- June 25th, 2009
One interesting discussion occurred on twitter a few weeks back. Dan, Brian, and a few others were discussing the future of the Digital Humanities, and I (attempting to make what I believed at the time would be a “funny” science fiction joke) said that the definition of the Digital Humanities would be much cooler in the future. Dan Cohen’s response stuck with me, though. He said that, in the future, it would just be called “The Humanities”, and that stuck with me. The idea that the Digital Humanities is a transitional form, a sort of leap ahead into what everything should be. Now, Dan might not even agree with that statement (it was, after all, just a tweet) but I think it is an interesting thing to consider; are we simply what comes next, or will there always be classic (albeit technologically improved) academia and that group of Nerds in the corner using Zotero? To turn it into geek terms: Are we Homo Sapiens (Homo Superior if you are a Bowie fan), or are we X-men?
Running parallel to this topic is the notion of the “Digital Native”. That word has always caused a little discord for me – after all, according to the definition, I am one of them! However, it has always struck me as an odd term, either oddly placed or oddly defined. If oddly placed, it is because I have seen my fellow “digital natives” stare coldly and run frightened from a wiki page, or even saving a word document. There are so many in my generation that refuse to go deeper than surface level, and in many cases, repel technology as an unwanted obstacle. This is not an insignificant minority, by my observation. If it is oddly defined, then the problem comes with the expansion of the phrase. What I mean to say is that while the strict definition I’ve heard is “Someone who has grown up with technology”, of which my generation applies, but always comes with the adage “and is therefore more comfortable with it and probably very knowledgeable”. For the same reasons as above, this is not always true – regrettably – and therefore creates a sort of double-blind issue; it seems that the digital natives are under-performing for the seemingly powerful title, and those deeming us with the title are overestimating the meaning of it.
I bring this up because they both highlight an issue that has seemingly existed since the playground: The Us vs. Them mentality. are the Digital humanities a breeding ground for ideas that will one day be excepted, or are they a toolbox that the professors and academics of tomorrow will turn to in a time of experimentation? Will there always be geeks, or will everyone eventually be logged on? For complications sake, do you think that the Digital Humanities are sort of “reaching far”, and only the more median of pedagogies and academic memes will gestate into the population as a whole? For instance, Digital Archives will be obviously used in the future, but in-class use of wikis will not? iPhones, but not EBooks?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
P.s. Thatcamp is my very first academic Conference. I am immensely excited, and look forward to seeing you all there!