Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Digital Humanities: Decentered Expression and Hierarchical Collapse

Digital humanities is the relationship between humanities and digitality. Patrik Svensson struggles in "The Landscape of Digital Humanities" to pin down a current definition of the field that does not neglect or belittle one or another “type” of DH. What is clear in his article is a variety of complex movements among students, scholars, techies, archivers, writers, etc. to create something collaborative. Perhaps what is most common among them is not one attitude, technique, or approach, but is instead the quality of movement and negotiation between textual and digital expression. Aside from the obvious tension which gives birth to a meaningful artifact, the intertextual, hypertextual, and multivocal qualities inherent to DH effectively destroy the structuralist center, embodying instead the freeplay of poststructuralism. Ladan Modir, Ling C Guan, and Sohaimi Bin Abdul Aziz comment in “Text, Hypertext, and Hyperfiction” on just one of many manifestations of DH, hypertext: “the characteristic of hypertext is said to manifest this kind of decentering experience in the narrative. Without an organizing structure that guides reading direction, readers move from one text to another with each representing a center and a focus of their investigation. In Landow’s (2006) words, ‘One experiences hypertext as an infinitely decenterable and recenterable system.’”  The “reality” of any DH “text” is not fixed, but takes shape in a variety of forms unique to the subject participating in the “text” This non-linear and multi-dimensional quality resembles the philosophies of Post Colonialism and Cultural Studies, which refuse to understand history and culture as a collection of fixed linear and finite moments.

Considering the poststructuralist nature of digital humanities, it is quite laughable that anyone would attempt to define DH as something which is anything other than moving and centerless. As frustrated scholars continue to fight the freeplay of DH while mourning the death of a centered and consequentially conquerable text, DH will only dance further away from their proposed definitions that seek to bind an artistic movement which is anything but bound. Digital humanities will continue to give birth to a movement of subjective creators and consumers free of outdated ranks of authority (made impossible by a centerless system of creation and analysis), especially those which place stubborn scholars at the top.

1 comment:

  1. You are so casual with that last sentence, but I am struck by how much it challenges every facet of the university system, of education in general... Kind of an awesomely subversive way to end your final blog post for the class. :)