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Tessa Gengnagel (Universität zu Köln): »Digital Humanities, or: The Broken Record of Everything«

17.02.2022 | 18:15

There are several definitions of the Digital Humanities that shift the focal point of their activities (towards humanities computing or computational humanities; public humanities; new media studies; or the digitality of the humanities in general). Most of them are premised, in one way or another, on the digitization of the ‘record’ of human history and culture. This source material which has served as the systematically indexed base of analysis and study in the humanities since their modern-day manifestation in the 19th century may be referred to as ‘artefacts’, ‘documents’, ‘monuments’ or similar and is a crucial component in research. It is not, however, and never has been, the sole subject of the humanities in and of itself.

In this presentation, I will primarily address three questions that arise in the context of digitizing said material:

  • (1) Do the Digital Humanities contribute to a reduction of humanitistic research to a documentary paradigm and if so, how can they enter other areas of humanistic knowledge production?
  • (2) How can the digital reproduction of knowledges and extant assumptions about said material account for the silences, contradictions and factual inaccuracies in their “facsimile narratives” (Fafinski 2021)?
  • (3) How will the Digital Humanities meet the challenge of increasing calls for the virtual recreation and simulation of the past which seeks to extrapolate an imagined cultural memory from the ‘record’? A record that is often said – and we will look at examples of such discourses – to include ‘everything’.