Patricia Cohen articles

The “spatial humanities” mentioned in the “Geographic Information Systems” is an excellent resource for classrooms. For example, the National Library of Spain now has an interactive webpage for Don Quixote, mapping out his adventures with citations from the text. This is clearly an area of scholarship that can take classic literature, classic battles, classic event, etc., and bring them to life on the internet in a way never seen before. I can imagine, for example, an interactive geographical website demonstrating Napoleon’s invasion of Russia as described in War and Peace.

“Giving Literature Virtual Life” describes a Shakespeare class as recreated in a digital format. While the idea is certainly fascinating, I feel a bit more skeptical of this course. That is, there seems to be playing down the rich universe of human emotions that Shakespeare was so brilliant at capturing in his characters. Not to mention the skill of acting and interpreting those emotions in a live format. That seems to me the true heart and soul of a Shakespeare play.

In the article “For Bentham and Others…,” the “crowd-sourcing” method of transcribing handwritten documents is an interesting historical endeavor. Clearly using the internet instead of physical archives saves times and money for research. But the question, as raised in the article, is “can anyone do this”? While there are clear merits in having the transcribed versions, I’m curious if it would be better just to put the original material online and let researchers read for themselves?

Digital Humanties Manifesto 2.0

According to the Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, the Digital Humanities are about integration of expertise across the disciplines, a form of  “co-creation,” utilizing digital media as the means. Digital Humanities also is a type of democratization of knowledge: i.e. no longer specific to or created in the physical space of the “Ivory Tower.” Rather, its emphasis is the design, process, and global collaboration through multimedia which attempts to marry traditional scholarship with modern media. Webpages such as Wikipedia and Google are examples of digital humanities, in that anyone on the internet can access knowledge via these websites.

Traditional humanities, mentions the Manifesto, has been balkanized into nations, languages, methodologies, media. Digital Humanities instead is about “convergence” of these traditional barriers. It also makes the teacher-scholar a “curator,” archiving projects.

The Manifesto raises a fascinating question: Why do academic departments largely maintain their 19th century structure and continue indifferent to the media revolution? Its basic answer is the power of tradition, conservatism, nostalgia, promotion and tenure structure, university bureaucracy, and the like. My question is: What would that department (or some other concept of “department”) look like? What would a new curriculum look like without traditional departments? Also, given the media revolution, why do university administrations still continue to invest so much money in traditional physical and bureaucratic structures?

While the Manifesto raises some wonderful points, as a foreign language teacher, I see some merits to Digital Humanities. For example, the Library of Spain has an interactive webpage on Don Quixote that shows maps, Don Quixote’s adventures, the life and times of Spain, and the like. This is something that I didn’t have access to when I was an undergraduate student, and is something I can use in my classroom today as a supplement. However, before students can work with Digital Humanities in foreign languages, they must learn to understand and speak languages without computers. Hence, they are still grounded to learning skills in the physical and biological worlds before they can engage with the digital world.