Humanities in the Digital Age

This post is a short response to two different essays that address the humanities in an increasingly digital context: the first is “Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions” by Cathy Davidson, and the second is “Reading (And Writing) Online, Rather Than on the Decline” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

On the whole, these two articles converge in the central idea that the humanities need to participate an the interactive space that is online sharing. Both authors urge humanists to publish their ideas online as a way to garner a new type of peer review–one that both would agree is useful in shaping new ways of thinking and paving the way for collaborations otherwise not possible in another venue. Both authors are excited about this possibility for open communication and see it as the next destination for the discipline.

However, while the focus of Davidson’s essay is on a still-cloistered view of the discipline as scholars, Fitzpatrick encourages scholars and students alike to participate in platforms not typically associated with scholarly work, like Twitter and blogging sites. (And, really, that’s what I’m doing here, which is cool.) I think Fitzpatrick better realizes the social context of a digital humanities whereas Davidson, while still very adamant about collaboration and exchange, does not fully explain the social aspect of this new mode. For example, Fitzpatrick talks about a certain vernacular that can be applied online in order to gain new readers–in order to increase reach beyond the humanities–which I think Davidson would not necessarily agree with.

I found myself more invested in Fitzpatrick’s writing because it seemed more immediate to me; instead of only pertaining to a discipline, it moved beyond those borders and included grounding in an increasingly social society. (Well, increasingly social online, anyway.)


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