DH Theory

I think that the articles in the Theorizing section presented some provocative and interesting ideas. I was particularly struck by Johanna Drucker’s essay, “Humanist Theory and Digital Scholarship.” In this piece Drucker’s sentiments reminded me much of those echoed in Mark Monmonier’s work “How to Lie with Maps.”  Both caution against the open embrace of the digital image, whether it be maps, graphs, or some other type of visualization, as the reification of information and the dangers that arise when “graphics such as Google Maps are taken to be simply a representation of ‘what is,’ as if all critical thought had been precipitously and completely jettisoned.” (86)  I think Drucker is spot on here, as is Monmonier, when they cautions readers to remember that just as statistics are malleable, so too are visual representations and they also include flaws, errors, and inconsistencies, which users and viewers must keep in mind when analyzing or viewing such images.

I also think Drucker speaks to larger point in this article which, over the semester I have come to see as a defining tenant of the Digital Humanities.  As Drucker argues, the Digital Humanities must represent a new phase of scholastic activity, which combines both the critical thought element as well as the incorporation of digital technologies, whether visualizations or statistics.  In the vein of the debate Manovich stirs, Drucker echoes the idea that the data set and the narrative form can’t exist without each other.  True DH work should use critical theory and analytical frameworks to interpret the subject matter, while also using the opportunities presented by new technologies, such as visualizations or Google Maps.  In theory, with the proper analysis accompanying it, an image like a Google Map could present a more informed and dynamic work, not a biased byproduct of some new software,  which to me is the goal of Digital Humanities scholarship.

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