Digital Humanities, as suggested by Paul Fyfe, contain aspects of the non-digital, indicating that we may need to focus less on the “digital” aspect and more on the “humanities”: “to heed the ‘wake-up call’ or to recalibrate education in the digital age, we must not only explore unfamiliar technologies but also defamiliarize those we think we already know” (Fyfe 5). Kevin has already suggested that moving from the “digital back to the human expands the possibility for discovering pedagogical methods” (1), an idea closely aligned with Fyfe. The question I would like to pose is: what aspects of Digital Humanities are not actually digital?
To a degree, Digital Humanities contain several aspects of already existing methodologies in literary studies. After all, isn’t Franco Moretti’s “distance reading” really just a variation on techniques used in quantitative history? Don’t maps, charts, and letters appear in most critical and genetic editions of novels already? While Digital Humanities might change the way we work, they seem to be lacking an independent theoretical backbone for why we should necessarily do such things in the first place.
This is not to say that Digital Humanities are not important or new—after all, “the medium is the message” (McLuhan 9). Naturally, shifting to a digital environment changes the way we communicate, the ways we represent, analyze, and understand the information we receive from the screen in front of us. Plus, there are new technological possibilities and an increasing hybridization of research, as Julia Flanders points out: “[digital scholarship proceeds through] hybridizations that challenge our notions of discipline” (qtd. in Fyfe 20). In this light, Digital Humanities are exciting and highly beneficial areas of study; however, several aspects seem to be rooted in the non-digital, or pre-digital, including the theories behind such an approach.
Fyfe, Paul. “Digital Pedagogies Unplugged.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5.3 (2011): 1-20. Print.
McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London: Routledge, 1964. Print.