Dracula and the Digital

I’ve selected as my book of choice Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  While it may not test or strain the abilities of Google Books in quite the same way as Paul Duguid’s selection, Tristram Shandy, it does offer unique ways in which to present the book in the digital format.  The epistolary style could be better presented in the digital format than it has ever been in the printed editions.  And while I recognize that what we are doing with this particular exercise is simply to survey how well Google Books, Project Gutenberg, HATHITrust, and/or the Internet Archive succeeded in capturing the bookness of our selected text, I still was interested to see how they would manage with such an interest on as Dracula.

Dracula is available in a wide range of formats, Project Gutenberg–as one might expect–offering the most (HTML, EPUB (without images), Kindle (likewise, no images), Plucker, QiOO Mobile, Plain-Text UTF-8, and even audio.  I must say, however, the warning that the EPUB and Kindle versions lack images seems pointless as I couldn’t, in a glance through the other offerings, locate any images in any of the formats.  Further, even in the PDF format offered by HATHITrust, the full text online offered by the Internet Archive or its EPUB version, or the ebooks Google presented could I find an illustrated version.  This is fine by me as I can’t recall any of my editions (other than the annotated Les Klinger copy I have) having any images at all, it just seemed that if Project Gutenberg saw fit to warn me about the lack of them, they might have at least snuck in a small image of a blood-sucker somewhere or other in the other versions to make it all worth it.

The provenance or source of the digital texts is a bit spotty.  For example, while Project Gutenberg assures us that their copy is based on the 1897 edition of the text and that the digital copy was published May 9, 2008 and updated September 3, 2012 there are few other specifics provided such as publisher, city of publication, or anything else that one might find on the inside of a printed copy.  Google fairs a bit better, though one of their versions simple details the digital copy’s origin (Plain Label Books, Aug 30, 2007), the other proclaims that it is published by W. R. Caldwell in 1897.  That particular edition even has a make of inheritance as Duguid discusses as the first page is emblazoned with “Stanford University Library, Gift of John W. Dobbins, Esq.”  To be fair this is also the nearest one of the digital versions come to being illustrated as there is an image of “Castle Dracula” on the fourth page and some owls on the fifth–this is apparently the “three owl edition” of the story.  HATITrust’s copy, amusingly enough, is actually one of Google’s digitized copies from the University of Michigan (and a very poorly scanned one at that, as several pages are more than half cut off at the start of the book) and of a far more recent printing (judging by the image of Bela Lugosi on the front cover).  In fact, the full text version that the Internet Archive offers is actually copyrighted Project Gutenberg and seems to be the identical copy to the HTML version offered on their site with the same source and publication dates.

As I mentioned before, some of the scanning or digitizing of the copies was less than ideal.  HATHITrust’s version looks as though the first scanned pages were trying to escape the scanner and no one noticed, though as that may have been the interior of the dust-jacket, it may be understandable.  Google’s version from Stanford University has a few badly scanned pages with small portions of texted clipped off at the edges of pages, it appears, but nothing too apparent.  The Internet Archive HTML version appears to have just been a rough cut and paste of Project Gutenberg’s as they have managed to copy the link names, but not the links, to the mp3 audio files that Project Gutenberg provided in addition to the text.  The Plain Label Books edition offered on Google Books or Project Gutenberg’s own HTML editions appear to be the easiest to read, though neither has even attempted to retain the “bookness” of the book.  Rather than scanned editions, they have retyped the text.  The effect is, at least for me, a bit jarring as it no longer looks like a “genuine book” to me, which is to say a printed copy; however, the pages are not marred with artifacts and smudges from life on a library shelf and there are no missing parts of pages or words so in that way they are much easier to read.  Nothing has been lost from the presentation in these, certainly, and Project Gutenberg has even taken the time to add hyperlinks to the table of contents so that one may jump to a desired chapter with ease.

