I’ve been asked to give a talk about digital humanities to the Professional Historian’s Association Historically Speaking session in Melbourne. Now, I’d class myself someone who keeps up with discussions about digital humanities in order to provide better, more useful and useable access to museum collections and associated information. But as I’m neither a historian, nor an actual practitioner of digital humanities, writing a talk presents an interesting challenge.
Over the weekend I realised that what I should be doing was asking for ideas and input from the digital humanities community. Hooray for Twitter, and for the networked community in helping me with my question. I posted a simple message, asking for contributions on what is one thing that I should tell the audience? I’m extremely grateful for the swiftness and generosity of the answers – and even the offer of a readymade slide deck introducing digital humanities. Thanks so much for that @wragge!
In summary, I will tell the audience these things:
What are the digital humanities and what does it value?
They are traditional humanities combined with IT; making them both history and future orientated.
The things historians care about, such as archives, interpretation, meaning and historiography don’t disappear just because you’re using technology. The technology is used as the mechanism for discovery.
Digital humanities emphasises collaboration as a virtue. The ‘lone wolf’ scholar is less the norm. Sharing ideas, resources, community allows practitioners to go further and learn more than they would working alone.
Is digital humanities just for geeks?
Digital humanities is something all researchers can be part of; it’s not just for large institutions and IT geeks.
You don’t have to learn coding but a bit of scripting can be useful. It’s also a way of thinking – working with getting messy data into a structure, or trying some scripting, helps develop computational thinking.
Digital humanities means *open* data!
Digital humanities researchers value collaboration and partnerships – and to make the most of these they promote publishing data with unrestrictive licenses for reuse, and utilising linked open data principles.
Plan, from day one, to publish the data as well as the book. Make that data linked and open, even if the synthesis comes much later.
If research is funded by public money it must be open, no excuses.
Thanks very much to Twitter contributors @jamesinealing @erodley @mia_out @leoba @rahtz @jamescummings @annettestr @CriticalSteph @bestqualitycrab @ericdmj @jenguiliano @wragge whose thoughts have been compiled above.
If you have any more thoughts to add, please do so – you’d be very welcome!
The Encyclopedia of Life has just announced the Rubenstein Fellows for 2012, in their blog post here. Congratulations to all the Fellows for 2012! I’m super excited because this year warmest congratulations go to two Australian women in science. Dr Joanne Taylor from Museum Victoria will use her fellowship to contribute information to EoL about squat lobsters - very timely since she has also just co-edited a book on them. For those who don’t know, squat lobsters look like this.
The other recipient is Dr Kathryn Hall from the Queensland Museum who will be contributing information on sponges from the Indo-West Pacific. Kathryn’s page in EoL can be found here.
We have two clear candidates here for promoting Weird Life and women in science so look forward to hearing from each of them sometime soon…
And here’s a picture of some more Weird Life from the Biodiversity Heritage Library photostream in Flickr. Enjoy!
The other day I retweeted a post from the blog Thinking About Exhibits (http://exhibitdev.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/reviews-museum-game-apps/) on museum and gallery game apps and received a thought provoking reply. My colleague and friend @Jim_Croft said:
"Feel so out of step. ‘gamification is something I can not get excited about. Ever since I was a kid, science was exciting in itself."
And another colleague @rustyrussell22 responded:
“Yep. Knowledge used to be enuff. Points, tokens, ranks, farm animals … whatever it takes I guess.”
That got me thinking about how kids – well teenagers – around me engage with both the world and with technology. So here’s an anecdote about one 13 year old and how I observed him the other day learning the 21st century way. Sample size of 1, I know. No statistical significance here.
My 13 year old received for Christmas a gift of a small wooden model of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. An architectural model made of wood, quite intricate and quite beautiful once assembled. It took him quite some time and patience to get it done, most of a morning. Once finished, he opened a book he’d received at the end of last year ‘100 Wonders of the World’ to see if the building he’d just put together was in there. And it was. So he read all about the architecture and how it was built and designed. Later in the afternoon he was ‘having a go on the computer’ and called me upstairs. I’d heard taps and mouse clicks going on for quite some time so had been wondering what he was doing. And there it was, his finished Guggenheim Museum, now rendered in blockish splendour in Minecraft. Fantastic. And I got to thinking, is this multi-modal experience any less real for him, or any less of an opportunity for him to learn?
And this led me to curiosity. I would probably agree that games alone may not be enough to engender curiosity, although some certainly do. But as my son slips effortlessly from real and hands-on to virtual I observe him being curious to learn and find things out for himself. He just does it in a different way from how I did as a teenager. Whatever it takes – as Rusty said. And then I came across this video, which seemed to sum things up nicely. The Future Belongs to the Curious
The postscript to this anecdote is the dinner table conversation that night. “Can we visit the Guggenheim?” And, except for living on the wrong continent I would willing have replied “yes, let’s go tomorrow!”