Data, Media, Knowledge: Re-Considering Interdisciplinarity and the Digital Humanities

From the late 1990s and through the early 2000s, the idea of a digital disruption colored the methodological, theoretical, and disciplinary imagination of what might be new in the humanities. New in looking backward – what digital tools can help us understand the legacy debates, concepts, and methods. New in looking forwards – with the ability to transcribe knowledge into data, a new way to understand our species life. In parallel and accelerated by digital affordances, there was a view that interdisciplinarity would become a norm for digital approaches to the work of the humanities.

As digital technologies continually affect how we construct knowledge, what have the lessons of digital life taught us about the limits, opportunities, and ongoing challenges of digital humanities. Can we still consider the digital humanities an “emerging discipline” in terms of knowledge taxonomies and organizational charts? What are the continued impediments in the “transformation” of the humanities propelled by information and computing technology? Has an emergent digital humanities led a “revolution” or just a move towards “automation”? Or does a turn towards traditional scholarship with a “digital hand” really occur?

If disruptive innovation is understood and practiced by a tech industry as a mechanism to increase the “efficiency” and “spreadability” of the current digital status quo, what is the space left for “disruption” in its critical sense? The question turns to whether multi-voiced counternarratives, often not in the core of digital humanities, offer a different path to how to be human in a digital world, a way for the digital humanities to reimagine itself in the perspective of a more inclusive and activist community.