None of the editions seem to provide an easy or obvious method to report or correct errors, though at least in the Project Gutenberg Kindle edition one was able to highlight or annotate the text–a feature that I couldn’t find on the other versions.  Further, all except the poorly copied version of Project Gutenberg’s HTML offered by the Internet Archive, offered means to jump through the text.  Most did this with a “go to page” field one could use, though Project Gutenberg stood out by offering the linked table of contents as well as the ability to create bookmarks.  HATHITrust was also original in that it also offered the ability to view the text as a series of thumbnails.

All the versions I explored offered the ability to search within the text for given words, though the Project Gutenberg HTML required on to do this with the use of the search or find feature in one’s browser, rather than offering a specific search box for the purpose.  All of the sites, with the exception of Project Gutenberg, did offer the ability to add it to a “library” if one signed into the website, however.  In fact, if one preferred to read offline, all of the site offered the ability to download the text in one or more formats for later study.

Finally, while the sites offered many abilities with the text they were all about the same.  None stood head and shoulders above the others in terms of affordances.  This is a shame really, considering the digital medium.  One was really is limited to reading the texts from start to finish or searching them for select terms.  The idea of “flipping through” the text was almost non-existant for the time it took to load the scanned pages in Google Books and HAHTITrust made that impossible (while my internt could be to blame here, I doubt it, given that I’m the only one using it at the moment).  Further, affordances one would have with the physical copy were no offered online–highlighting, dog-earring pages, etc.  So while the possibilities ought to be almost endless with the digital version of the text, they were sadly underutilized.

Greetings from a digital immigrant

Hi everyone!  I’m a second year M.A./Ph.D. student; I’m specializing in medieval and early modern literature; I’m particularly interested in Old English Poetry.  The reason I am in this class is because I am not a digital humanist and I want to find out whether I ever could be (or if I would want to become) one.  I like the phrase Katie offered with the Prensky article:  I am a digital immigrant.  When reading Trubek’s statement “Do not tweet because you have been told to, or because you feel you ‘should,’” I wondered “Should I just leave now, then? Is there no hope for me as a DHer if I don’t feel moved by an overwhelming urge to tweet?”  I find DH counter-intuitive and mysterious, but that is why I decided that I need to give it a proper investigation and a fair try.

I was intrigued by the statement in D_H by Burdick et al. that raises a similar issue to the article to which Katie pointed us:

The lack of conventions and the opportunity to imagine formats with very different affordances than print have not only brought about recognition of the socio-cultural construction and cognitive implications of standard print formats, but have also highlighted the role of design in communication.  (10)
This speaks to my biggest question about DH:  Do people really think differently when they think digitally?  If my students need me to become more digitally adept in order to communicate with them, I’m willing to do it — even if it means tweeting!

Is there such a thing as analog humanities?

For me it still feels premature to attempt my own definition of DH at this stage, but taking a cue from the agile development school, I guess I should get a working definition on screen and then iterate as the semester goes on.

Before I do that, however, a few words by way of introduction:  I am a student in the MIM program in the iSchool, and I also have a second (or first?) life as a medieval historian, having completed a Ph.D. in history at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2006.  Prior to my doctoral studies, in the late 90s I took an M.A. in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University, which is where I first started working on digital projects, doing some web design for the Medieval Institute and SGML tagging for an electronic review journal (The Medieval Review, or TMR, see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tmr/).  Back in those days — ‘the before times’ my kids like to call them — TMR’s cubicle also housed a special UNIX terminal, the sole purpose of which was to serve images from something called “The Electronic Beowulf” — still available, now in its 3rd edition! See http://ebeowulf.uky.edu/studyingbeowulfs/overview. The Electronic Beowulf’s images were  too large to be opened on a typical PC of that time, but today I’m sure could be handled by the average smartphone.  After I moved to Chapel Hill, digital skills were mainly a way to make ends meet between teaching assistantships rather than an integral part of my dissertation research, though already then I was starting to recognize how important and useful digital libraries could be.  For someone who primarily studies manuscripts, most of which are housed in European repositories, many of which are still minimally and poorly described in print, the prospect of having large numbers of primary sources digitized and made freely available looked to be a game changer (though in practice it hasn’t necessarily played out that way for a combination of reasons, but some sense of the riches that are out there today can be gained from http://manuscripts.cmrs.ucla.edu/index.php).  After completing my degree, I held various temporary appointments, both full and part-time, including the better part of a year working on a project that actively engaged in the enterprise of making medieval manuscripts more widely available: Carolingian Culture at Reichenau and St. Gall (http://www.stgallplan.org).

