Monday, January 28, 2013

Pluralities Abound: 2013 GW Digital Humanities Symposium

Screen shot of a search of the "#gwdh13" feed
Initially, the prospect of attending the Digital Humanities symposium was a daunting one for me (as I would probably consider my existence slightly more analog than digital). And although my mind is still reeling from all of the incredibly generative discussion that took place there, I have read back through my frantic notes and deciphered that what emerged for me from this symposium were three--slightly surprising--primary themes emphasized during nearly every panel: pedagogy, collaboration, and community. Whether or not panels were specifically addressing one of these topics (like "Digital Pedagogy," "Joint Enterprises," or "Transformative Media, Transforming Community"), every speaker seemed to somehow touch on all three of these ideas, as if you could really not discuss one without discussing the others when addressing the importance of digital projects. For me, I think the emphasis on teaching was perhaps the most surprising, as most might assume such established and technologically savvy scholars would not prioritize their teaching in such a way. But over and over again, presenters cited the potentiality of their projects in terms of being an asset in the classroom and beyond at all levels of education and teaching.

In the same vein, without working within the false dichotomy of "analog or digital," nearly all of the presenters stressed the importance of digital technology as tools to integrate into scholarship, rather than completely dismantling the institution itself. As Peter Donaldson and Alexander Huang discussed in their presentation on Global Shakespeares, the goal of their project is to eventually get to a place where there will not be a need to be any Shakespearean qualified as "Global." From the discussions generated at the symposium, this seems to be the ultimate goal of "Digital Humanities," to one day drop the "digital" and simply consider these projects, ideas and tools ones of the humanities. Plurality and multiplicity seem to be the constants of the symposium, providing various perspectives that more traditional modes of scholarship and reading cannot physically provide. I personally am most excited about getting my hands on those projects that provide multiple perspectives on and readings of a single text, like that of The Tempest App, the ever-growing Map of Early Modern London, and the forthcoming project Annotation Studio.

I think this aspect of digital humanities might be helpful for our own class discussion, specifically when considering pluralities of time and lived experience during a particular "time period." I was meaning to blog about this after our last class, but I am wondering if we can perhaps put more pressure on the idea that there is a singular medieval lived experience we are able to access and reference in comparison to our own modern lives (a singular idea that I also think we can trouble). Coming away from the symposium, I hope that our two-day immersion into the digital humanities can get us thinking further on this issue, as I think that it will prove helpful to keep in mind during future class discussions.

So as not to "hog" our class blog, I'll finish here, but I have further thoughts on the symposium (specifically on tweeting!) on my other blog. Here is the link in case you'd like to read it, and on a slightly tangential note, here is an article by Ryan Cordell on the problematics of tweeting and tweeting etiquette during conferences that might be helpful when thinking about the digital humanities generally.

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