On Dr. Guertin’s Take of Digital Humanities

A few weeks ago, Dr. Carolyn Guertin, whom I am proud to call mentor (even in the limited opportunities afforded by circumstance), showed me her take on the whole “defining digital humanities” thing that, for some reason, seems to be all the rage this summer. I’ve been hesitant to share it, as I didn’t have her permision, but on her previous post she was kind enough to allow me to reproduce it. In words she pretty much describes in a few paragraphs what I was trying to say with my entire post. Allow me to quote:

“First off, I would say that grouping things under the umbrella of Digital Humanities doesn’t mean that they don’t have a life outside of that categorization. For instance, Game Studies (the critical assessment and study of games) is a DH area. It’s also a unique form that merits its own concentrations or departments at some universities. Game development might be a DH field, but for the most part is not. I’m all for complexity in definitions. It gives me pause though when pedagogy is seen as the raison d’etre for DH. Similarly Media Studies encompasses both the humanities and the social sciences. Why would we want to limit it? That inclusivity does not mean that the same scholars are necessarily doing both humanities and social scientific analyses in the field.” – Carolyn Guertin

And then in a follow-up comment:

“Similarly, Media Studies, the New Media Arts, Digital Media and Game Studies are all actually distinctly different. Media Studies is the study of literacies and writing technologies that follows from the thinking of Marshall McLuhan. Media Ecology (Postman’s branch of Media Studies) is grouped within it. The New Media Arts are an aesthetic category. Digital Media is a larger umbrella that might be construed to include the New Media Arts and Game Studies, but definitely not Media Studies — although Media Studies usually studies Digital Media to understand broader definitions of literacy and writing technologies like social media. There are no neat genealogies or classifications here. That’s why in my schematic (which you might want to reproduce here), I include an area called Critical Digital Studies. It is a field that encompasses many of these related areas without forcing them to marry.” – Carolyn Guertin

That seems to me just about right. It’s a well-stated easy to digest factual and accurate statement on how all of these fields intersect and are original at the same time, and how each of the disciplines defy simplistic definition because of said complexity. And then, here’s her visual take on it:

I like that in her chard she shows the area of “Critical Studies” which encompases game studies, open source studies, networked studies, and so on. I like that the chart is more inclusive than both Emily’s (which was too simplistic, largely colonialist, and paradoxically conflicting) and my own (which was overly convoluted and focused on only a few areas – namely my favorite ones). Dr. Guertin’s chart is simple and easy to follow.

However, it does not fully encompass her own definitions. While in her definitions she explains that the fields bounce off each other and are at the same time independent of each other, her chart shows something closer to “the digital humanities is the heart of everything and none of these sub-fields intersect”. ***Edit: This was what I would get from the chart if I looked at it without any explination. From Dr. Guertin’s comment below: “Digital Humanities is not front and center. Digital Humanities is composed of all of these things.” I wholeheartedly agree.***

So, when even one of the top scholars in digital media and one of the best artists I’ve met can’t come up with a sufficiently accurate visualization that shows the relationship between all of these fields, what is there to learn? Since I like to think that “nothing is impossible”, let’s leave it at “it’s really really really REALLY tough to create 100% accurate visualizations of concepts with complex definitions.”

Still, as far as all of these visuals go, even though (I think) mine is the only one that shows actual intersection, if they were to be accompanied with a lecture or some extra documentation, Dr. Guertin’s is the one that is the easiest to digest and explain – and it certainly is the most complete one.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on June 12, 2012, in Education Commentary, Literature Commentary, Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Just to correct a small misconception… Digital Humanities is not front and center. Digital Humanities is composed of all of these things. It is the chart. What usually is called DH is what goes by (or used to go by) the name of Humanities Computing. It comprises work in TEI, XML and other digital editions.

  2. I think this article has a really cogent take on the field and perhaps the most logical way of thinking about the field altogether: http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3198/2628

    For Oya Rieger in “Framing The Digital Humanities”, the “digital humanities domain is interpreted through three lenses: digital media as facilitator of scholarly communication; digital media as a platform for creative expression and artistic endeavors; and, digital media as context for critical studies of digital culture.”


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