Stick with what you know, kid.

My motivation

Like most of my classmates, I am not pursuing a master’s in Digital Humanities because I’m already an expert on the topic.1  I came to Trinity with the intention of learning a thing or two, discovering my compelling and totally marketable idea, and cultivating a career (ac? alt-ac?? who knows?) in the field.  One piece of prior knowledge I bring to the table is that DH scholars do not just teach, research, and publish like your average humanities professor.  No, DH scholars know which side their bread is buttered on.2  An important activity for this breed of academic is branding, and your blog helps you promote your brand.

toast which says "tastes like funding" on it

The photo used in this sophisticated info-graphic is in the public domain, because I’m a professional. (Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!)

So wait, my academic future is on the line, and yet … I’m casually supposed to start a blog for class?!

I considered hiding behind pseudonyms, puns, even passwords to protect my scholarly identity (read: half-baked thoughts) from revelation on the unrelenting Web before I reach my Full Scholarly Potential.  Instead, I’m blogging under my (extremely unique) name.3  Why?  Because our class readings thus far repeatedly come back to one reassuring concept.4  DHers are not  your “sage on a stage” types; often, their work purposefully undermines that outmoded university-centric trope.  I may be a newbie, but even newbies can take part in the conversation.  Interest and some basic computer skills are the main prerequisites.

a straw man bearing the words "sage on a stage"

This is a visual pun (or about as close as I get). The “sage on a stage” thing is a strawman argument these days, don’t you agree? Image (cc) Silar, Wikimedia Commons.

And more specifically …

But liking/knowing how to use computers is not the only prerequisite for commandeering the “digital humanist” moniker.  I return to this post’s title.  Digital humanities is not a major you study in college (yet, anyway).  You pursue it as a minor, in conjunction with something else, or as an advanced degree after completing a separate course of study.  Why?  Because DH needs to build on other bodies of knowledge–the “h” bit.  If you know how to code, build websites, manipulate databases–great!  You’re a programmer!  Enjoy making all of the money forever.

The comic is funny because this is not how it works.

To be a digital humanist, you need some expertise in a field involving human-stuff, too (you know: books, movies, art, music, architecture, all that stuff humans spend a lot of time making and very little money studying).  Surrounded by sexy new tech jargon and seductively marketable programming skills, it’s easy to forget this piece of the puzzle.  None of us came to DH exclusively for the computers.5  We are drawn in because there’s some field of study we love, and we just can’t get enough ways to study it and share it with a broader audience.6

Or at least, that’s how it should be.  I’m still doing some soul-searching about what field I a) am most expert in, or b) am willing to work my tail off becoming expert in.  Leaning towards Woolf and gender studies, but it’s early days.  I’m excited to learn what tools and methodologies are available to the non-Luddite set, and with experience, choose a focus that can combine my expertise and passion into an outwardly-aimed digital project.  Follow the journey (amongst some more sophisticated, essay-style posts) here.

[Idea for rambly introductory post stolen borrowed from my classmate, Tony, who’s blog dhcdoodles has more actual content than anyone else in the class, yet.  You should visit it.]

1. [That’s what Ph.D.s are for.]
2. [The corporate side.]
3. [Yes, I only know that my name is unique in the world because I’ve Googled myself. Don’t pretend you haven’t done the same.]
4. [Other than “how to get funding,” I mean. Which I promise I’ll stop talking about.]
5. [Not even the Apple fanatics.]
6. [In this metaphor, DH is like the Kama Sutra of academic study. No see, it totally works because DHers typically start with “corpora,” and use DH to manipulate these bodies into doing neat new things. #bestmetaphorever]


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