I have many questions about the endeavor called the digital humanities, but the least of these concerns what the thing actually is. The definition can change moment by moment. Personally, all I want to know is whether it is useful for me as a scholar, a teacher and as a learner. The answer at this point in time seems to be “yes.” If so, then I need to start framing my questions properly so as to set goals, and start the damn journey.
…everything is an experience, to be distilled and recorded
I started reading a book called The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. And while I fell asleep with the Kindle in my lap, several questions came to me in my attempt to understand the emergence of information as form of measurement and quantification of data.
I like religion, right? And I wonder, what is the relationship between religion and information? And what is the difference between religious experience and information pertaining to religious experience? Is it comparable to the difference between history and theology? Can information about the religious experiences be quantified? Well, yeah, that is done with anthropological theory, or as the Christians have called it, “Theology.” But theology is not religious experience, it is an interpretation of the experience.
I am sure there is someone out there who can say this better than I can. But it seems that much of the digital humanities project is to make “dead history” and historical information come to life in ways that are visually and conceptually compelling, creative, realistic, and relational. Seen this way, using information in this way can bring life to “dead” history so as to arrange and display its data using various forms of digital modeling (the maps graphs trees paradigm).
I have been trying to do the same thing with “dead” religious history – make it come to life, to speak, in a way, for the dead who participate in the past as actors and subjects. This is, of course, how ancestors and the dead are brought to life by the historian, and more elegantly, by the poet and the artist.
They become engageable, and thus the living may interact with them, no longer as dead, but something else.