Time, Space, and Place: Humanistic Inquiry in a Digital Age
Gabriel K. Wolfenstein
We are surrounded by technology. It has changed the way we see the world and interact with each other. But this revolution has also offered us new tools to pursue humanistic inquiry. Literature and history, political science and sociology, and other humanities and social science disciplines have been transformed as well. We can analyze thousands of books at once to better understand the changes in the Victorian novel; we can map business data in Brazil in order to ask and answer new questions about the nature of women’s work; we can visualize the experience of the working on the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century to explore the lived experience of the Chinese railroad workers who helped build that railroad (and build Leland Stanford’s fortune). By bringing digital and computational tools to humanistic inquiry, we can ask new questions, and answer older questions in new ways. This does not mean that previous forms of scholarship are to be ignored or forgotten: just the opposite. These new tools can enrich our research in exciting and challenging ways, allowing practitioners to build new skills that can transcend the walls of the classroom. This course has two goals. First, it seeks to answer the question: What exactly are the digital humanities? We will begin with a basic definition. The digital humanities are those pursuits which use computers, software, digital tools in general, to explore topics of humanistic inquiry. That definition, however, is incomplete. Or, rather, that definition is rather general. This leads to our second goal. In order to have a more nuanced understanding of the digital humanities, students will be exposed to a number of its practices, and practitioners. We will seek to answer the question of what the digital humanities are by practicing the digital humanities. Topics will include history of the digital humanities, textual studies, electronic literature, computational and new media, and emerging work around text, image, and new media curation and visualization. At the end of the course, we will re-evaluate our definitions.