Archive for March, 2012

Defining “Digital Humanities” 2012

It’s that time of the year again: the Day of the Life of the Digital Humanities or Day of DH. As has been the case since 2009, hundreds of digital humanities practitioners will take to the blogs and Twitter (follow #dayofDH) to talk about what they do throughout a single day’s work. The goals of the project are various, but among them are highlighting the wide array of activities that fall under the banner of DH. It also doesn’t hurt to sometimes remind people who wonder if college professors work hard enough exactly what we do with our time.

When registering to participate, one of the things you will be asked to do is provide a definition of what “digital humanities” means. If you’ve been around this conversation any time at all, you know that this is a great way to start fights. (And trust me, you don’t want Matt Kirschenbaum to crane kick you.) But in true digital-humanist fashion, asking that question is a great way to create a data set as well.

If you’ve previously participated in the Day of DH festivities (Feats of Strengths, included), you don’t actually have to provide a definition this year.

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And while I thought about skipping the definition this year, I decided it would be interesting to compare my definition this year to last year’s. Here’s what I wrote then:

When I’m asked, I like to say that digital humanities is just one method for doing humanistic inquiry.

This year’s definition starts in the same place but explains what I mean by “humanistic inquiry”:

Digital humanities is just one method for conducting humanistic inquiry. Doing research in the humanities often boils down to finding a pattern–in a single text or across several texts–and then providing an interpretation of that pattern. In digital humanities, computation is used to assist in pattern recognition, pulling out patterns that would be difficult for humans to find unassisted. Interpretation of that pattern, however, remains the most important part of the process.

As I taught my undergraduate “Introduction to Digital Humanities,” I found that the emphasis on pattern recognition was the best way to help the students connect their previous work in the humanities to the experiments we ran in that class. I lose points on brevity, but I hope that I’ve picked up enough on clarity to make it worth it. We’ll see how I do in 2013.


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Graphic Novels for 9 Year Olds

My oldest recently turned 9. And with birthdays, it turns out, come gifting opportunities. While there are always some good standbys for him (e.g., LEGO), he’s really been enjoying the Tin Tin collections from our public library. Since it’s been hard to get him to read long narratives—or even listen to them—we have been excited to encourage him. And so I took to Twitter to get recommendations for something age appropriate.

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As I’ve come to expect from the great real-time community of Twitter, I got a lot of suggestions that were new to me. I also got more than a few requests to share all of the suggestions. So here’s a condensed list of everything that was mentioned:

Now, I know that some of these are comics or comic strips rather than graphic novels proper. But since they were suggested, I’m including them just the same. And there were some overwhelming winners on this list. I’ve ordered it roughly with the volumes with got the most mentions toward the top. Without question, Asterix & Obelix, Bone, and Tin Tin got the most votes.

There were also some suggestions for graphic novels that people acknowledged were probably too old for 9 year olds, but here they are for the record:

If you want to see the original tweets that led to this list, as well as who suggested what, check out the Storify I made with all the tweets. Apologies for not citing you all by name in this space, but I want to get this published.

Ultimately, we ended up getting him the first Asterix & Obelix omnibus (which has 3 different stories in it) and Super Dinosaur. Both have been great hits. We were also able to get Owly and almost all the Tin Tin volumes from the library. I’ll be hunting for more soon.

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