Intro to Digital Humanities, Public History, New Media

Fall 2019

Week 2 - September 5


A DH That Matters

Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein

“We must therefore commit to making a digital humanities that matters beyond itself, one that probes the stakes and impacts of technology across a range of institutions and communities.”

I find myself at a crossroads when it comes to addressing the wider audience of digital humanities in this intensely biased way. While, on a personal level, I wholeheartedly agree with the statements about the current POTUS and our current political climate, I find myself wary to define the broad terms of DH in such a context. By doing so, we alienate those disagree with such criticism, either mildly or majorly. It comes down to our role as digital archivists – while it is impossible to completely objective in our role, by alienating and distancing ourselves from the opposite side, are we not eliminating a part of the conversation, and a part of the history?

This also comes down to the decision of voice – do those who march for white supremacy, who wear the MAGA hat, who fly the black and while USA flag with the blue stripe – do we owe those people a platform? Is it our duty to accept all the voices? When we start off by saying “this is what parts of DH” matter, then deliberately insult and distance ourselves from those we disagree with, are we not saying that the other side does not matter, in the long scope of DH? Is that part of our job? To give a voice to all? Or only those we deem worthy? Gold and Klein say here:

“Digital humanities in the year 2019 might thus be said to be driven by an imperative, both ethical and intellectual, to acknowledge how history, culture, society, and politics overdetermine each and every one of our engagements with our work and the tools that enable it.”

I feel as though, in order to step into this field and be productive and make good and lasting change, we must be aware of how our ethics and our intellectual biases shape our research and work. Whether for better or for worse.

Digital Humanities As/Is a Tactical Term

Matthew Kirschenbaumm

“Neopragmatic relativism” = ??

Gives a good, if overly obtuse, insight into the development of Digital Humanities as an academic endeavor. It would be interesting to explore what is being done with that mountains of data from social media. Can it be mined and used for interesting research and data analysis? Or since the scandals of these social media companies selling off their data have made people wary, is this something that is doomed to the back burner until the furor has died down? Will this data ever be accessible? Should it be? It seems that sites like Facebook and Twitter could do a lot with aggregating public data into helpful and interesting data sets, but they have yet to do so. Will there always be an economic incentive to sell of this kind of data? Or can academic make a case for it and win?

Lessons on Public Humanities from the Civic Sphere

Wendy F. Hsu

Allowing for the public to participate in the design and development of a project from its very beginning demonstrates the principle of building with and not for.

Unlike so many other academic disciplines, I believe DH must exist in the public space. Our goals, from the beginning, must be about the use and understanding of the public. Our works should not end up only on university library shelves, or deep in the digital archives behind pay walls and academic credentials. Our work should be made for the public, and for the public to use and consume. Public here meaning those who would otherwise be unaware of or unable to consume whatever we produce. Whether it is a digital archive, or an app, or any number of things, if our end goal is for it to be used by scholars, than we are not Digital Humanists, and we are not Public Humanists. At a lecture at the Columbia Global Center in Amman, Jordan, Gayatri Spivak argues that:

"The task of the humanities is to teach literature and philosophy in such a way that people will be able to imagine what a socially just world should be.”

The Differences between Digital Humanities and Digital History

Stephen Robertson

“…to [the outside individual] digital humanities is doubly unintelligible, requiring us to persuade them of the credibility and relevance of both the digital and the interdisciplinary.”

I love the idea of envisioning DH as not a tent, but a house in which there are many rooms, each with their own style and furniture. As a relatively young and every evolving discipline, we find ourselves in a position where we have to justify our choice of field; not necessarily to those in academic, or in the field of DH, but to those outside. To those who, even in academia, have never even hear of Digital Humanities, and have no concept of what it could mean. That is part of the hurdle of introducing ourselves to the wider public. Not only are we a valid academic discipline, with well research and outlined documentation as to the professionalism of it, but we also have a significant use to the wider public. “placing them online made them publicly available, but did not expand the scope of their audience” (David Parry)This is an important note that must be analyzed and followed through for every DH project – just because something is made for the public does not mean the public will ever see it. Just new authors and new directors must advertise their work, so must the digital humanist. It is not enough to develop and produce something, we must also make it accessible. And that does not mean just making it easy to understand and view, but also making it as easy for the public to take hold of. The public must also know of its existence, if it is to be of any use. We must advertise ourselves in a way that makes all our hard work pay off. We must deliver the goods to the consumer, until our discipline is established well enough that what work we do and where to find it is general public knowledge. However, this also leads into a discussion of funding. Will digital humanities also be subject to the trappings of academia because that is our only source of money?

Something else this paper touches on is how we, as digital humanists and digital historians, access the wealth of data out there. While the documents may exist, they appear as mere images, with no identifying tags to make them searchable apart from title, and with no meta data or any way to access the data contained within them apart from direct reading.

Week 3 - September 11


Digitizing and Enhancing Description Across Collections to Make African American Materials More Discoverable on Umbra Search African American History

Dorothy Berry

This project overview gives a good overview of what is it like to start a project nearly from scratch, it terms of turning something from the purely physical into the digital. It details the process of making sure to give good descriptive categories and titles to their work they were archiving, so the metadata process would be made more efficient. These titles must also navigate the social atmosphere, being sure not to be overly critical or offensive to a person or groups through overly simplistic language. The project overall brought to the forefront ideas of how to more efficiently digitize an archive, and how to be aware of the limitations of older archives, and how to overcome them to make a more expansive digital one.

Introduction to Metadata

Murtha Baca

Metadata – like DH, and technology at large, is an ever-growing field. It is also an area that in order to be successful requires collaboration from many parties to make a fully effective product. Metadata is vital to the online landscape, and how users can interact with it.

Digitization does not equal access. The mere act of creating digital copies of collection materials does not make those materials findable, understandable, or utilizable to our ever-expanding audience of online users. But digitization combined with the creation of carefully crafted metadata can significantly enhance end-user access—and our users are the primary reason we create digital resources.

Setting the Stage

Anne J. Gilliland

It is interesting to consider the struggle of integrating digital technologies on top of analogue ones. Coming from a relatively verbose digital background, it is not the first thing that comes to mind, that others have a set way of doing things, and that shifting from a tried and true method and trying to force upon then a new one can be disorienting and frustrating. Digital technologies should not be presented as a subversion, or as a way of overtaking something. Digital technologies must frame themselves as improvements upon existing models. They are not proposing to annihilate surefire methods of the past, but expand them and make them more functional.

When it comes it metadata, it seems almost assured that standards must be in place, but it seems there is no universal standard, which can be frustrating for those entering the field for the first time. The fact that metadata can mean so many different people in so many different area shows both its complexity and it’s expanse. Added to this confusion is the fact that metadata is implemented both manually and automatically.

...metadata provides us with the Rosetta stone that will make it possible to decode information objects and their transformation into knowledge in the cultural heritage information systems of the future.