We’ve been discussing this since the start of term, reading the debates surrounding the issue and doing our best to give personal renditions of what digital Humanities is to us. It lightens the load a bit when seasoned academics in the field can’t agree on a strict definition of digital humanities (or indeed who is in and who isn’t in the tent!) and practical sessions such as the editing workshop this post was written for really help to focus back in on the main issues and questions. None of this, however, helps me when the dreaded question arrives, unbidden, in the pub – “So, what is Digital Humanities anyway?”
‘Erm, it’s, like arts but you have to do stuff, I mean not just read and write essays…………’ which segues into vague mutterings about digital presence, blogging and collaboration accessorized by a pained expression and a rapid wilting of confidence and digital buzzwords.
This is not to make light of a genuine problem because whenever I or anyone else try to conceptualize a particular theory or thought process into a coherent, easily explainable narrative, it is often suggested to row back from the rabbit hole that you have been threatening to disappear into, bring it back before the light, dust it off and ask; how would you explain it to someone in the pub?
Overtime, I have developed coping strategies in the form of trying to have a succinct and snappy sound-bite in my back pocket, ready to be deployed at a moment’s hesitation. My current favourite is ‘It’s about using new technology to examine old questions’ (followed by a quick change of topic). It kind of does the job, in the vague way that all sound-bites do, in that it sounds pleasingly meaningful whilst ultimately not delivering any real explanation.
Clearly this situation cannot continue. I need to go back to the digital drawing board in search of a more satisfactory response if my twin interests of digital humanities and enjoying a hassle free pint are to co-exist peacefully together. I don’t think there’s an algorithm or piece of code that can get me out of this one…………..