Physical computing as a DH approach

Within the last weeks different approaches to DH have been presented to us, many of them based in outstanding research projects of respected academy professors and investigators.  Many of us (I think) are developing ideas for our final project, with a certain doubt if we will manage to mature our projects through this DH research tools, we might be asking if they are suited for our own research or event if we could truly understand how to use a data visualization program or hack a kinect device without even knowing how to code.

William Turkel has made a good point in approaching technologies through direct acts, “Just because the separation between thinking and making is longstanding and well-entrenched doesn’t make it a good idea. At various times in the past, humanists have been deeply involved in making stuff: Archimedes, the Banu Musa brothers, da Vinci, Vaucanson, the Lunar Men, Bauhaus, W. Grey Walter, Gordon Mumma. The list could easily be multiplied into every time and place, but the main point is that getting your hands dirty might be worthwhile, even if you’re not da Vinci.”1 from a personal point of view, I tend to see that the first step to clarify how or when certain DH method could be used we must “play” with it.

Physical computing provides a tangible example of getting right into the work, like making a laptop produce a sound based in the variation of human heath with the help of a thermal sensor plugged into a PC/MAC (Example from the workshop). Someone could think that this exercise lacks of concept, but in fact it can be the first step to approaching to a particular DH research technic or tool.

1. http://digitalhistoryhacks.blogspot.ca/2008/11/few-arguments-for-humanistic.html 

2 thoughts on “Physical computing as a DH approach

  1. Lindsey Roth-Rosen

    I enjoy Turkel’s lecture. He was both motivating and interesting.
    I think that for courses from Engineering, medical, social sciences, history, language, literature, any course far from the “fine arts” future curriculums must include courses on, (to use a Turkel’s phrase) “playing.” It’s an effective method for introducing unstructured “process” when engaging in any project. Frankly, learning to “color outside the lines” is the only way for a right brain to talk to the left brain (props to Micki).

    Surely it will be some time before academia gets on board and realizes the importance of play particularly in the structured fields. A good analogy: Years ago, committed athletes where introduced to adding yoga to their workouts. Of course people thought this was nonsense (some still do) however, Yoga aided these athletes with benefits that yoga offered, such as; breathing techniques, movements for better outcomes, centering themselves,concentration, etc. What I’m trying to get at– adding different techniques to one’s daily life (be it Yoga or Play) makes for a holistic approach to learning.

    This lecture did give me some interesting ways to look at my final project.

  2. Amy

    David @david83ec– you are so right when you say “Physical computing provides a tangible example of getting right into the work” It is so important to experiment and to really see how something works and also how people will use things, items etc.

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