As others have mentioned, one of the values that is paramount to the field is its ability not only to experiment but to do so freely, meaning that failure is not only safe, but considered valuable, as it creates “new ignorances” that may not have otherwise been found. It is possible that the act of defining the digital humanities is an experimental process that will continue to recreate itself and uncover imprecisions and new ignorances in ways that other fields that are less experimentation, tool, and values-driven are not.
A thread that ran through the assigned texts was an effort to define Digital Humanities with examples like the “big tent” metaphor, or as an expanding field likened to sculpture. It is possible that DH resists definition because it is in a constant state of revision/remix/refactoring (choose your tool) but that also makes these attempts to do so very lively. The attempts to define DH are like experiments themselves, and if they lack precision or do not meet the requirements of their test, they have discovered “new ignorances,” which allow the scope of the field to grow and refine itself. This itself appears a defining feature of DH and is one of the most exciting parts to me, the exploratory and revolutionary reflection on itself and ability to reinvest in a better, more
I have to ask because it is a thing I have been trained to do, why are we doing this? Beyond the convenience of explaining the field to those outside it, would precision of definition be a goal? Or efficiency? This could help practitioners in the “definition experiment” understand what a better outcome could be, or even a better failure.
If precision is less important, but creating understanding within the field is more so, Digital Humanities may best be defined by a set of values, as Spiro begins to do. Values are difficult to wrangle as well, but after examining more of the texts this week I believe they have a point: The DH field and its practitioners are most likely to have these characteristics in common. The values suggested (Openness, Collaboration, Collegiality & Connectedness, Diversity, Experimentation) are broad but difficult to argue with especially given the work we have been presented with this week and their extended definitions. I believe many of us have come to study DH because we hold these values in our work as well and are excited to find a field that may support them.
LOVE: “The attempts to define DH are like experiments themselves, and if they lack precision or do not meet the requirements of their test, they have discovered “new ignorances,” which allow the scope of the field to grow and refine itself.”
I go back to that definition of DH someone said in class, “DH is the continuation of the Humanities as we know it.” The beauty and the complexity of DH is in that it combines the worlds of the STEM and the Arts/Humanities; areas of studies that for years fought over credit, funding, importance, and stereotypes. I believe this is why it’s hard to define. Yet, the importance, as you mentioned, and as the readings demonstrated, are the values. The values set DH apart and yet it brings some many areas of interest and scholarship together. I believe the values are there because at the end of the day, the “H” in DH is, I dare say, the most important part. We are humanists first. We are just bringing in tools to help us explain, persevere, and create, the future of the humanities.
Loved this post! As an academic perfectionist (revising a paper a million times, anyone relates?) it was hard to reshape my mindset to accept failure as part of the learning process. My journey in DH (I started in Spring 2020) made me feel humbled, but in the best possible way: it’s exciting to know that I can be “ignorant” in so many things (like software design) and that there is a community there to support me in my learning adventure. I think this field is very welcoming to people from all walks of life and forgiving towards failure, because it’s a necessary step in the process. Looking forward to learn with you all 🙂