Monday, May 5, 2014

Digital humanities and programming's first rule

There is an interesting and critical piece here on the role and hype of digital humanities in the humanities.

While I've said elsewhere that interactive fiction and the digital publishing hold great promise for writers as well as scholars, I think overblown representations of the inevitability and scope of new technologies should be considered with the utmost caution.

I recall the simple proposition I learned from programming BASIC in high school: Garbage In, Garbage Out (or ask a silly question, get a silly answer). The digital archive and the digital medium can't substitute for clear, informed thinking and the accumulation of humanist scholarship. Machine logic can only show you the same data in different forms. Literature is a matter for memory, imagination and the human experience; the understanding is in the particulars that data-analysis can only abstract.