- Xvii – It remains debatable whether digital humanities should be regarded as a “discipline in its own right,” rather than a set of related methods, but it cannot be doubted, in 2015, that it is a vibrant and rapidly growing field of endeavor. In retrospect, it is clear that the decision this group of editors, prompted by their publisher, took in naming the original Companion changed the way we refer to this field: we stopped talking about “humanities computing” and started talking about “digital humanities.” The editors of this volume and the last, in conversation with their publisher, chose this way of naming the activity represented in our collected essays in order to shift the emphasis from “computing” to “humanities.”
The Promise of the Digital Humanities and the Contested Nature of Digital Scholarship – William G. Thomas III
- 525 – Yet, paradoxically, the 20‐year surge in the digital humanities – from 1993 to 2013 – has produced relatively little interpretive or argumentative scholarship. In this first phase of the digital humanities, scholars produced innovative and sophisticated hybrid works of scholarship, blending archives, tools, commentaries, data collections, and visualizations. For the most part in the disciplines, however, few of these works have been reviewed or critiqued. Because the disciplines expect interpretation, argument, and criticism, it could be argued that digital humanists have not produced enough digital interpretive scholarship, and what we have produced has not been absorbed into the scholarly disciplines.
- At the core of this matter of concern lies a twofold contest over the nature of scholarship. Between the core disciplines and the digital humanities there is a difference in kind over whether digital works constitute scholarship. Within the digital humanities, there is a difference in degree over what constitutes digital scholarship. In the next phase of the digital humanities, the contested nature of this twofold problem deserves our attention.
- 528 – If the new media ecologies Rigney refers to are indeed naturally “multimodal,” then they demand new practices in scholarly production. For Rigney, the result is clear: scholarship will be characterized by “distributed authorship” and undertaken through networks or hubs of scholarly activity. Continuous flows of information and analytical procedures will unfold as scholarship. There will be no fixed final product
- 531 – The scholarship of the digital humanities largely resides outside the disciplines, but this precarious situation threatens to render either the disciplines irrelevant to the digital future of cultural communication or the digital humanities irrelevant to the future of the core disciplines in the humanities. If we renew our efforts to imagine genre conventions for something we would call digital scholarship, then we could create forms of scholarly communication so robust and well established that a digital work could become an essential work in the field of history or literary criticism.
Building Theories or Theories of Building? A Tension at the Heart of Digital Humanities – Claire Warwick
- 538 – The phrase “more hack less yack” is perhaps one of the most abused and misunderstood in the history of digital humanities scholarship, and one of the most potentially injurious to the harmonious conduct of DH as a field in the future. It has been all too readily used as a Twitter‐friendly portmanteau term to describe an alleged binary opposition between makers and theorists in DH and beyond. In this chapter I will examine the arguments on both sides of the debate, investigating the question of whether such a non‐permeable opposition may truly be said to exist.
- 543 – Johanna Drucker argues that DH must have a more theorized discourse of making so that we can prove the worth of our discipline to others from theorized fields (Drucker, 2012). But why must we do so? Why is making so ill‐regarded? I suggest because it speaks to a series of questions that DH has yet to solve. How can makers show that they are as intellectually able as those who theorize? How does making a digital resource differ from what librarians do when they mount an electronic journal on a server? How can the complexity and value of something digital be recognized, if those who assess it are humanities scholars who perceive themselves as thinkers, yet, innocent of code studies, are more used to uncritical use of digital resources in their research? It is that we, as a young discipline, still don’t agree on what counts
- 549 – It is also important to remember that any given scholar can do DH and also be interested in a particular method such as postcolonialism or the cultural turn. It is not necessary to choose between a theoretical alignment and DH, and indeed some of the most exciting future scholarship may emerge from the marriage between such theories and DH practice.
Data Modeling – Julia Flanders and Fotis Jannidis
Mapping the Geospatial Turn – Todd Presner and David Shepard
- 205 – Far from going unrecognized, as Martyn Jessop argued in a provocative article published in 2007, the geo‐revolution has been taken up by the digital humanities in countless ways, despite – or perhaps because of – the very fundamental problems that he identified to explain the supposedly slow uptake of geographic analysis and visualization in the humanities: the fuzzy nature of humanities data; the fact that most humanists work with textual, visual, and sonic sources that do not lend themselves to geometric or mathematical abstractions; and the persistent disciplinary silos which have prevented serious collaborations between humanists and geographers, urban planners, architects, archaeologists, anthropologists, and others working with spatial data.
- Over the past decade, the geospatial turn in the digital humanities has been catalyzed by a number of convergent institutional, technological, and intellectual changes.
