Diary of a would-be digital humanist:
I am a library dweller; I like the feeling of institutional academic intent, the hushed tones of respect for the written word and the sense of quiet purposefulness. I am drawn by the romance of the university library, shelves full of literature, philosophy and history that pull you into an ancient tradition of communing across the ages. The possibility to pose, looking earnest by some ancient tome, holds a certain guilty attraction. My gaze has most often been cast backward through the medium of literature, instead of forward focused toward the scrolled through immediacy of the digital.
In short, I am not a natural born digital humanist but I am coming out of the library to embrace all things open source, collaborative and technologically enhanced. With all the zeal of a convert, I will attempt over the next ten months, to bridge the gap between being a humanist who sometimes uses a computer to becoming a fully-fledged, front-row of the DH tent, make and do digital humanist. It is my call to arms against my rampant procrastination, esoteric favouring, practicality shunning and hiding-from-the-real-world-behind- a- pile- of- books former self.
I am now two months into my MA in Digital Arts and Humanities and I am happily inching toward my goal. I have a website! I use twitter! HTML, XML, CSS and TEI are no longer terrifying acronyms. I am genuinely enthusiastic about the concepts of digital learning, open data, the idea of using digital tools to re-engage as a read-write society once more and the possibilities surrounding open-source collaboration.
Twitter has been a revelation – not the vacuous, celebrity stalking, what-I-had for breakfast, narcissistic dead-end nor the shadowy vessel for anonymous abuse and bullying that I had imagined – but a genuine learning tool, carrying the potential to craft a personalised flow of insights, articles and book reviews from like-minded academics and the diving off board for various collaborative projects. It was directly through twitter that I came across the Letters of 1916 project, Ireland’s first crowd-sourced digital project. I believe the project aims to create “an online collection for the public, created by the public, which will add a new perspective to the events of the period, a confidential and intimate perspective that will create a new picture of early 20th Century life in Ireland” is a fitting and poignant way to publicly commemorate the up-coming centenary and link one generation of Irish people with another through the merging of old media and new technology. It is an inspiring project which I am honoured to be given a chance to take part in.
The computer lab may not have the lofty romance of the library but I’m starting to see it a similarly powerful gateway for exploration.