My experiences working on the St. Gall project really helped to drive home for me how the  field of digital libraries/digital cultural heritage was where I wanted to be, and that realization in turn is what has led me to UMD and the MIM program, which in turn brings this blog post back around to the question of defining DH.  With the exception of the St. Gall project, I don’t really consider most of what I have done through my scholarly career to have been digital humanities per se, though there hasn’t really been a time in all these years that technology has not played some role in my academic life, whether it be in facilitating scholarly interaction and exchange, a practical way to access primary and secondary research materials, or a means of keeping body and soul together, i.e. a paycheck. And while I wouldn’t dispute many of the definitions and characteristics put forth in earlier posts and in this week’s readings, especially the idea that DH is a particularly collaborative, social, and experimentational flavor of modern scholarship, I am left wondering whether we haven’t reached a saturation point where there is in practice virtually no humanities scholarship that is not, on some level at least, digital.

That having been said, while there may be no analog humanities these days (except perhaps that practiced by castaways on desert islands), not every scholarly project is equally digital.  So what makes some more digital than the others?  Ramsay’s idea of building, which so may posts have touched on, rings true to me, as does the idea that digital humanities is particularly collaborative and social (in contrast to the solitary and isolated monographers of the ‘before times’).  I recognize that these are descriptive characteristics rather than the elements of a definition — perhaps come May I’ll have learned enough to venture the latter?


Hey, everyone.  Chip here.  A quick introduction to me: I’m a first-year PhD student in English here at the University of Maryland.  I just finished an M.A. in English at GWU last year, so I’ve been in DC for a little while now.  For the last couple of years I was really interested in looking at the intersections of postcolonial theory and queer theory, as a way to understand how sexual behavior becomes increasingly politicized in times of political change.  Of late, I’ve started contemplating a future-leaning look at how science fiction projects the next wave of colonial expansion.

As far as my DH background goes, it’s not too extensive.  I took a course last semester with Kari Kraus, and we examined the history and future of the book, and more general of humans’ interactions with text.  I got a pretty decent look at some of the DH debates around the physical media that carry text, and I’m excited to have an opportunity to learn more in this course.

In the readings for today, I was most interested in a theme raised by a couple of the quick definitions in the DDH article “Day of DH: Defining the Digital Humanities.”  Mark Marino and Ed Finn both point to what they see as the impending obsolescence of the very idea of Digital Humanities.  They suggest that very soon there will be no sense of Digital Humanities as something separate from simply…humanities, as everything will become somewhat digitally-inclined as our society as a whole (including the academy) becomes more digitally integrated.  I found this to be a particularly interesting take, because it simultaneously foregrounds the importance of Digital Humanities (since everything is about to become digital) while acknowledging that DH as its own entity is doomed (and in fairly short order).  So I wonder if I’ve already missed the boat, in a sense, as far as DH goes?  By the time I get comfortable enough with DH to call myself a DH’er, will doing so seem a little bit like putting “Proficient with Word-processing Software” on a resume?

From the under-theorized side of the room …

My name is Paul Evans, and I am currently a PhD candidate in the Medieval and Byzantine Studies program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. I am also a graduate research assistant at UMD’s Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), working as a Scala/Lift developer on MITH’s NEH-funded Active OCR project (http://mith.umd.edu/research/project/active-ocr/).

