First Thoughts

We’ve spent the last two days immersing ourselves in the wide-ranging, somewhat nebulous world of digital humanities, and while I am overwhelmed by the field’s immensity, I am also so excited by all of the potential that its methodologies offer.

Aside from commonplace, expected student uses of technology, I’m coming at this internship with absolutely no experience with digital anything. I was a double major in Chemistry and the History of Art at Amherst, and spent most of my time here buried in piles of dusty books or in the lab, conducting experiments. As I grew here as a student and as a researcher, I did notice the increasing role of digital tools and methodologies in both of my major fields, but I never had the time or training to substantively explore them. This summer, I am excited to finally immerse myself in the realm of the digital, and to understand how the digital humanities may expand, redevelop, and perhaps complicate my previous approaches to humanities research. 

In his chapter “The Emergence of Digital Humanities (as the Network is Everting),” Steven Jones writes about digital humanities as more than just the digitization of materials that constitute humanities research—instead, he says, it is “…characterized by two-way interactions between two realms, physical artifacts and digital media.” This was an important point for me, because, as an art history student, I am often intensely focused on the physicality and materiality of the objects I study, and often, I’m frustrated when left with only digital reproductions to work with. However, understanding digital humanities as a conversation between the physical and digital, as a decentering of the physical object in order to make space for new types of dialogue and inquiry, strikes me as an exciting new way of thinking, and as something to consider in my own research going forward. This summer, I hope gain a better understanding of what that might look like in practice.

2 thoughts on “First Thoughts”

  1. “However, understanding digital humanities as a conversation between the physical and digital, as a decentering of the physical object in order to make space for new types of dialogue and inquiry”

    What a brilliant point! I too have been trained in the materiality of objects, and while I’m excited to bring those skills to this internship, you’re completely right that the materiality of the object is only one part of the conversation. We must also be cognizant of our medium and the layers of complexity and communication that accompany it.

    Like you, I’m excited to translate the theories we’ve read into practice, and glad I’m working alongside you to do so!

  2. I love the open and excited mind you have coming into this internship, Emma! It’s so important to be willing to “lean in” and learn about any sort of topic, especially one that you don’t have experience in. I also love your point about digital humanities being “a conversation between the physical and the digital,” particularly from an Art History view. As an artist and art-history-enthusiast myself, I really appreciate this point of view! I, too, have often been frustrated with only having digital access to various art pieces, but how amazing that technology has given us access to these items at all. I wonder what we’ll discover about DH and its role not only in digitizing media, but also in giving us new perspectives on the world and its multitudes of information. I’m so excited to see where your DH journey takes you this summer!

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