Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature
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Blog 2: DH vs H

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized

From my perception of the Hayles reading, I would say that digital humanities differ from simple humanities by the fact that digital humanities really do allow for you to interact with the text and encourage different paths to the main purpose of the text. These projects that we were presented with are prime examples of digital humanities, with each one going through and presenting new ways to interact with the media, and giving us information beyond what the media itself affords. For example, the video that presented how brushstrokes can help us identify authentic Van Gogh paintings from copies. With just the physical painting, we can see—well, the painting. But by digitizing it, converting it to a black and white image and using computer algorithms to analyze the brush stroke patterns, we gather two pieces of information that the physical painting could have never told us—what exactly is Van Goh’s distinctive brush style, and if the painting is, based on its brush style compared to Van Gogh’s, an genuine painting or a worthless copy.

Digitizing texts gives it dozens of affordances that a hard copy simply cannot do. For example, in this TED talk, we see analysts show us historical trends and social culture through the word count of texts that were written in the past. This is simply not possible with hard copies of books, because the time and effort it would take to do a manual word count on enough literature to gather any sorts of conclusions would vastly outweigh the benefits of discovering that information. By adding the ‘digital’ to humanities, we now get the opportunity to look through hundreds of thousands of pieces of information and extract what we need from it in a matter of minutes. This incredible benefit is, in fact, the foundation for Google’s project to digitize all of the literature available to us, a benefit that Marche argues “is a story of several, related intellectual failures.” Marche argues that digitizing the humanties removes the “humanity” from the work all together, but I disagree. I, like many others who have written in response to him, would like to believe that by giving us this ease in analyzing texts, we are now more likely to look at a piece of literature because we can go directly to the part that we want, rather than having to pore through the entire book and sift through endless pages of information that is not useful for the task we are trying to achieve.

Aiden, E. and Michel, J. (2011, September 20). What we learn from 5 million books?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l4cA8zSreQ Video.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Eck, Allison. “How Forensic Linguistics Revealed J. K. Rowling’s Secret.” PBS. PBS, 19 July 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. Online.

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