Before that, I had a number of previous academic and professional lives. My undergraduate degree was in the History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe. I then spent 23 years working in the computer industry, for the first ten years as a UNIX system administrator, and then as a manger, director and VP of IT.

My PhD dissertation is focused on the evolution of Gratian’s Decretum (c. 1140), the foundational text of medieval canon law. So I’m working on a traditional topic, using a traditional approach (think 19th century German textual scholarship, like the Monumenta Germaniae Historiae). My tools, however, are not traditional. I transcribe the texts from digitized images (still a manual process), encode the transcriptions in XML, and then write web applications in Java, Python or Scala that help me to visualize the variants. To see a sample, check out http://http://ingobert-app.appspot.com/.

Having read the other introductory blog posts, I feel under-qualified to discuss the critical-theoretical issues raised by the readings that the rest of you have engaged. I will limit myself to the issue of whether or not one has to know how to write code in order to be a DHer in good standing. As the person in the room with (I think) the most technical experience, I’m going to take the counter-intuitive position that the answer is “no” or at least “not much”. I think it’s more important to be able to tell a story that someone (yourself or someone else) can turn into code. To understand what I mean by “tell a story”, read Getting Real, a book on software development by 37 Signals, the people who brought you Basecamp.

I’m looking forward to the discussion tonight.




Digital Object Lessons

My name is Melissa, and there are a couple of reasons why I feel relatively comfortable not defining digital humanities (plural), or at least, not making myself anxious about its various definitions. The first reason is personal and anecdotal, so I’ll start with that by way of an introduction.

When I think back on my own experiences with technology [as a feminist autobiographer a "memory audit" like this one is a necessary first step for me in thinking about gendered histories of technology and power], I realize that I’m not afraid of it because tools and machines were part of my milieu from an early age. Now that I’m thinking about it, I see that this has everything to do with being from a working-class family. There are infamous pictures of me as a toddler in a leopard leotard on the seat of my uncle’s yellow bulldozer. My grandfather was a tool and die maker–he worked on machines that made other machines, but before that he worked in a paper factory. I can distinctly remember my excitement watching paper being made, excitement that was magnified when he brought home boxes of it to feed through the typewriter he found at a garage sale for me. So my love of literature is intimately bound up with material production itself; it has as much to do with the feel, smell, and sound of paper and the thoroughly nostalgic and satisfying experience of (loudly) making words appear on the page with a machine as it does with the words themselves. [Speaking of words, I also argued as a child with my grandfather about why the "square" used to measure angles was triangular.]

My mom dated and eventually married a mechanic who is also a carpenter, plumber, and, though he probably wouldn’t admit it, a lay engineer and inventor. I grew up in garages and hardware stores, watching him “hack” things–whether it was a new foundation for a very old house or an engine fix that, while unorthodox, was “close enough for government work,” in his words. He is a maker to his core, so I probably got to play with more weird tools and ancient, highly specific machines than most tomboys. Meanwhile I was happily word processing with Mavis Beacon on Windows 95, dabbling in early virtual worlds on a dial-up connection, and beating Nintendo games. All of this, I think, prepared me to not care very much when I was one of about five women in my Advanced Placement computer programming class in high school. In turn, and to come back to the purpose of this post, that programming class is what helped me not be daunted by some of my colleagues’ thinly veiled fear and disdain for digital humanities.

So, I know I am, and will continue to be, a cyborg whether or not others consider me to be a digital humanist. Which brings me to the second reason I’m not getting anxious about definitions of digital humanities. I recently read Robyn Wiegman’s brilliant book Object Lessons, which argues, in short, that the critical desires that motivate our scholarship (in the case of Women’s Studies and other minoritarian “identity knowledges,” the desire to do justice) can tell us much about disciplinary norms and imperatives. Wiegman pays attention to the often bitter and snarky conflicts that take place in academic journals and conference presentations in moments of field formation and consolidation. I cannot help but take an object lesson from debates surrounding the origins and the futures of digital humanities work. The obvious anxiety that surrounds “who’s in and who’s out,” “the cool kids’ table,” and “the big tent” are not new–they are part and parcel of capitalist academic institutions that value shiny newness and sexy neologisms ["intertwinglings" is my new fave], entrepreneurship and innovation narrowly and profitably defined, and competition that leads to “progress” for only a select few.

