Wednesday 5 December 2012

Mind-Flow: The Drafting Process using Stream Of Consciousness Writing

(An example of the fruits of stream of consciousness mind-flow, in art-form)

The following is my own contribution which was spliced together with my fellow collaborators to become the collective piece, Evaluating Digital Scholarship, which I also posted below.

I thought that it would be interested and perhaps even valuable to see the original thought process, which I developed using the stream of consciousness writing method, in comparison to the final product. This provides a worthwhile example of the editing process in collaborative writing.

Apologies for being so cliché, but as I have found, honesty is always the best policy. I think that this theory should apply to education also. Thus far, Digital Humanities has baffled me to say the least. Words like collaboration, TEI, temporality, remediation, and xml have been passed back and forth in our classes like we were all aware of their meanings. Until recently I was not enlightened by these terms. Coming from a traditional humanist school of literary studies, my initial reaction to this movement was to run and hide with all of the physical books in my possession. There was no way that they would take my beloved copy of The Collected Works of Virginia Woolf and turn it into an ebook.  


The ruination of the book as we know it!


However, recently this fear has abated somewhat. I don't want to alarm anyone, but I am considering getting a Kindle this Christmas. Many may be of the opinion that I am a bit late to the game, but the way that I view it, Digital Humanities is still an emerging field. Gadgets are central to this movement. For example, the eReader has now gained widespread availability. Even those who do not shop online are now inundated by its display in their local Tesco. The process of reading and learning is, to paraphrase Yeats, “changed, changed utterly”, but is this change a “terrible beauty”? (The Collected Poems, 193).

When evaluating Digital Humanities, the benefits cannot be ignored. Elements such as Skype and Google Hangouts enable the perimeters of the classroom to be endlessly extended. In terms of linking this back to Digital Humanities, I have discovered a line in D. Randy Garrisons E-Learning in the 21st Century which summarises the change in educational focuses which I believe Digital Humanities represents: “To be constrained by the restricted frame of traditional classroom presentational approaches is to ignore the capabilities and potential of e-learning” (54).   Having commuted to college from a sizeable distance for the past few months since I have started this course, I can understand the immediate profits which this method offers to participation and inclusion in class discussion. DH encompasses the acknowledgement that the physical days of education can no longer stand alone as a means for learning.

Arguably, trying to find a sense of identity in the digital world represents one of the main struggles which has led to the emergence of Digital Arts and Humanities. After all, the Humanities need to carve out a digital persona just as much as any large corporation, in order to make their presence felt in an ever changing digital atmosphere. There is a sense of not wanting to be left behind evident in this move into the realm of I.T. Jaron Lanier explores this concern in his work, You Are Not a Gadget. His concluding thoughts in this book express this Humanist need to stay true to ones self while entering into the digital:
The most important thing about postsymbolic communication is that I hope it demonstrates that a humanist softie like me can be as radical and ambitious as any cybernetic totalist in both science and technology, while still believing that people should be considered differently, embodying a special category (You Are Not A Gadget, np).

Certain questions are at the core of the assessment process for Digital Humanities For example, what categorises digital scholarship? Is the computer truly a scholarly tool? Is there limits to what can be defined as digital scholarship? Is it legitimate scholarship? An area which stirs up an array of controversy is the use of blogging within Digital Humanities and education in general. There are issues relating to this tool which need to be addressed. Such as whether the blog will be considered a legitimate tool for research, which can be cited in an academic paper. The amount of time and effort which is being put into scholarly publications, is now being directed into the blogosphere. Alan Liu offers an entry point for such examples of social media to become more respected:

In the digital humanities, cultural criticism–in both its interpretive and advocacy modes–has been noticeably absent by comparison with the mainstream humanities. . . . How the digital humanities advance, channel, or resist the great postindustrial, neoliberal, corporatist, and globalist flows of information-cum-capital, for instance, is a question rarely heard in the digital humanities associations, conferences, journals, and projects with which I am familiar (Where is Cultural Criticism in The Digital Humanities, np).
  Engagement with more thoughtful scholarship which directs itself towards cultural criticism could strengthen the consideration of blogs and other social media tools for DH scholarship, through the fusion of discussions of the data use with cultural commentary. I am of the opinion that social media is fast becoming the leading Publishing house for new material. Could one go so far as to argue that web 2.0 is the Humanities life-support system?

Tara McPherson advocates this lifeline theory in her essay Media Studies and The Digital Humanities:
 More recently, we have seen an explosion of what I might call the "blogging humanists"—folks very interested in the hopes for participation promised by emerging Web 2.0 technologies. Faced with severe cutbacks at academic presses and dated systems for peer review, this second breed of digital humanists port the words and monographs of humanities scholarship to networked spaces of conversation and dialogue. (Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities, 119).

The humanities is in the process of a reformation, which I hope will see it become more accessible to the masses. Contribution is a quality which should not be overlooked in this process. In terms of my own background, a Masters holder of Modern English, where is the revolution situated in this school? Does it fit with the study and criticism of the physical text? I fear that many will not able to disassemble their preconceptions about literary studies in order to embrace the study of literature through digital humanities. I always find it slightly ironic when I see a book written on Digital Humanities or Humanities Computing sitting on a bookshelf.

Matthew Kirschenbaum attempts to answer the question of how Digital Humanities fits into English literature studies, in his chapter 'What is Digital humanities and what's it doing in English Departments?':
The answer to the latter portion of the question is easier. I can think of some half a dozen reasons why English Departments have historically been hospitable settings for this kind of work. First, after numeric input, text has been by far the most tractable data type for computers to manipulate (Debates in the Digital Humanities, 8).

This is a very logical statement. But is the computer necessary or is it simply a case of laziness within the humanities? My own reasoning behind the seeping of DH into the walls of English Departments throughout the world is that it is simply inescapable. Evolution has called for it, so to speak. For some time, English literature has called out for its voice to be heard amongst the changing landscape of research. The standards within DH need distinction for such a traditionally technophobic discipline. There needs to be some synergy between disciplinary standards of governance and the increasing use of more liberal forms of research using technology. Julia Fraser conceives that “digital humanities as a whole has revealed precisely how interwoven and mutually consequential 'technical' and 'disciplinary' standards often are (Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities, 68). DH demands these sectors to strike the right balance when merging in research.

As I come towards the end of this piece of writing I feel my fear creeping back up on me. Reassurance is needed that the book will not be destroyed by the computer. But is this just evolution happening before our eyes? Could someone please inform me of the method of citation which this movement will use? Or, shall it be a mixture of the true level of patchwork happening in this movement at the moment? How will material be governed in a field which hosts a variety of expertise? Unified standards need to be implemented to guide us through the world of Digital Humanities.  

On a note of conclusion, Digital Humanities is in transit. It is moving from a world of constraint to a world of scholarly freedom. FAST. It is up to us all to navigate this transition in a thoughtful, cautious manner.

Works Cited
Deegan, Marilyn, Willard McCarty. Collaboration in the Digital Humanities: A Volume in Honour of Harold Short. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2012. Print.

Garrison, D. Randy. E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minnesota: University of Minnesota P, 2012. Print.

Lanier, Jaron. You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 2010. Print.

Liu, Alan. 'Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities'. The History and Future of the Digital Humanities. Modern Language Association Convention. Los Angeles, 7 January, 2011. Web.

McPherson, Tara. "Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities." Cinema Journal 48.2 (2009): 119-123. Project MUSE. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <>.

Yeats, W.B.  Richard J.Finneran, ed. The Collected Poems of W.B.Yeats. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print.

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