Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Just a few sites which I have found useful in my quest to learn html:

  • -This is quite an obvious one for anyone starting off in anything to do with computer science. They provide easy to follow online tutorials which let you practice every step as you work your way through the site, building up your html confidence as you progress.

  • - This rivals W3Schools as one of the best online tutorial based computer science sites. Any of my I.T. friends that I asked for recommendations directed me to this site over W3, so if that's anything to go by then it must be good.

  • Another good one for easy to follow, succinct explanations for the novice in the world of computer science.

I hope that this selection of html tutorial site offerings helps anyone who is having trouble with understanding html or further down the line, xml. I know that they have helped me a lot in the last few days, I'm not saying that I am now an expert, but I'm slowly but surely gaining confidence in my own ability to understand what is going on 'under the hood'!

 If all else fails, I recommend befriending someone who is studying Computer Science!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Humanities Identity Crisis and it's 'Pharmakon'

Image taken from

It has occurred to me that the Humanities discipline has undergone somewhat of an identity crisis in the past years. This post will discuss the mid-life crisis of the Humanities which has driven the movement in Digital Humanities forward.

Some, if not all, of the reading which I have been doing has reflected upon this crisis of identity and image which has swept over the Humanities as I.T. has taken over the world. Many have turned to I.T. in this crisis of progression to create an image based on trend rather than functionality and understanding. I would like to propose that Digital Humanities forgoes style for substance in the application of I.T. to its mission.

Alan Liu deals with this issue in his work The State of the Digital Humanities- A report and a critique, of which there is also a video available of him delivering this paper. In this report, he satirises the obsession with the image of I.T., which he refers to as an "institutional desiring engine" (2). There is a domineering strand of cultural I.T. in which image is everything. These people are building their I.T. identity based upon trends, rather than acknowledging the impact of technology upon Modern research and innovation. These type of users can be referred to as mindless participators in I.T., whereas those who have entered into their work using digital means can be identified as mindful participators. Arguably, digital humanists fall into this category. They recognise the character and adaptability of the uses of I.T. in their work, unlike those mindless users who are mainly concerned with the appearance that they will gain from these 'cool' gadgets. It is my opinion that the digital world cannot reach its full potential if it remains obsessed with its own cultural image.

An example of a mindless user of I.T.

Now, you may ask, what does this theory have to do with the crisis of identity in the Humanities? The answer to this is everything. Humanities is also in danger of falling into the mindless participator role, if old conventions on the uses of I.T. cannot be forgotten. The Humanities in general have been at a cross-roads for some time in terms of its image. William Pannapacker has discussed this attempt to re-define the Humanities in his work: Big Tent Digital Humanities: A view from the edge, part 2, starting with its problems: 

"Some are related to the traditions of academic culture—the apparent disinclination of some humanists to work with digital technologies, the academic tendency to value individual achievement over teamwork, and the continuing emphasis on the use of scholarly monographs to certify tenure and promotion. Other challenges seem more structural, such as declining financial support for the humanities in general" (Pannapacker).

 Pannapacker hits the nail on the head with this article, traditions within the Humanities are proving hard to shake. Conceivably, many humanists understand the idea of integrating I.T. with research, but do not understand its importance and essentiality for the future of the identity of the Humanities. Susan Schriebman categorises this as a lack of knowledge within the humanities of the depth of the digital. Humanities has mainly perceived the surface of technology, yet there seems to be this fear of learning about the operating functions 'beneath the hood' of today's computer, in order to attain its full potential. Her work, Digital Humanities: Centres and Peripheries, argues that "it was felt it was not enough for our peers to come to terms with surface technologies, they also needed to understand the inside of the beast" (6).

While reading Suzanne Guerlac's article "Humanities 2.0: E-Learning in the Digital world", I was struck by her closing arguments regarding all things digital:

"As Bernard Stiegler suggests, technology is a kind of pharmakon, by which he means (via Plato and Derrida) that it is both a remedy and a poison.To know the difference, however, it is essential that we become computer literate and that universities support what Drucker calls “humanistic approaches” to manipulations of information, its visualization and its modeling" (120).
This, for me, symbolises the fears and rewards which cross the minds of many a humanist when they debate the entry into the world of Digital Humanities. There is a fine line between these two types of I.T. identities, which can be beneficial or detrimental to the cause of preserving the Humanities.

Works Cited

Guerlac, Suzanne. "Humanities 2.0: E-Learning in the Digital World". Representations, 116.1 (2011): 102-127. Jstor,  Web. 23 Oct. 2012. 

Liu Alan, "The State of The Digital Humanities: A Report and a Critique". Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 11.1 (2012): 1-34. 

Pannapacker, William. "Big-Tent Digital Humanities: A View from the Edge, Part 2". Chronicle of Higher Education, 58.5 (2011): A32-A32. Web. 

Schriebman, Susanne. "Digital Humanities: Centres and Peripheries". TCD: May, 2012. Web.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Dabbling in Digital Humanities

This blog post will discuss the challenges which face us when we attempt to both define Digital Humanities, and dabble in this emerging field.
The inspiration for this stems from the first class of my MA in Digital Arts and Humanities, in which we discussed The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, among other works.

