Junior researchers who analyse their sources with digital approaches can profit from productive environments where the advantages and potentials of these techniques are well known and established. In Germany, for example, this is the case if they are in the lucky position to work in one of the (fortunately increasing number of) digital humanities institutions in Berlin, Cologne, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Jena, Leipzig, Mainz, Munich, Potsdam, or Trier. I’m pretty sure the list is even longer, but if they don’t work nearby DH institutions, they are often faced with prejudices against their practices. In this post, I want to list five statements revealing biased attitudes, which I constantly hear, and propose answers to refute them.
Humanities tend to make things complicated. And that’s a privilege, because they have decided to describe and analyze their topic of research as exactly as possible. Skimming over complex issues leads to a loss of important details and, in doing so, to inaccurate argumentations. As humanists, our medium to transport insights and information is still a language and so – besides scientific research – we artfully string together words and produce rhetorical highly adorned sentences to convince our readers that our assumptions and arguments are unassailable. To describe details, we often need a lot of words (although sometimes we reduce a complex issue to a familiar technical term)!
“Digital church” (#DigitaleKirche) is currently much discussed. It’s inspiring (and sometimes amusing) to follow the debates about digital tools, social media, helpful apps, or the latest means of communication in all fields of ecclesiastical life. Thinking about “blessing robots,” “donation apps,” or “pastoring chat bots” is an important step to usher the church into the daily digital experience of their (potential) members. I think the church has to go that way for communicational and administrative reasons as long as digital technology supports pastoral tasks and doesn’t replace “offline” community. In this way, #DigitaleKirche is an esteem of the communicative fundamental structure of the church and, also, of the ways communication between people has changed.
(auch auf Deutsch!)
Whoever has studied history has surely heard about the great controversies on historiographical theories and schools with their linguistic and epistemological ideas. It seems to me that the 20th century was full of radical position fights and historians walking from “turn to turn.” But today, they shy away from a theory based “digital turn” or – even a step forward – a “paradigm shift” of methodological thinking and narratives. Therefore, I wonder: do historians really need a “theory of digital history?” Do they even want it? Is it necessary?
In the spring of 2016, two graduate students in theology sat together during a coffee break: One of them complained: “It is impossible to find the most suitable method to work with my digitized corpus.” The other nagged: “And I can’t find a theory which fits into my way of analysing sources statistically!”