Tag Archives: DH debate

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Disciplinarity debates – suggested readings

The media analysis project David proposed seems extremely timely. The top hits in a Google search on science and humanities brought up article after article about the crisis in the humanities, the perceived or false threat to the humanities by scientific and quantitative approaches, the scientism and the humanities (cf the very public 2013 argument between Leon Wieseltier and Steven Pinker in The New Republic – http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114127/science-not-enemy-humanities and http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114172/leon-wieseltier-scientism-and-humanities ), etc. It all gets so old after while! And it’s not a new set of concerns.

But I came across a NEH grant proposal narrative / position paper prepared by SUNY Binghamton in 2008 for a project that sought to address the Science v. Humanities smackdown before it ever reached its current frenzy. They begin with “C.P. Snow’s (1959) description of the humanities and sciences as ‘The Two Cultures.’” And the project was aimed at breaking down this dichotomy where it matters most, at the level of the classroom (rather than continue the argument at the disciplinary level, which doesn’t actually do anything but feed the fire). Some of the project description is understandably very specific in terms of activities, but it also addresses larger theoretical questions, such as how humanities research and scientific research can complement or enhance each other in a given subject, and how a holistic investigation and interpretation of evolution, for example, could encompass different approaches to the material that are both equally valid and equally necessary: “Through evolutionary theory and its study of both ultimate explanations (such as biological fitness) and proximate explanations (such as the function and importance of the arts to human survival and development), we think that the 21st century will witness an integration of human-related subjects. Moreover, because of its emphasis on the crucial developmental functions of art, this integration can help restore the centrality of the perspectives and subjects currently associated with the humanities. ”

The project description also surveys the modern history of this disciplinary antipathy, which I think is very useful for background. Although it is not specifically a DH project, it addresses some fundamental assumptions and anxieties that contribute to current divisions and drive the debate in academia. And, as these ideas “trickle down” into the popular press, they generate both the less partisan articles like those David suggested, as well as those that politicize and perpetuate these divisions in (I think) unnecessary ways. The proposal is here: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/evos/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Wilson-02.pdf

DH in the news + Research tools

I think that the readings of these first weeks cover almost all the aspects of the DH debate. However, in our discussions we have also pointed out how the interest in DH can also be traced in newspapers’ articles both online and in print. Indeed, if you look for major newspapers contribution on DH, you’ll find many articles discussing fundamental issues of DH.

I really would like to read an article reconstructing how DH have been perceived, presented and discussed in the news media. Thus, the reading I would like to add to the syllabus is something that maybe doesn’t exist yet (or probably I haven’t searched enough). I think that this kind of contribution could add interesting insights to the DH debate (especially because of DH’s insistence on openness as one of its fundamental values).

Regarding DH pedagogy, a possible addition to the syllabus could have been some readings focused on useful digital tools on the organization of academic research (and I guess this is not just for humanities but for all researchers). For instance, in this workshop (https://historyprogram.commons.gc.cuny.edu/september-11-digital-tools-to-control-the-chaos/) we discussed how to structure the process of finding, reading and storing digital sources and  which are the tools that we can use to organize our research practices.
For instance, we have learned the possibilities of combining different software (such as Pocket, Evernote, Zotero, Dropbox etc.) in order to develop a structured work flow.

This is a list of interesting article on how to use Evernote for academic purposes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/raulpachecovega/evernoteforacademics#st=p&n=e5d8fbd0-c4cf-480c-a9a4-2aeca1308d9c