Digital Humanities v. Humanities Digital

After a week spent wrestling with XML coding, I’m reminded yet again: just how much of a tech geek do you need to be to work in digital humanities?

Let me preface this by saying I am no IT expert. I was able to solve my own specific problem only after a lot of reading, trial and error, and then finally by reaching out for help on a list-serv of experts. I learned something new in the process, but I’m sure to discover something else I don’t know next week. And the week after that. And so on, and so on.

Perhaps this is true for even the geekiest tech geeks. How else can you become an expert if you don’t learn new things?

But in the midst of my most vexing technical problems, I’ve been known to wish that digital humanities were, well, a bit less digital. For those of us who are humanities geeks who are interested in the digital realm, rather than tech geeks interested in the humanities, this digital stuff can be challenging.

Fortunately, you and I have options for ramping up our tech-geek credentials. Just this week, the New York Times published a decent overview of some of our options.

I myself recently signed up for the free CodeYear, thinking it might be a good idea to learn some JavaScript. (I’m in good company; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed up earlier this year.) It takes hard work to learn a new language, and the verdict is still out on what these lessons will truly train me to accomplish.

Will I ever gain enough technical skills to feel like I’m geek enough? Probably not. But I’ll keep trying!