The Science/Humanities Gap

A few of the DefiningDH blogs have touched on the disparity between/problem of digital research methods in the sciences and humanities, and how humanists can use technology in their work. Here is a recent NY Times article I stumbled across on this:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/sciences-humanities-gap/?_r=0

Without mentioning Digital Humanities per se, the author (who is responding to another interesting article about how humanists MUST embrace the sciences) believes humanists are well aware of this gap:

Pinker notes the antiscientific tendencies of what he calls “the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, dogmatic relativism, and suffocating political correctness.” But literary studies, the bastion of these tendencies, have long been moving in other directions, including a strong trend toward applying scientific ideas and methods. There is, for example, the evolutionary and neurological study of literature and, most recently, the use of computer data-mining.

There is, then good reason to think that the greater problem is scientists’ failure to attend to what’s going on in the humanities.

In the readings this week, Lev Manovich poses a similar problem in relation to data access and interpretation:

I have no doubt that eventually we will see many more humanities and social science researchers who will be equally as good at implementing the latest data analysis algorithms themselves, without relying on computer scientists, as they are at formulating abstract theoretical arguments. However, this requires a big change in how students in humanities are being educated.

Manovich leaves this question open-ended, and it’s a big one. Both authors seem to be bothered by disciplinary narrowness and a lack of cooperation across disciplines.

I don’t know about anyone else, but part of the reason I was attracted to Digital Humanities was the fact that many of my research and teaching questions can’t be answered by taking more Literature classes.

One thought on “The Science/Humanities Gap

  1. Dana Milstein

    “I don’t know about anyone else, but part of the reason I was attracted to Digital Humanities was the fact that many of my research and teaching questions can’t be answered by taking more Literature classes.”

    AGREED!!!! 🙂

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