Johanna Drucker writes:

The challenge is to shift humanistic study from attention to the effects of technology (from readings of social media, games, narrative, personae, digital texts, images, environments), to a humanistically informed theory of the making of technology (a humanistic computing at the level of design, modeling of information architecture, data types, interface, and protocols). To theorize humanities approaches to digital scholarship we need to consider the role of affect, notions of non–self-identicality of all expressions, the force of a constructivist approach to knowledge as knowing, observer dependent, emergent, and process-driven rather than entity-defined.

Here, Drucker calls for theory in addition to the methods employed in the digital humanities. In some ways, this calls attention to the relationship between knowledge and understanding, or what we know and what we experience as process. My own understanding is that we can understand something, and we can know something, but these are distinctively different intellectual actions.

Similar to Drucker, I would contend that knowledge is produced, or it is the product. In the realm of the digital humanities, the graphs and maps and charts produced are knowledge. While the methods may seem to have been borrowed from other disciplines, they can (and have been shown to) be productive and relevant in the humanities. Yet, determining what they mean in a cultural or contextual frame may not be immediately apparent. In other words, they are tangible representations of certain information sets. They have been produced, they are material.But what do they mean?

The intellectual materials of theoretical paradigms push the hard materials toward meaning, or understanding. While knowledge can be shared once produced, understanding is shared through experience. Theory helps shape that experience. What we typically call theoretical “lenses” lend themselves to a particular view finding apparatus. Of course, these apparatus help us understand our way to knowledge. In some ways then, theory is a tool that helps shape the process of understanding. How the method and the theory work together is part of the larger debate about the digital humanities. How might we use the digital humanist methods to bring us toward a new method of interpretation? Is it time to rework our theoretical models to accommodate and supplement our understanding of the new kinds of knowledge that are being constructed through digital humanist work?

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