Building versus Using

Here is a timely take on our building versus using conversation from one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter Lee Bessette (@collegereadywriting) who now writes for Inside Higher Ed :

Lee Bessette writes “One particular incident really got me thinking however about another digital divide that exists in the humanities – between those who seek to simply learn to use tools versus those who want to hack or even create tools in order to both accomplish their research goals, as well as critically interrogate the tool itself. This clearly excludes those who flee/fear the tools, only grudgingly learning the bare necessities in order to remain productive. But for this post, I am more interested in the programs and professors who have embraced some tools, but are still doing so in a utilitarian and somewhat uncritical way.”

I think Bessette highlights a very important point; as scholars should be critical of the tools we use, but we should also teach our students to be critical of how and why certain technology is available on campus while access is blocked to other tools/methods/applications. Bessestte claims “One of the reasons DH has been so attractive to me is because even if I can [not] “hack” it yet (haha), I was drawn to the ability and ethos of collaboration between humanists and programmers (sometimes one and the same) to create interfaces and software that give us environments that critically engage with and produce what we want, rather than limit ourselves to what we’re told we can do.” This comes back to one of the tenants of Digital Humanities, as defined by Kirshenbaum, Gold, Hockney and others – collaboration. If you can’t hack, learn enough to communicate with those who can so you can build together.

I think this philosophy is best articulated and lived by another of my favorite Tweeters Julie Meloni (@jcmeloni) who blogs about it here: Perhaps we can discuss this more in future classes, or here in the comments during our week without f2f class time….



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