoritative definition of Digital Humanities (DH) is particularly difficult when those directly involved in the field have yet to arrive at a consensus of what it means. Some take a cartographic approach, describing it as being “at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities.” Others refer to it as a simple rebranding of the old “humanities computing” field. The most fervent advocates argue that it’s not really ready for definition because we are still exploring the potential of what can be done with the available tools and methodologies.

    Read more: http://www.enago.com/blog/digital-humanities/#ixzz3iBPKKckM

    roger

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