As someone relatively new to the digital humanities, I found that the readings that we were assigned for this week offered a solid introduction and plenty of food for thought. Since this is the first actual assignment for the course and also my introduction to many of these topics, I figured that I would provide a more thorough and “academic” review/analysis of the materials than I plan on doing in the future. As selfish as it is, this is definitely just as much for me as it is for you.
A good place to begin would be a book chapter written by Thomas William, entitled “The Promise of the Digital Humanities and the Contested Nature of Digital Scholarship.” In this piece, William addresses exactly how the digital humanities are conceptualized and pursued, highlighting the academic debate regarding whether or not digital humanities even qualify as scholarship. Furthermore, if they do, to what extent do they count as academic work? William (and this humble, yet charming, author) believe that not only do digital projects count as scholarship, they have the potential to revolutionize the traditional disciplines if the two can be cohesively blended. That being said, it may take some time to overcome the entrenched “monograph culture,” as William notes, but the highly flexible nature of the the digital humanities and digital scholarship seemingly ooze with the potential to inform and improve the more traditional disciplines while simultaneously operating outside of their established frameworks.
In a similar vein, Kate Theimer argues that the possibility and opportunity afforded by the digital humanities also challenge our pre-existing conceptualizations of archives, specifically through terminology and context. For Theimer, the very term “archive” traditionally denotes the collection and housing of data by organizations to which that data is meaningful. This is problematized by the use of the term in many digital contexts, where the collections are of published materials selected for inclusion yet divorced from the necessary context of their production and relationship to other data in the same collection. It is this emphasis on context that Theimer deems of paramount importance. Theimer’s argument here is convincing for me and thinking about it brings to mind the double-edged nature of incredible accessibility of information afforded by the digital age, where the sheer availability of data necessitates specific selection of particular aspects of it, often leading to an arbitrariness that robs the data of the context with which Theimer is so concerned.
The Santa Barbara Statement on Collections as Data is strongly promoting the idea posited in its title. It frames this notion as a watershed moment in academia, an opportunity to promote the development and accessibility of digital collections that have, with few exceptions, been overlooked or ignored by cultural heritage institutions. As such, the statement offers ten guiding principles, which emphasize the importance of accessible, broad collections of data that are easy to use and operated ethically. It feels kind of exciting to be taking a course dedicated to ideas like this one at a university known for its digital humanities presence at a time like this! Huzzah!
Continuing on, echoing both Santa Barbara Statement’s emphasis on ethics as an important aspect of digital data collection and William’s understanding of the potential of digital scholarship, Miriam Posner frames the spread of the digital humanities as an opportunity to challenge established conventions on race, gender, lived experience. Additionally, not only do the digital humanities provide a vehicle for challenge, they also provide a means of construction of new conceptualizations of these important facets of scholarship through the new tools the digital humanities provide. I think this raises a really important point: to quote my ever-present moral guide, “with great power must come great responsibility.” It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the issues inherent in the current scholarly paradigm, especially when the opportunity to address them is (literally!) at your fingertips.
After reading these articles, I confess that I find myself a bit adrift with respect to what kind of project to pursue and the means by which to pursue it, so please forgive the vagueness of my initial idea. My interest lies in Japanese war memory and the various ways in which it is constructed and practiced. War memorials often function as sites of memory production based around their own architectural design, the content of their on-site museums, and the rituals performed on their grounds. Accordingly, I would like to pursue some kind of project that utilizes images, video, speeches, and/or other media to illustrate and help outline the competing narrative of which Japanese war memory is constructed, although I am entirely at a loss of how to go about doing so at this point in time. My previous research was focused on the Pacific War and its aftermath, so I am also unsure about revisiting this particular topic or expanding my knowledge base and investigating something similar. Actually, now that I think about it, how memory of the Bakumatsu period was constructed during the Meiji period sounds really interesting…although as the semester progresses, I’m sure that I’ll change my mind at least once.
If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, I sure would appreciate it! Also, thanks to everyone who lasted through my long-windedness and made it here to the end! *applause* Well done and thanks for reading! Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!