Although this Manifesto of sorts was quite spliced together and lacking a central focus, it was interesting to observe the many different voices which can create such a work. There is an obvious element of resistance and controversy evident in the labeling and defining of the field of Digital Humanities. Even in this Manifesto, the meaning of 'DH' becomes quite skewed due to the reluctance of many aspects of its construction to properly define its mission. As a novice within this area, I find it quite strange that there is such a compelling resistance to explaining the nature of what Digital Humanities stands for and wishes to achieve.

In terms of its layout, the Manifesto appears to be quite archaic in its use of images scattered incoherently throughout the text. However, it does provide a fusion between visionary and textual elements, which is an area that Digital Humanities is heavily associated with. In this sense the piece stays true to the merging of worlds using digital means, however they could have put more effort into sourcing better images. It struck me as a very reflective piece of literature. Every time I read it I was reminded of the various Modernist and Postmodernist Manifesto's which emerged in the twentieth century. For example Ezra Pound's Imagism Manifesto,  A Few Dont's by an Imagiste, which strikes me as just as vague and incoherent as this piece. Pound describes the image as "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time" (Manifesto, 356). His work assembles the same sort of definition without defining at the start of the Manifesto, which aids no one.

A piece within the Manifesto which I found 'perspective changing' was the arguments made about Wikipedia. The authors provides an interesting take on Wikipedia, which sees it advocated as "the most siginificant Web 2.0 creation to harness a mass audience in knowledge production and dissemination"(The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, 6). This was quite a different take upon a database which throughout my time in University has been demonized. However, it highlighted the fact that Wikipedia is in fact an important community of reference, which is managed by everyone for everyone. Regardless of the fact that this site can oftentimes harbor factually inaccurate information, it is none the less a significant example of the power of contribution and co-ordination which Digital Humanities strives for.

Looking at some of the other pieces we discussed in class, I found Pedro Hernandez-Ramos's debates upon private and public spaces for blogging to be quite a beneficial analogy for the difficult task of extracting useful information from a mass of useless overtly personal blog spaces on the internet. "A complementary goal was to encourage students to see both blogs and discussion forums as valid and effective tools for professional development and lifelong learning" (Ramos, 3).  It is my opinion that the blog is lacking validation as an important arena for up to date research. Ramos's context makes clear that work that appears to be in a private spectrum, such as the blog, can be just as valuable for research purposes and other professional usage. This piece adds to the call for the validation of the blog as a legitimate tool for research, which can provide peer review and critique at a fast pace.

The article by Paula M. Krebs entitled Next TimeFail Better was something that I could really relate to as a former Masters student in the English literature faculty. Krebs's article addresses the taboo within the Humanities of the negative connotations of failure. This is very much frowned upon amongst peers, whereas in faculties such as Computer Science and Science in general, failure is a normal part of the process of learning. I think I will try to adopt Krebs's approach this year to some degree throughout this MA in Digital Arts and Humanities. This piece also discussed the notion of "workshopping as a pedagogy" which I thought fit quite aptly into the concept of the digital sphere (Krebs). Take for instance the comments which are attached to this piece. This in itself is a workshop, in which the 'Fail better' piece is assessed and new items are contributed by both strangers, and I'm sure, peers of Krebs. The internet can be shown from this piece to be opening up into its very own tool for teaching and learning within every field.

I'll end this piece with a quote from Jerome McGann, which argues that we need "to reform the text through computer assistance to provide new insights" (A Companion to Digital Humanities, np). This is what I strive to do as I begin to dabble in digital humanities. I hope that my knowledge of the space of the text, which I have gathered through my studies of English and History, can be transformed into new progressive models through the use of digital tools.I am particularly interested in the transformation of the solid archive of the library into a digital archive, which can be accessed all over the world, without the issue of trawling through limited archival catalogues contained within the physical library to gain limited resources for research. Rather, research needs to expand, by making information available in a direct and speedy manner.

So this video is slightly cheesy and quite brief, however kitkatkale makes some useful arguments as a fellow dabbler in digital humanities.

Works Cited

Caws, Mary Ann. Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Print. 

Schriebman, Susan, et al. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. Print. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Blogging Academia

It has become apparent to me that the digital age we live in requires academia to find new outlets to voice its research. An area which I am quite interested in, in relation to this idea is the Blog.
Since doing my Pecha Kucha presentation on the importance of the blog as a new form of academic research, I have begun to gather together an array of Blogs which I find quite useful for keeping up to date with areas that I am interested in.
Below I will provide a list of links to some of these Blogs:

These are just a few of the blogs that I have being keeping up to date with. Although I realise that some of them are not strictly academically based blogs, I think that the quality of the work being put onto these websites makes them a valuable, rich resource for research.The blog can be a useful tool for framing research and contextualising it in modern society. In terms of digital humanities, I can envision the blog becoming a very important part of the research and publishing process within an academic sphere within the next few years.