- 207 – Far from simply “recreating” historical environments and making historical data available to the wider public, however, the digital humanities has also developed a rich critical vocabulary to understand the rhetoric of mapping and geo‐ visualization. Unlike conventional approaches to mapping, which tend to be positivistic and mimetic, the digital humanities has imagined critical practices of geo‐temporal narration, forms of counter‐mapping, and notions of “deep mapping” or “thick mapping,” which privilege experiential navigation, time‐based approaches, participatory mapping, and alternative rhetorics of visualization (Bodenhamer, 2010, 2014; see also Presner et al., 2014). Maps and models are never static representations or accurate reflections of a past reality; instead, they function as arguments or propositions that betray a state of knowledge. Each of these projects is a snapshot of a state of knowledge, a propositional argument in the form of dynamic geo‐visualizations.
Graphical Approaches to the Digital Humanities – Johanna Drucker
- 238 – The digital humanities have adopted conventions of information visualization and user interface that come from disciplines whose epistemological premises are fundamentally at odds with humanistic methods. The implications of this permeate every aspect of digital work. The challenge of addressing graphical approaches in/to/from/for the humanities requires that we engage in a critical description of visualization and interface from a humanistic‐critical perspective, that we analyze the epistemological assumptions built into their development, that we think through the issues in adapting these for the humanities, and that we envision alternatives.
- 238-39 – Thirty years after WISYWYG, and more than twenty years after the browser‐enabled display of networked materials, it’s about time to reflect on the relations between graphical approaches to the humanities and the humanistic aspects of interpretation and knowledge production for which they are being used. Understanding the rhetorical force of graphical formats is a critical task to which humanities scholars are aptly suited by their training in close reading, though the language of visual modes of meaning production is still a foreign tongue for many. From analysis springs invention, and the push for innovation of graphical expressions suited to the needs and methods of humanists should get a boost from exposing the operations and limitations of current conventions.
- 244 – The current conventions of graphical interface design are not the natural expression of any order in the social or natural world.
- Can a graphical interface be designed that is a “natural expression of [some] order in the social or natural world”?
- As stated at the outset, information visualization techniques borrowed from statistical social sciences, natural sciences, and the business of bureaucratic management work poorly for the humanities. The bad fit begins at the very moment of parameterization (using a metric to generate quantitative information). This is when the demonstration that data is capta, constructed and not given, is most evident and most critical, since the initial decisions about what will be counted and how shape every subsequent feature of the visualization process.
- 245 – Visualizations are all based on this sequence: parameterization (assigning a metric), quantification (counting or measuring what has been parameterized), and translating this captured, constructed information into a graphic. Visualizations are interpretative translations, but they pass themselves off as images of data. It is not too strong a statement, therefore, to say that almost all information visualizations are reifications of mis‐information, and this is particularly true in the humanities, where the initial parameterization is often a radical intervention into and reductive extraction from an original artifact, corpus of documents, or other phenomena. Stated another way, visualizations are all representations (substitutes and surrogates) that pass themselves off as presentations (the information itself), as if the “form follows data” dictum of Tufte (2001) were accurate, and as if the artifact on the screen were an actual image of the data.
- 246 – The next set of critical issues in using visualizations from outside the humanities involves the distinctions between quanta and qualia. Data are discrete, not continuous; they are explicit, not ambiguous; they are modular and bounded, not vaguely defined; they are sorted into categories that do not support contradiction; they are put into relations according to hierarchies, structures, or other ordering principles that have a very limited and highly defining set of qualities. In other words, “data” are antithetical to humanistic artifacts, they are fundamentally different in nature from the artifacts from which they are derived. Creating a humanities dataset, or culling quantitative or statistical information from humanities documents or corpora is problematic on many levels. Humanistic data are rarely discrete.
- 247 – Obviously these are questions that cannot be answered; they are posed to expose the limits of representational systems built on a priori or outset conditions of decision making on which subsequent analyses are made. By the time we are looking at a network diagram, a bar chart showing frequency of word use, or a scatter plot mapping dates of historical events, we are in deep complicity with the process whereby the artifact of visualization is mistaken for the phenomena it has (mis)represented.
- 249 – The tools are too crude for the task. The challenges to the humanities are clear: construct systems of graphic designs to show humanistic values and methods within the visualizations and interfaces of our work.
Zen and the Art of Linked Data: New Strategies for a Semantic Web of Humanist Knowledge – Dominic Oldman, Martin Doerr, and Stefan Gradmann
Exploratory Programming in Digital Humanities Pedagogy and Research – Nick Montfort
- 98 – The case for programming education would not be as strong if programming were merely instrumental and involved nothing more than completing an already‐ established plan. In advocating that humanists and artists should program, I consider a type of programming practice that I call exploratory programming, one which involves using computation as a way of inquiring about and constructively thinking about important issues.