No Singular “Digital Humanities”

When we review Gold’s intro “The Digital Humanities Moment” in 2012, Klein and Gold’s intro “Digital Humanities: The Expanded Field” in 2016, and the last one in 2019 Gold and Klein’s intro “A DH That Matters” as a set, we see a clear overview in-progress of what DH means, what DH does, and what the current notion of DH is not able to cover and explain. By calling DH the “big tent” and supporting DH as an expanded field, scholars in the field set the ground and point the direction for us to examine broad-scale/interdisciplinary studies/multiple power structures (race, gender, class, geography, etc.) in defining DH. We clearly could not think DH in the singular form in any unified way. I found the organizing method of “boundary objects” in the Bodies of Information very useful and as I put in my annotations the “polythetic” (having many, but not all properties, in common) way of giving definitions but in the meantime get all on board is a very good practice too. Wernimont and Losh’s Introduction and Josephs and Risam’s work “The Digital Black Atlantic” challenge the concept of “big tent” and calls on us to reconsider the question: is this “big tent” big enough to include marginalized or even invisible groups?

The Torn Apart/Separados is a social justice DH project of data narratives presenting the landscape of immigrant detention and is a collaboration among faculties, librarians, and students. The project looks at marginalized groups’ stories happening in the “backyards,” under the “big tent” and represents a way of looking at immigrant data and designing visualizations. I also searched the name of the project and found many talks/reports/interviews done by their team members, which I think we could further ask a good question in defining DH practices: how to facilitate collaboration and build networks/how to promote and increase a project’s impact to encourage people to understand a crisis.

The Early Caribbean Digital Archive presents pre-twentieth-century Caribbean materials to unfold the stories of the early Caribbean. I browsed the “Archive” and “Classroom” sections on their site and think this project is a wonderful example of combing DH and its “stepchild” Digital Pedagogy. Their design paid special attention to diverse perspectives and possible readers’ reactions to materials that might be authored-centered in the past. (“The materials in the archive are primarily authored and published by Europeans, but the ECDA aims to use digital tools to “remix” the archive and foreground the centrality and creativity of enslaved and free African, Afro-creole, and Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean world.” “Take a Tour.” Early Caribbean Digital Archive. Accessed September 7, 2022. By looking at this project, I am especially interested but also puzzled at the intersection of DH and Literary Studies. In most DH definitions, we see “humanities “but I usually see more practices in History and Sociology. If we are going to cover sub-disciplines of Humanities, what does it mean to be a DH scholar in literature and how do we study narratives, novels, poetry, and diaries? Is it necessary to distinguish methods between literary history and close reading?

The two sites above are housed in the universities’ domains. The Colored Conventions Project is different and is a collaboration between universities. But I also found a site sustainability issue there. When I clicked the button “Read Project Principles,” a 404 page pops up. This might not be specifically a DH definition problem, but how we store things in the digital age is super critical in creating DH projects.  

Reviews in Digital Humanities is definitely a pilot of peer-reviewed scholarly contributions in the field of DH. Peer reviews and the relevant publishing process are certainly an issue in evaluating what counts in a scholar’s contribution to a certain field. I really enjoyed reading these reviews but am still not sure about what we should do to develop DH research journals other than the review type.