It’s not surprising that, as David Golumbia points out in “‘Digital Humanities’: Two Definitions,” multiple and contradictory assertions of what digital humanities are “about” and what they do are circulating simultaneously. In fact, while they appear to be contradictory, the “big tent” definition and the “tools and archives” or “making and building” definition might actually be achieving the same purpose, which is allowing universities and eventually the state to profit off whatever they think digital humanities are. I’m not trying to make this sound like a conspiracy theory with no accountable actors–there are powerful individuals making big decisions with huge amounts of money here. You and me could argue till the cows come home about what digital humanities mean, but in the end our language is going to have to match the assumptions of the funding agency we want to support our project, as the “Short Guide” offered by the authors of Digital_Humanities makes (somewhat implicitly) clear.

In short [or maybe at length], what are our investments in making, building, geeking out, hacking, coding, designing, reading (socially or otherwise), theorizing, critiquing, navelgazing? I come down hard on the side of Bianco when it comes to critical-creative praxis–I did so when I thought I was just a writer and I do so now, in the process of shifting my identity to that of maker. I don’t think writing, reading, and thinking critically and creatively can be excluded from the category of “doing,” as a recent twitter spat I had with another attendee of the Digital Humanities Winter Institute can attest. But rather than arguing about who’s cool or sexy, we need to seriously interrogate the kinds of cultural and academic capital attached to the practitioners who get to inhabit those labels, as well as the cost to those who don’t.

Caught Between Expansiveness and the Desire to Draw Boundaries

Hi, all!  I’m Katie Kaczmarek, and I “fell into” digital humanities when I was searching for a category to define my interests when applying to doctoral programs.  During my five years as a high school English teacher, I had to take classes on using technology in the classroom, where I came across this article by Marc Prensky which describes that the current generation of students growing up with technology literally have a different process of reading than those of us who grew up before it was omnipresent.  So I’m interested in investigating what features of online/hypertext literature or interactive media Young Adult print authors are using to appeal to those types of readers.  The more I learn about Digital Humanities, the more excited I am to become a part of it, because like Charity, I want my work to have some practical use to the colleagues I left behind.

After looking at all the readings, the digital humanities field seems to be suffering from the tension between wanting to be expansive and inclusive (Building doesn’t mean just coding!  Collaboration is key!) and from wanting to have clear and specific boundaries (You’re not a digital humanist just because you have a blog!  How is this different from what you could have done in print?).  Golumbia points out that even the Digital_Humanities book uses both the narrow definition of digital humanities as “tool-and-archives” and the “big tent” definition without distinction, though it leans towards the narrower definition.  I’m wondering how much of this need to draw boundaries and create a specific definition is born from a desire to legitimate the field within academia.  Universities already struggling to figure out how to assess digital humanities project-work no doubt appreciate the guidelines suggested in the “Short Guide to Digital Humanities”.  But the ability for people with so many diverse interests to participate in the field is part of what gives it vitality, and as Bianco notes, when you start reducing heterogeneity to create standards, you start to limit diversity, and lose potential ideas and results.

One of the other unique features of digital humanities that I find exciting and refreshing for the academic world is the fact that in the project-based world of DH, 1) failure is to be expected and 2) projects are encouraged not only to build off of previous work, but to be continued.  The fact that failure is an acceptable step in the process makes DH a much less intimidating field to step into, especially for a recovering perfectionist like me.  I also like the encouragement to collaborate with others and take their work farther, and the fact that your work can have even more of a lasting impact.

On studying and building in Latin American literature

Hi everybody! I’m Julia. I am a PhD student and this is the first time in my career that I have taken a course about something that is so far from the debates I am used to studying and participating in. And I am very happy for that!

