Out of curiosity, was anyone else disappointed with Kirschenbaum’s article? I felt like the article left me with more questions than answers, and not in a good way; indeed, I felt more frustrated than intellectually challenged after reading his work. In a nut shell, Kirschenbaum traces the growth of “digital humanities” as an area of scholarly study since the late ’80s and shows how it has gained credence as a legitimate topic for serious intellectuals to both analyze and participate in themselves. Ultimately, Kirschenbaum defines “digital humanities” as “. . . a scholarship and pedagogy that are collaborative and depend on networks of people and that live an active 24/7 life online.” (p. 60). I appreciate that his definition is fairly precise, but in the end I think it fails to adequately answer the “so what” question: why should we study digital humanities in the first place? What makes it “special” or worthwhile?
To me, at its most basic level, “digital humanities” simply refers to the digitization of scholarship, or the uploading of academic writing, research and evidence onto the world wide web. The most obvious benefit of such scholarship, as Kirschenbaum aptly notes, is that uploading scholarship onto the Internet allows researchers’ ideas and writings to spread to a much wider audience than could be attained through printed academic journals or other traditional forms of scholarly communication. In theory, this wider audience can advance scholarship by bringing more people into a certain debate and adding more ideas to the discussion. However, Kirschenbaum leaves me wondering if there are other benefits to digitizing scholarship. If so, what are they? What are the downsides? What makes digital humanities complex and worthy of debate? How is it more than the simple uploading of material onto the Internet? For me, Kirschenbaum failed to adequately answer these questions and his inability to do so is a source of consternation.
I did enjoy how the author detailed the development of different organizations devoted to the study of digital humanities. It surprised me a little to discover that the digital humanities have been around since the 1980s. The article also led me to wonder where the study of the digital humanities is headed. What new questions are scholars debating within the discipline? How will new technologies continue to change the ways we think and learn? If nothing else, I think Kirschenbaum did a good job of provoking readers into considering these questions, as well as others. Hopefully, most other readers were just not as frustrated by this article as I was.