Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Digital Humanities?

My opinion about digital humanities is torn between excitement and anxiety. I'm excited because it's offering a variety of new and potentially new digital tools that scholars, artists, students, and researchers are using to expand the way knowledge is gathered, organized, and synthesized. Digital humanities is changing the way students and educators approach experimentation and exploration, leading to wider possibilities for discovery. Digital humanities is only at the beginning of a long journey, but we're already noticing the ways in which it is going to change our lives—iPhones, anyone? It will continue opening doors to our pursuit of knowledge, leading to unforeseeable opportunities. We're living on the precipice of a strange new era!

On the other hand, I'm anxious about digital humanities and postmodernism. Reading the article, "Notes Towards a Deformed Humanities", was just another affirmation that postmodern "creativity" is withdrawing from critical thinking. I'm disenchanted by postmodern art because it is centered around reconstruction rather than construction. I don't understand what anyone, including the artist, gains by reducing a preexisting text into nonsensical language. Artists are scattering literary traditions across a virtual limbo, resulting in a dramatically reduced artistic experience, and using poststructuralism as a poor justification for it. In Sample's article, he says "reading backwards revitalizes a text, revealing its constructedness, its seams, edges, and working parts." I think it's interesting to momentarily process a text in reverse, but I don't understand what this enhances or challenges beyond that point. Art is a tool that inspires growth because it's new and, to a certain extent, accessible.

Yesterday, I was listening to NPR and they were discussing the future of emojis—interesting, right? Apparently, some linguists believe that emojis could eventually be understood universally, meaning "emoji" could be a language! Fred Benenson decided to take emojis to the next level by rewriting Moby Dick in emoji. His book is called Emoji Dick. I think Fred Benenson is very cool for deciding to write a story in emojis, but I'm frustrated that he couldn't create his own story. This, combined with Sample's article, demonstrates the obsession our culture has with recreation. Experimentation is important because it challenges perception, encouraging individuals and cultures to expand their horizons, but experimenting with old material baffles me, especially if it's in a way that diminishes its intellectual eminence.

Ending our class with Digital Humanities has been an eye-opening experience for me and I'm thankful for Critical Theory. I don't appreciate postmodern art, but I still think it's serving a useful purpose: to alleviate the transition from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Information technology is a relatively recent phenomenon that has been rapidly gaining momentum for the past few years. It's moving too fast for people to keep up with it, especially older people. It's easier for artists to use technology as a digital tool to reconstruct preexisting texts because it's a way to contextualize technology—as a way to understand it. When I think about the rapid movement of our modern world, I am amazed that we've adapted to technology at all. Technology will eventually become normal and it will be used in all disciplines of knowledge to produce new and revolutionary ideas that challenge the status quo beyond, "oh, nice, that's cool," but we need to adjust first. We need to place technology into its own sphere, separated from "the good old days." Those days are here and now, continuing to evolve and get better by each and every passing moment.


  1. Loving the subtle idea here that true creativity is linked to originality (which makes sense...creating something new, like a birth, has always been the main concept behind creativity). But you are right to identify the remix as a key method of "creation" in a postmodern world. The idea that originality and newness are fundamental to creativity is actually a relatively recent historical invention, and at various points in culture, this was not really a given like it is (?) today. Remind me to talk to you about 19th c. art museums and copies of great paintings...some ideas that I found really interesting from art history theorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.

  2. It's interesting to me that you credit non-postmodern art with originality... isn't every sentence we write a "remix" of old/not original language? Perhaps remixing the old is beneficial in that if works as a sort of transition tool. In other words, Emoji Dick might be effective because it allows people to understand a new language by correlating it to a single story that is known... The new languages of DH seem far more revolutionary and original (although, of course, not completely) to me than a "new" textual story that makes use of all the old conventions.