Be Online or Be Irrelevant

More online discussion of the digital humanities. This post helped me as I start prying some piece of my brain away from the 3-week online course on gaming I’m currently teaching, and thinking about the “History and Future of the Book” course I’ll be teaching in 2 short weeks.

One of the essays I most enjoy teaching in my media studies classes is Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. When teaching this essay I often begin the class by saying Benjamin understood why Ebert was wrong.
That is Ebert, rather famously claimed that while video games might
demonstrate a high level of craft, they will never rise to the level of
art. Of course what Benjamin argued in The Work of Art, at
the time in relation to photography, was that the question should not
be “Is Photography Art?” but rather the more important question: “What
does having photography do to our concept of art?” (By extension the
question of video games should be what does having video games do to
our concept of art.)

This is similar to how I think about the concept of digital humanities.
I think we should not be asking, can the humanities be digital, or how
does the digital allow or not allow us to do humanities, but rather, what does having the digital do to our idea of the humanities (and by extension what it means to be human). Anything short of this strikes me as less than interesting, but more importantly a missed opportunity. —academhack

One thought on “Be Online or Be Irrelevant

  1. Very appropriate in terms of my dissertation research question: how do blogs help people to see themselves as writers? The move from print to digital has helped reshape our personal narratives. For instance, where students may once have kept a personal journal, blogs have moved discussion to the public sphere. The audience is broader than just the teacher. Students blog about events happening in their lives and make new connections with the readings from their classes. Their audience of online readers (peers, friends, teachers, even family) comment on their writing and help students to further reflect on their learning. I thought of it almost in the way that you were working with your son, Peter, commenting on his progress as he explored different options while playing the Colossal Cave Adventure game. You let him try various text commands, but tried to point in the right direction indirectly. I think the blog audience can help support the writer’s thought process (perhaps like the Greek chorus?) and create a supportive community for their discussions. The blogger’s formative life experiences (their own life text)are shared with their peers and teachers whose observations help students to focus on their academic and professional goals. To sum up, the digital component of the humanities can extend the conversation beyond the classroom to a broader community of readers, showing how electronic writing has become an almost invisible expression of our lives, whether we’re text-messaging on a cell phone or analyzing the world vicariously through an avatar in a videogame.

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