Academic Digital

[NOTES] re @MelissaTerras Inaugural Lecture #DigitalHumanities

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My notes in preparation for CODEC ‘Book Club’ session on Melissa Terras – Inaugural Video

  • 2004: 1st used term ‘digital humanities’ (see Susan Schreibman)
  • Can people define it? Very few, especially team… rather a ‘woolly term’.
  • Humanities = academic disciplines = ‘understand and interpret the human experience , from individuals, to entire cultures, engaging in the discovery, preservation, and communication of the past and present record, to enable a deeper understanding of present day society.
  • So ‘digital humanities’ – must be the use of computers to help us do that.
    • Can ‘count things’, especially words *Corpus Linguistics
    • See trends across a discipline – quite often app re e.g. visualisation of text/social media – a continuation of processes that have occurred in the past.
    • Image processes – damaged/deteriorated/burnt (3D visualisation to ‘straighten out’) – Science Museum shipping gallery has been visualised as a whole.
    • Not developing for developments sake – but usefulness for ourselves/rest of society – build, test, roll-out & then see how that is used (often using volunteers). QRator – engaging with difficult ethical questions about zoology using social media.
    • No core subject, no core technology …
  • What happened in 2004 to emerge? First quantifiable techniques in humanities scholarship? No, book = a technology = people ‘under the hood’ to see what works.  Lots of quantifiable methods for centuries… All examples she gives, are available digitally on UCL sites. Manipulating data is as old as the humanities themselves… can just count things a bit faster
  • First time computing used? No – see e.g. Ada Lovelace – computers as extensions of human power, esp re arts/culture… 1950s/70s – always a humanities scholar around saying ‘I can use that in my research.’
    • Roy Wisbey – 1960s – Cambridge – Linguistics & Computer
    • 1977 – Experimental & Computing Dept, UCL, new artworks *Artwork found from GCSE when was throwing away…
    • Susan Hockey – UCL  – text encoding/decoding, manipulation – within library tradition.
    • Textal:
  • 2004 – Academic response to societal change – faster & cheaper computers, the internet has grown and then used more extensively. What does it mean to be human? If we’re not responding to the differences that computing is making to society – what are we doing = inevitable change…
  • 2004 – Rebranding – was lots of names … a catchall term …  (big tent/big wave)….  Google books – sudden spike in digital humanities – later on becomes a proper noun. (Ngram viewer). *Love way using digital technology to illustrate everything she’s talking about.
  • Ngram – can see how used in the media – 2011/12 – start seeing headlines in New York Times, etc. = it’s a discipline, and books start to appear with digital humanities in the title, journals, digital humanities conferences increasing. 2014 – 195 digital humanities centres in 27 countries. *Note how long it takes to get this agreed.
  • 2010 – Digital Humanities Centre at UCL emerged… “the internet never forgets”
  • Huge range of projects – ££ funding, dissemination, publication *What can we be inspired by?
  • With this change of focus – what does this mean for the humanities? Sept 2005 – 6% using complex digital tools, 2012, Hayles – 10%. 2014 – 50% self-describe as digital humanists. Everyone uses computers… where’s the end of description?
  • Roger’s Innovation Curve – don’t try and convince the mass, convince the innovators and early adopters first…  Mobile phone – 20 years ago = early adopters, now laggards getting their first one.
  • Email, word process, Googling, Google books – all scholars do this – accessing digitised items in library collections…
  • Counting words – to build own engines, etc. need to be innovators (where Terras places herself). XML used early, but it never really spread throughout society …  Part of every DH lecture – don’t get left behind with old technologies…
  • Building apps, image processing = innovators – once see what majority take hold of – can feed back into development…
  • The  Gartner Hype Cycle … every year different technologies are marked  – this year big data is at the top, whilst virtual reality has been sat in a trough for 15 years… Those who are investing in DH are at the peak of inflated expectations – but we’re part of a trajectory – not change the whole of humanities… work with humanists to do useful things.
  • We have to do good work (Calvinism) … understand our methods, describe them and show the benefits… show it’s not flash in the pan, but part of the longer 10 years … and teach people the methods.
  • Next 10 years? Waves dissipate as starts to fragment into different subject areas…  Keep close relationships with computer science, engineering, and try/test new technologies and see if there are possibilities/benefits – pounce on opportunities as they come through…
  • Growth of science/humanities too…
  • Have to prove our worth … those who used the digital versions – encourage people to talk about the technologies they use when they describe their research – seeing it as more than a toolkit…
  • Companion to Digital Humanities – includes new chapter including public engagement re culture/heritage…
  • Inspired by: Seamus Ross. Alan Bowman. Susan Hawkey, UCLDH Team
  • Andrew Prescott (Kings) –  far too many people saying the same things as they’d been saying 15 years previously, but social media were now  part of the mix and @melissaterras & blog both feeding into the debate.  Much emerged from Uni of Glasgow and Oxford.