Wednesday 14 May 2014


I had a chat recently with a friend on Twitter about having an opinion - or feeling the need to come up with a position from which one felt comfortable having an opinion - on big topics like 'war'. Frankly, there are topics that I feel are so much bigger than me that my opinion pales into insignificance and I can relax into topics that instead fall within my domain, purview, and grasp.

Digital humanities fall somewhere between those two points for me. One the one hand, it has solidified into an academic specialisation, something that can - I assume - be separated out now from 'non-digital humanities'. On the other hand, I wonder whether data-driven or programatically-aided research and enquiry justifies being sectioned out like this. (See also data-driven journalism. We have new tools, and they should aid us in what we are seeking to understand and communicate. Maybe the distinctions will fade when the novelty does.)

In the meantime, I keep reading articles like this one to help me wrap my head around the topic. And when I highlighted a phrase that's particularly relevant to an essay I'm prepping at the moment and spotted this pop-up window, I thought, hmmm: maybe technology *is* shaping how we approach and consume ideas.

This prompt to share is there because that is what we do now, to cement our relationship with a text or a visual. And site-makers have concluded that this - rather than cut and paste - is now our chief motivator when we select a piece of text. Or, alternatively, cut and paste remains our chief motivator, and site-makers want to suggest heavily to us that sharing would be a good thing (for us and them). Either way, I find it intriguing. And I wonder again who will be the first of us to stick a 'Pin This' sign under a painting in one of our galleries.

P.S. That article? Digital humanists are angry.

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