If you build it, they will come

If you build it [they] will come.  This pop culture phrase from the movie “Field of Dreams” came to mind upon concluding Stephen Ramsey’s article “Who’s in and Who’s out” in which he attempts to define digital humanities.  Although his article was not referring to building a baseball field for ghosts, the notion of building something was key to Ramsey’s definition of digital humanities.  He states that “Digital Humanities is about building things” and “if you are not making anything, you are not….a digital humanist.”  These very strong statements convey that in his eyes, the essence of Digital Humanities is to build something, create and even theorize so that others can make something new.  This notion seems to be at the core of what digital humanities is, a new field that seeks to create and advance the field and in doing so, also lead to the creation and building of work and scholarship in other fields.

Going back to the connection I made to “Field of Dreams,” it does seem that in this case the statement “if you build it, [they] will come” is also applicable.  If these digital humanist build a new technology and device to analyze literature, or build a course familiarizing students with the concepts of digital humanities, more people are being attracted to the field, and thus adding to the digital humanities “team.”  In considering our own class, we too are building something.  We are building a collaborative space, a new learning environment, and a new course. More specifically, we are building this very blog, we will be building other projects throughout the year, such as mapping a character’s movement in a novel and analyzing other digital humanities projects.  So based on this idea, are we then considered to be digital humanists?  Or digital humanists in training?  As the architects of our own experience with digital humanities, it will be interesting to see what we end up building in this course together.

3 Comments on “If you build it, they will come”

  1. Lisa Park says:

    Interesting that this post comes after another that disagrees with Ramsay’s definition. After seeing these two opinions, I’m curious if you considered that perhaps the claim that the difference between DH and traditional humanities is building is too narrow? Or is the difference really just that DH creates, while traditional humanities studies, analyzes, etc.?

  2. Chelsea Edwards says:

    Although all I had stuck in my head during Ramsay’ article was Heidi Klum saying “Who’s in and who’s out?” on project runway– I like your Field of Dreams reference as well. I do appreciate your idea of building a project for DHers to collaborate on. I believe this ties in well to Ramsay’s article because it would attract his examples of people to theorize, design, supervise, and rebuild. However, would these people that come to our field we’re building all be included in DH based on Ramsay’s definition?
    Ramsay also makes a point to say a blog is not Digital Humanities. So how is our blog different than the classicist’s blog that Ramsay won’t include in DH? I wonder how Ramsay would feel about the way we are “engaged in the methodologization of the humanities” in our class?

  3. Brian Croxall says:

    Chelsea raises good questions about the extent to which our blogging can or cannot be considered DH. I think we could consider it as such if we were sticking to Forster’s definitions. But I don’t know if Ramsay would agree here.

    That being said, I’m pleased to see that Reina feels that we are building something here, and she’s right that we will definitely be doing this with some of the assignments that we’re going to tackle by the end of the semester. I don’t know if Ramsay would consider “theorizing” to be building, but maybe we’ll get a chance to ask him.