I was deeply inspired by Aaron Day’s most recent blog post. My goal is not to copy Aaron’s post word for word, but rather hit on some points that he may not have hit on.
I have said several times before, I wish I had known about this field sooner. I am currently applying for Graduate Schools in the United Kingdom because they have all of the primary source documents I would need to work with to study the subject that I want, Pre-Revolutionary America. If the Digital Humanities were offered as a major my freshman year, I would have very likely considered it.
I am still constantly overwhelmed by amount of information, yet closeness of peers that DM brings. I am probably the only one who thinks this, but I felt like a kid going to Disney World when I walked through the Nobrertine Archives. In the four years I have been at this institution, this class is the first to even use technology to “beam in” a professional from another University.
Ben Schmidt’s article Second Epistle to the Intellectual Historians sums up beautifully what I have been trying to say the last several weeks.
”The current academic system is like the church in all its censoring, rigidly hierarchical glory, the digital field more resembles the chaos of the early church. And that’s as terrifying as it is empowering.”
The field itself is a self-aware force, and that is something that is very new. It is very rare that such a widespread movement be so (potentially) instrumental to the way that the world information is distributed, yet still not have any determinable “end plan”. Sure, there are feuds and rivalries in any community, but the love (and access of) knowledge is still what ties the DM world together. They are united under one single goal:
“DH is intensely, productively concerned with finding ways to keep gatekeepers from controlling access to texts.” – Ben Schmidt
Scholars can debate HOW to keep gatekeepers at bay, but that issue is one of personal preferences, which are frivolous in this particular field, where the actions of one help the story/journal/paper/poem of one carry on for future generations.
We already discussed William Blake and his poetry and illustrations. Blake is a prime example for my genuine awe of DM.
Blake was a man of many eras. While not recognized at the time, he is one of the major figures of the Romantic Age. In the span he was alive, we was able to clearly see the effects of the Industrial Revolution (which he writes about), the Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the American Revolution. If we could talk to Blake today, I would deduce he would categorize his experience of that era with Schmidt’s words: Terrifying and Empowering.
The self-awareness of the Digital Humanities is something that should not be taken lightly.
Thoreau suggests : “To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Nature herself!” (Walden, Economy, 16.) I feel the same way of the Digital Humanities. While I am thrilled to live in an Internet Age, it is far too easy to become callous at trivial things like my phone not sending a text instantly. Like comedian Louis C.K. exclaimed “Give it a damn second. It’s going to space and back.”
DH is very much alive, very much self-aware, and very much as exited to clear the proverbial path for future. In another life I might have helped that cause. Maybe I still can. Time will tell.