I find it really interesting to read about a debate inside DH (for example, how to name this “academic practice”, the borders of the field) when the debate I am used to studying is over what internet and digital texts have to do with literary studies. I come from Latin American literature studies (my interests are contemporary Latin American literature and especially Brazilian, as I am a literary translator from Portuguese into Spanish) and it is not common to hear about DH in our departments. At least not without the confusion between “scholars who use digital technologies in studying traditional humanities objects and those who use the methods of the contemporary humanities in studying digital projects,” as Kathleen Kirkpatrick says. It is a field that everybody finds interesting but prefers to keep at a safe distance.

Even though the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world has a great many digital literature projects, electronic literature, etc.: topics like those are not discussed in depth in our literature courses. I do not know if that is because it is not a “hospitable setting” for DH to grow, as Matthew Kirschenbaum affirms regarding DH in English Department. We do not have a tradition of studying the history of publishing alongside the history of literature– not to mention the history of translation.

Almost two years ago, I developed a digital project about contemporary Brazilian literature translated into Spanish (www.brasilpapelessueltos.com). I understand if  you do not know anything about Latin American literature, since the quantity of books translated from other languages represents only the 3% of the books published per year in USA. But there are some (digital!) projects that aim to revert this poverty, such as wordswithoutborders.com, a site I admire. Something similar happens between Spanish-speaking readers and Brazilian writers, although not by such as great margin. Some translations are available, but Brazilian literature is not very known in the rest of Latin America. So that’s why I thought of creating a web page to post my and others’ translations, as well as adding a data base about what has been published in Spanish in the last ten years, news, literary events and so on.  The idea was to bring Brazilian literature to Spanish-speaking readers and possible publishers.

It was during the creation of my page (I had to learn how to work with WordPress, CSS, HTML) that I became aware of the huge possibilities that publishing digital texts had not only for reaching certain community of readers but also to think about literature, translation and language. So I decided that this project could become part of my MA thesis, as it entered in a very academic but rather new field as the Digital Humanities. But through the readings for this week I came to know that the name and the boundaries of the discipline are not well established so far. Some do not like the term, others do not like the ways some scholars present the field. Sometimes the problem is asking the same questions, so we have to create new ones. Golumbia’s text and its comments triggered a set of questions that I found interesting: is DH a field in itself or is it part of different fields?

I do not belong to the DH field, and I am beginning to get to know the debates, but having in mind the project that I am developing, I found Stephen Ramsey’s text “On building” to be very true  and as enthusiastic as I am regarding the specificity of DH as a building practice. It is all about “building and making,” Ramsay says. I realized that the web page I was building was doing more than transmitting information: it had to do with creation and creativity, and also with studying certain concepts –translation theories– through the work with digital text: how to think (and publish) translation in texts with the characteristics of hypertexts. When I found that I could innovate and research at the same time, I found a different approach to my study: I could theorize and create something at the same time! Studying and building things –that is what Ramsey defines as the radical “move from reading to making.”

In my project, I discovered little by little new objectives that a web page could satisfy: being useful for readers, publishers, Portuguese students, Translation students, translators, and scholars. It was an academic but also a literary work. I was designing, writing, theorizing, and communicating with readers, publishers, and translators. As Trevor Owens, from the Library of Congress, posted on Day of DH: “The digital allows for scholars, librarians, archivists, and curators to engage much more directly with each other and the public. Further, it allows them not simply to write for each other, but to build things for everyone.” I like the idea of “community” in DH, where the reader is more active, and the author could be not just one. But also in the sense of a community of people doing the same: DH “is both a methodology and a community,” says Jason Farman in his comment for Day of DH. A community that I did not know about and I am amazed to have discovered, for I used to have no dialogue with colleagues or professors about digital topics.


What Doesn’t Fall Under the DH Umbrella?

