Tuesday, September 23, 2014
12:30pm – 2:00pm
The humanities have turned up in some unlikely places of late. The August 2014 issue of Science Magazine, the world’s top-ranked scientific journal, for example, featured an article on cultural history. Authored by a team led by an art historian but made up primarily of scientists, “A network framework for cultural history” purports to reconstruct “aggregate intellectual mobility over two millennia” by mapping “the birth and death locations of more than 150,000 notable individuals” in European and American history. Science’s rival publishing house, Nature Publishing Group announced the four-page article and accompanying data visualizations with the headline “Humanity’s cultural history captured in 5-minute film.”
It is tempting, in the face of such claims, to bury one’s head in the sand. But the entry of non-humanists into humanities research via digital approaches requires a robust response from professional historians and literary scholars, not only if we are to maintain our academic prerogatives, but also if we hope to encourage anything resembling a nuanced and culturally-sensitive understanding of culture among the broader public. This paper will explore some of the ways humanists can intervene and engage these new methods and our newly interested colleagues in the sciences to insure that “digital humanities” remains true to the humanistic tradition and its values.
Tom Scheinfeldt is Associate Professor of Digital Media and Design and Director of Digital Humanities in the Digital Media Center and holds a joint appointment in the Department of History. Formerly Managing Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Tom has directed several award-winning digital humanities projects, including THATCamp, Omeka, and the September 11 Digital Archive. Tom blogs at foundhistory.org, co-hosts the Digital Campus podcast @digitalcampus.tv, and tweets at @foundhistory.