Most of this week’s readings try in some way to define the nature of “digital humanities”, their peculiar approach, their weaknesses, their being part of a ‘continuum’ in the evolution of humanities, their being a tool and/or a discipline. These reflections are clearly of great importance for us as students who are acquiring skills in visual literacy and as (eventually) scholars who need to elaborate and transmit this literacy (Jessop, 289).
Besides Martyn Jessop’s rigorously demonstration of the value of digital visualization as a scholarly methodology, it seems that through all the readings – particularly Anne Burdick, Tara Zepel and Ian Foster’s – a new idea of being human, of being human in a digital era, emerges.
The influence that a digitalized environment has on the human being is and continues to be well documented by researches in the fields of social science, psychology and neurobiology. In this regard it is also worth noting the great diffusion of apps aimed to toddlers and infants:
(The idea here, is that the infant becomes familiar with and learns to “analyze” the “data” on the screen by touching it with his fingers. Digitalis=digitus+alis)
The digital environment as a factor in re-shaping the human being is strictly correlated to my research on new media and storytelling, where storytelling is considered as a way in which people try to make sense of themselves. Burdick writes that “Digital media have become the meta-medium par excellence, able to absorb and re-mediate all previous forms in a fluid environment in which remixing and culture jamming are the common currency” (15). The way people make sense, therefore recognize and shape themselves, was certainly different when storytelling was oral and fluid (such as in the Heroic Age described by Homer) than when first the manuscript and later the print started to codify and in a way solidify the content of storytelling itself (uni-version). This said, what about the possibilities offered nowadays by digital media?
Is transmedia storytelling a new way to make sense of ourselves, a way in which the original definition of self remains unaltered, or is it accompanying the modern man as he discovers and adopts newer and more modern definitions of the self?
If this is true for storytelling, and in a broader and more complete sense for the humanities, then it is maybe possible to attribute another peculiar characteristic to digital humanities that goes beyond their fundamental role in translating the past and interpreting the present: that of guiding and informing our future.