Last Post of the Semester- My final thoughts on the Digital Humanities

Throughout the semester I faced many challenges and pleasant discoveries in the realm of the “Digital Humanities.” The digital humanities served as a further development to my previous knowledge of Hamlet, allowing me to realize just what I had missed when I was simply reading the text for what it was instead of carefully analysing it. This class, English 203- Literary Analysis, made me critically focus on what word choices Shakespeare used and how these particular word choices lead to his different types of play genres and character developments.

Of course, as I have passionately expressed before in my previous blogs- the digital humanities proved to be rather difficult at first and then just plain frustrating after I knew how to work it but technical difficulties came in the way. I thought- What’s the point of his?! I understand the play perfectly well! I know Hamlet is a tragedy play, I know how each character is and I most certainly know the events in the plot. But that wasn’t the point of this class- merely to read the play and write a summary on it. Dr. Ullyot pushed us by making us research and use the digital humanities (programs: Wordhoard, Wordseer, Voyeur, Tapor, and MONK), to help us understand the significance behind what happens in the plot. Identifying certain words demonstrated importance in knowing who dominated the play by speech, and it was easy to recognize each characters relationship with one another. For example, I was able to search a basic theme in Hamlet such as “death” and then do a double search by typing in a person, and seeing how many times death is said or related to that one particular person. This was a huge benefit of Wordseer, and I could keep adding further searches to have a solid idea of what I could potentially be looking for. That is one of the beauties of the digital humanities- one can use it as a hypothesis tool and then use the other tools to find different results. One can come out of it by getting little conclusions and ideas on one thing, or keep going until one has a massive conclusion encompassing everything one possibly wanted to find.

The image shows a comparative search in Wordseer using a theme (death) and a character (father). The image below that one shows the same results as the left, but with a further search of another theme (revenge).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, another benefit I found with the digital humanities was when I was doing my Phase 2 project with my group on Act 4. Kira, who was using Tapor, was able to find words associated with a character’s personality by checking the word frequencies of those words. The importance of this is that we found words used more often for one character than another, giving us a better idea of that character. This is an example of Kira’s finding in relation to Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.

 

According to this video I stumbled upon on Youtube regarding the digital humanities- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SqkzFwnwDYthere are definitely points and arguments that I agree on and support. Whether I like it or not, the digital humanities IS the future of analysing literature and perhaps the presenter’s point on reading the literature online and using the digital humanities will have the perfect balance of using technology and still using the traditional method of actually “reading” the literature first. He mentions that it will serve to be eco friendly and create“openness.” By being open, I believe he means that information and data will be a lot more accessible, and this will be to everyone and not just a number of people in the publishing or scholarly world. As well as this, I take it that it could also mean that when one reads the text from a book and only trust their own instincts on their findings, it “closes” their mind up to further development on that particular text and by using the digital humanities, one will find more than what they thought or were expecting- therefore opening up their literary horizon. I will give props to the digital humanities for also serving as a social network in its own right. Sure, it’s not the new Facebook, but it is a link of blogs, videos, scholarly journals that anybody can read and one will keep reading and find more links that lead them to just that right person they need to know that will get them published or get them recognized for another piece of work. It does increase the competition no doubt as more and more people are getting their works “published” on the web, but the initial challenge of getting read is huge, and I believe the digital humanities offers that first step.

After mentioning this great opportunity the digital humanities has to offer, personally, I believe this just to be a bonus and not the end all, be all. I would never just go to the digital humanities and try to find everything that I could, because I much prefer the old method of reading and looking out for the important and thematic words myself. I do realize that this would take substantially longer, and technology serves to better convenience us, however, it takes away from the art form of what English students do and serves to be something that anybody, not just English junkies can do. There is nothing wrong with this, but I strongly feel that the digital humanities would be better as a secondary source of information and not the one and only source. There will be a time when reading a book and marking it up with findings will not even exist, but perhaps reading it for what it is and take what you get from it is good enough. Isn’t that how it was supposed to be when the work was first written? As the years go on, it is important to read through and understand the word choices because it gives one a glimpse of society and life back in the days, and it also helps us see how the English language has changed and transformed.

I was against the digital humanities for the main reason that it took away from the art, making something creative and crafted, into a scientific solution. It kind of reminds me of the point I learned in my Shakespeare class just recently concerning the romance play: The Tempest. Prospero uses magic to manipulate and create events to his benefit, and he describes it as his art form- something that can be altered and changed. If it were scientific, it would be fact- no change about it. So here I was thinking the digital humanities was trying to make art into fact, but I know realize that it is further adding creativity into the mix by changing our ideas of Hamlet rather than making us stick to our concrete biases and own judgment of Hamlet. So, was I originally taken the art away from this piece?

When studying a piece of literature, there are questions one is asked in order to analyse and annotate the text. There’s this video that is a good example of what questions one might ask about Hamlet and it is because of these questions that the Digital Humanities serves to be so vital in our entire understanding of the play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne5N1vHMttw

Without finding themes, frequencies of words, relationships with characters and their characteristics, or characters and other words- it would be harder to answer one’s initial questions about the play. When going through the digital humanities, there is direct quotes and evidence in passages that would literally take ages to find on one’s own. It goes through the entire text or particular scenes or acts and does all the work for you pretty much, the only thing is that you must provide the technology with what to find. It still relies on our human smarts and literary knowledge in order to know what to look for and only then can it provide substantial amounts of data.

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