Tag Archives: JohannaDrucker

Theory As A Tool

When it comes to hacking and coding one rolls up their sleeves to build models and prototypes to engage visually, open debate and uncover new meanings.  Theory as applied in methodologies leads us away from the mundane and toward bold ways of assessing existing humanist issues that are embedded in abundance in big data through literature, history and sociology.  The work of the digital humanist asserts that which is regarded as traditional narrative notions might gain new meaning or insight through further research and closer inspection.  The question “How does theory support the digital humanities” is critical because theory compels consideration.

Drucker raises the notion of “creating computational protocols that are grounded in humanistic theory and methods”, and “suggest it is essential if we are to assert the cultural authority of the humanities in a world whose fundamental medium is digital”.(3)  The term “cultural authority” suggests epistemological knowledge that is central to creating new digital approaches to engage critical thinking.  These new digital approaches would assist in revisiting unresolved concerns as well as in observing thought processes to determine outcomes around current day critical issues and to create models using the digital humanist toolbox to reflect these findings.  For instance the digital humanist can explore myriad issues on the political or social worldwide human landscapes and derive appropriate useful outcomes.  Prototypes then aid in accessing which digital tools best assist and inform this work.

Ramsay and Rockwell put forth the idea that “prototypes are theories”(4).  These prototypes aid in the ability to create, to do, and to build, yet the “guidelines for evaluation of digital work”(3) may restrict prototypes as scholarly. The argument can be made that such restriction could ultimately have the effect of working against the investment of skill and time during the course of the digital humanist’s workflow.  As Drucker noted, “more is at stake than just the technical problems of projection”(7).  It is the potential of the prototype to assist workflow and serve to aid thoughtful response around humanist issues.  The efficient use of mechanisms to devise tools in the digital realm assist the user in multitasking, and aid in the completion of data rich and-or quantitative digital tasks.  Theory then is a tool that aids the work of the digital humanist to build and create.