Hello!  I’m Courtney.  I am a second year MA student at American University and this is my first class through the consortium.  I’m really excited to be in the DH class because our program at AU offers nothing remotely similar, and, as someone who wants to work in publishing post-graduation, I think it’s extremely important.  As I said during our class introductions, I come from a TV production background.  I was a writer/producer at MTV/VH1 for nearly a decade and left for the career change.  I wanted to marry my love of TV and its technologies with my love of literature, and I feel digital publishing will be that field.  I also feel that it would be remiss not to study the field of DH as it is the field where every other field will have some contribution to it, especially in the publishing industry.

While I have never before considered myself a DHer, I’m now curious if, based on my previous career, I am without knowing it.  I am curious about Ramsay’s “On Building,” and whether or not each of us who tweet, status update on Facebook, or share pictures on Instagram are unwitting DHers.  Do these actions constitute building, as we are adding to the forum?  Or is only coding building?  Similarly, I was struck by Scheinfeldt’s “Sunset for Ideology, Sunrise for Methodology?” and his idea that DH is influencing all areas of study.  I am currently taking a course called Modernism and Painting and it reminds me of how Impressionism influenced the writing of the time.  Will DH influence all aspects of our work and lives?  I’m certainly curious to find out!

Definitions and Boundaries

I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Dan, and I’m a second year MA/PhD English student at Maryland. Why am I in this class? Well, I took Neil’s Technoromanticism course last year, where I got a taste of what DH is all about. For my final project, my partner and I worked with Woodchipper, a topic modeling tool. Together we compiled 100 or so science fiction texts, threw them into Woodchipper (well, Travis did that part for us), compiled the results, and each wrote a paper on our findings. I tried to locate certain commonalities between these texts, as I was interested in seeing if Woodchipper could determine subgenres and common topics. This experiment was rewarding, novel, and a lot of fun, and, well, now I’m here.

On to the readings! The biggest question has been, “What is and what isn’t DH?” Others have already interrogated this question, but to add my voice to the masses, the core of this question seems to arise from the deliberately open-ended nature of DH itself. Is it a field or a method? Is it about making or interpreting? The consensus on these questions is that there can never be a consensus. By seeking to define itself as broadly as possible—interdisciplinary, collaborative, a methodology and a field, theoretical and post-theoretical—Digital Humanities wants it all. This is a productive and ambitious outlook, perhaps utopian, and certainly tactical. After all, why should a new field set out to place limits on itself? This strategy is especially true here, as the strength and foundation of DH lies in its eschewing categories and traditional ways of thinking.

Despite this, there is a still tension surrounding the question of what is and what isn’t DH. As Ryan Cordell mentions in the Twitter Storify,

“I do actually think we need at some level to distinguish what is & isn’t DH-otherwise why call it a field at all?”

Therein lies the central conflict of this debate. How long can we consider DH both a field and a methodology? Certainly, when the dust settles, DH will have no choice but to establish itself more clearly, despite its open-ended nature. For better or worse, this will mean acknowledging its boundaries, perhaps not by deliberately setting up or establishing them, as that would conflict with its ideology, but by necessity a field must contain boundaries or it cannot be considered a field at all.

On the other end, we have the argument that DH is only a methodology. If this is the case, we can say, “To heck with restrictions!” Golumbia recognizes these two differing definitions of DH, one narrow and the other expansive, and one a field or discipline and the other a methodology and a tool. In the comments, Ted Underwood writes,

“Part of the reason why I’m not troubled by terminology is that I don’t think we’re going to come out of this with a distinct field at all. I suspect the boundaries of existing disciplines will hold, and DH will end up as a loose name for an assortment of different interdisciplinary projects.”

So which is it? It is tempting to say that DH is both a field and a methodology, and this answer might be closest to the truth, but as DH matures, it will inevitably have to define itself more clearly and recognize its boundaries. For now, the open-ended, expansive definition of DH is useful for attracting attention to the field, and it will be interesting to see how its definition grows alongside Digital Humanities itself.