Looking back to when I started this course, I was expecting an info dump about methods and a lot of reading on the subject. I was pleasantly surprised and a bit unprepared by the sheer amount of hands-on activities and actual pieces of digital humanities works that we ended up receiving. I believe this course has been a great way for me to learn about how knowledge can be organized, presented and disseminated and I think that is something any scholar, independent of discipline or methodology, can appreciate, and even more, can integrate to their own scholarship. As long as they are willing and able to produce and update content, they can make use of all the tools we have used during this time in class.
And sometimes this willingness can come from several places: Past experiences, generational differences or personal values. There is a inherit stigma towards what the recent generations do that might seem mundane and uncouth, but in the end these are mediums that are in vogue and that when used correctly can be a tool for great good.
And there is when we have to do our biggest push: Willingness. It would be very easy for all academics to stay the course and stick to what “Works” and to simply not care about the elements that a discipline like Digital humanities can give. I firmly believe that in order to innovate we need to take some risks. Some moderation and caution might be good, but in the end, we need to take a step forward and try to innovate how we do things, lest we are left behind in the dust of relevance.
I would like to field a few points that I believe can help express my sentiments towards Digital humanities, and that I hope will also help others entertain and eventually take a step to experiment with hem themselves.
One of the first things we can do with what we learned during this course is how to organize our information. Sometimes, especially when doing qualitative analysis, we end up with tons of information. Sometimes we can simply do a scrap and have copious information of data that sometimes we don’t even know what o do with. Well, with some of the tools we used during this course ( think thigs like https://voyant-tools.org/ and https://senderle.github.io/topic-modeling-tool/documentation/2017/01/06/quickstart.html) we can analyze and extract information with ease, but most importantly we can organize it.
Yes, there is software that might be able to help us to do this, but sometimes we need to have additional help and these tools are made specifically for the use in the humanities without having to deal with extra things that we might not need and to a degree, all of these are open access, free to use for anyone willing to give them a go, this is something I would like to talk about a bit later. But for now we can know that digital humanities gives us a sandbox to play with, something to organize and compare our information in novel ways, enough so we can use our imagination and scholar ingenuity to see things form different perspectives to get to the conclusions we seek, whether we like them or not.
Nowadays the name of the game can be reduced to presentation. How do we make of our work something that both colleagues and general audience would want to consume? Sure, one method would be publishing in high visibility journals, but as I will point out moving forward, I don’t think that is the only way. In fact, I think that method of presenting ourselves is starting to show grey around the temples and to become more and more sluggish. While some pieces of information might be perfectly fine being presented in a sheet of paper, sometimes we need a little more to be understood
However with the help of what we can learn from digital humanities we have a space where we can present our work unbound of the traditional formats and methods. Knowing how to present information is itself a task that needs to be considered in each case. Mapping a narrative, presenting thought bubbles, creating hypertext experiences, all of those are ways that only in digital humanities we can hope to show. And with how technology moves and develops we can expect to see more and more innovation.
And this innovation is not limited to the aesthetics of the production, but to how we can understand it. Just as it is with the way knowledge is organized, so as well our presentation can evolve to illustrate new things in a different way. Instead of merely transcribing words from a source we can have them presented with their own voice (Both metaphorically and literally). The limit to the way we present the knowledge we are collecting, analyzing and transforming is only limited to how far we are willing to go.
Will we use podcasts or video casts? Would we prepare presentations or moving maps, providing layered maps or manipulate word clouds that move as the reader observes. It is all a matter of perspective and ingenuity.
This is perhaps one of the strongest characteristics of digital humanities. Perhaps up to this moment as scholar might not be convinced by new ways to organize and analyze or novel ways to present. But if anything, digital humanities have the knowledge and know how to disseminate and put new knowledge out there.
Now, this might seem like the most elemental of characteristics, and many would argue that they already know how to get their work noticed, but in truth we are usually just referring to get our work presented to peers, but very seldom to multidisciplinary initiative or well informed general public. It is true that sometimes the work we do is aimed at a certain audience, but who is to know that what we do in Communications can’t be helpful to those in History and vice versa? With he help of the digital frontier we can access intricate networks of scholars and interested individuals that are looking for relatable content and ideas.
And these networks are what we need in order to kickstart collaboration and cross experiences. It is unwise to close oneself to the possibility of other perspectives and ideas. In fact, sometimes when our work is seen from those other perspectives is when we get the criticism and commentary that we truly need to make a break trough. Even daring to use different platforms that those usually used to disseminate knowledge can lead to unsuspected outcomes.
Using open access, publishing in podcast sites or simply updating blogs can lead to discussions with peers and private individuals that can help us get that fresh view on things that we need and above all, we can make our voices heard. If we believe a podcast is only made by discussing mundane topics, we are missing on the opportunity to have a rich debate with others. By thinking that having no presence online at all can lead to anonymity. I believe we need to take steps to see beyond the traditional and take that gamble. Some might pay out, but some might lead to a mayor breakthrough, or at least that will be the case until this ideal is wide spread, and then, if we did not hone our skills and considered our own scholarship that includes the digital era and all it can offer it will be us who will need to update and reconsider our ways.