Define at your own peril…

Seeking a definition for digital humanities seems much like the search to define other modern academic concepts, such as “postmodernism.”  While we can see multiple iterations of such concepts in our literature, we rarely see critics in total agreement on which works fall into the correct category.  Iterations of the labels that share certain features, such paired terms hold a structure (the addition of a dividing adjective to a concept with a solidified definition) that eradicates any possibility that the academy will ever have a concise, or even book-length, definition that satisfies all interested parties

I for one don’t believe that the Digital Humanities need a grounded definition.  Just as postmodern fiction remains my favorite branch of fiction, primarily because of the way in which its rules (or tendencies rather) are structured.  There are so many rules to choose from, a lot of smart people insisting one thing, and a lot of other smart people insisting the exact opposite.  Dichotomies, binaries, whatever you want to call them: they open up an opportunity of exploration that should be there until everyone that makes up the academic movement is dead.

I would much rather work on an academic goal in the context of loose structure than definitive.  Technology is a tricky thing, but I think there are basic rules within the academy that one can be follow more strictly, rather than harping on a necessity to seek out narrow definitions of DH.  In the article we read by Unsworth, I think he lays some ground rules that are more than fair and I agree with his expectation “that if writing calls itself ‘theory’ than we should expect it to provide us with (dis)provable assertions (Unsworth, 4).” But that doesn’t mean we should expect everyone involved in digital humanities to spend the bulk of their time coding and creating when it might be in everyone’s best interest to have certain dedicated scholars writing a history through the eyes of the luddite surrounded by a commodity culture driven by digital machines.

Whether we call the field “Digital Humanities,” “Humanities Computing” or something else, thanks to the reading, I see that the debates lead to the construction of great tools.  If ruffling through the vast and growing catalogs of DH work continues to throw more wrenches in the hope of coming to a foundational definition, to me such an issue just speak to the continued relevance of DH.

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