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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kwanzaa 2016/ Kujichagulia Notes

v
Kujichagulia in Wuhan, China

Digital Humanities and Graduate Education in a Future



The 2nd Forum for Modern and Contemporary English Literature

Central China Normal University



Brief Speculations



When the first issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly was published in 2007, the editors had the foresight to recommend that the question WHAT IS THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES?  should be deferred to a future.   This was a wise strategy.  The future never arrives.  The future is the post-truth of a post-whatever.  Chosen as the "Word of the Year" by the Oxford English Dictionary, "post-truth" is a rhetorical strategy for locating how some people speak.  The editors believed the better question was HOW CAN WE SHAPE THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES?  The best ultimate question, however, has emerged from this forum:



As we participate by choice or accident in a seeming inevitability of digital humanities, are the transhuman questions we raise about literature and language identical with the posthuman moral and ethical questions which pertain to scholarship and teaching in the 21st century?

WHY?

WHY NOT?



The points  I wanted to make about (1) persuading graduate professors and students to embrace new digital technologies  and (2) whether having competence in modes of thinking usually associated with scientific disciplines can make humanistic inquiry more accountable and desirable  --those points are already modified by the dialectic and dialogues of this forum.



The forum has shown the claim made in a review of Matthew Jockers' Macroanalysis, Digital Methods and Literary History (2013) that digital humanities is emerging "as a major topic of conversation among scholars and administrators associated with the humanities" (Digital Humanities Quarterly 10.3 (2016)) has merit.  We are inside the international conversation regarding digital humanities.  We should meditate now and after the forum on shape futures.

1) Why/how should we teach literature after December 6, 2016?

2) How/why should we embrace or reject  new digital technologies?

3) How/why shall we educate graduate students?



In all cases, we shall have to account to ourselves and our institutions about what is urgent, necessary, and cost-effective in the work we do with literature, language, and new versions of literacy.  We are users (consumers) who have good reason not to abandon what is exceptionally valuable in practices of close readings of texts.  Nevertheless, the global dynamics of change obligate us to retool ourselves and the traditions we value most highly.  We may not find it an easy matter to refashion ourselves as people who are skilled in mastering new technologies, new methods of analysis, interpretation,  and evaluation --- as people who truly assume responsibility for new forms of "evidence" grounded at once in sciences and humanities.









Work in digital humanities, if we opt to do it, will require

(1) Our being conversant with empirical aesthetics, findings in psychology that adjust our understanding of the phenomenology of reading (going beyond 20th century theory and such theorists as Wolfgang Iser)

(2) Our understanding cultural histories as unstable narratives and processes determined, in part, by principles of uncertainty that swim in cyberspace

(3) Our being conversant with what neuroscience may eventually reveal about how our brains are very, very slowly being transformed by exposure to electronic forms of information.



As we teach graduate students and use digital pedagogy

(1) How do we integrate traditional humanistic methods and methodologies with the research methods and questions of cognitive and social sciences to demonstrate that transgressing boundaries among disciplines is at once desirable and practical?

(2) How do we convince the agencies which fund higher education that support for digital humanities is a necessary investment in the growth of national economies? (This is a long-term aim that it may take more than a decade to achieve).

(3) What in our curricula can ensure that students receive rigorous training in the use of emerging digital humanities and in formulating interdisciplinary questions?



I swerve back  to an earlier point



As we participate by choice or accident in a seeming inevitability of digital humanities, are the transhuman questions we raise about literature and language identical with the posthuman moral and ethical questions which pertain to scholarship and teaching in the 21st century?

WHY?

WHY NOT?



and strongly recommend  reading



Niels Beigger, "Digital Humanities in the 21st Century: Digital Material as a Driving Force," Digital Humanities Quarterly 10.2 (2016).



and accessing



Digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/10/3/000256/000256.html



Beigger's article can help us to synthesize our notes from the many excellent forum presentations about



A.  What we are in the process of becoming (evolving into or out of)



B.  Why we study and re-study individual works of literature in order to move toward a comprehensive understanding  of what literature actually has been and continues to be, and why so-called canons of  "literature"  (dances of inclusion and exclusion) fail to tell us what we may truly need to know about how and why human beings  (who are not exactly yet "posted" and mechanical) insist on "writing" (signing) themselves in the time and space of the actual (chaos) as well as in the real (grids of order).



Perhaps following simultaneously the east/west motions suggested by Hitoshi Oshima  (Professor Emeritus in Fukuoka University, Japan )can liberate us into the south/north perpetual spin of KNOWLEDGE.

PERHAPS THAT IS THE TELOS OF DIGITAL HUMANITIES AND THIS FORUM.





Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            December 6, 2016

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