Definitions can be a scary thingPosted: September 6, 2011
Stephen Ramsay, in his speech, attempts to define “digital humanities” as building things. Specifically, he argues that “digital Humanities is about building things…. the discipline includes and should include people who theorize about building…if you are not making anything, you are not… a digital humanist.” He later goes on to claim that having opinions such as these is good for scholarship and more specifically claims that discussions like this allow retention of collaboration and cooperation. I believe that categorization and exclusion of certain types of scholarship from digital humanities defeats the purpose of the idea of digital humanities as explained by Flanders and Unsworth. Specifically, it undermines Flanders and Unsworth’s argument that the digital humanities, in part, exist to promote multi-disciplinary integration. By doing so, the digital humanities are able to integrate vastly different fields of scholarship in order to promote and improve the overall quality of academic scholarship. Although having discussions such as defining digital humanities, as Ramsay does in his speech, does promote thinking and keeps making us think (Flanders’ conclusion about scholarship in general), the specific definition Ramsay uses undermines one of the primary goals of digital humanities. To be fair, Ramsay’s definition does allow for integration of different fields of scholarship, as his definition only specifies that digital humanities as a certain type of scholarship. I believe, however, that having definitions such as these justifies worse exploitation of ‘digital humanities’ as a type of scholarship. Definitions could emerge that completely segregate the digital humanities as a separate form of scholarship, and as a result, those types of definitions would undermine the multi-disciplinary integration that the digital humanities hope to promote. Additionally, this segregation could exacerbate the unease that exists in the status quo. Although Flanders argues that this unease can be a good thing, expanding it to such an extent may be harmful to the digital humanities and more generally to every field of scholarship that exists today.