I think anyone in the field of DH would believe that DH is the future. In the book Computation and Humanities, Julianne Nyhann interviews Dr. Michael Sperberg McQueen about his life, career, and first introduction to computers in technology. McQueen is a man of many hats, who, according to Nyhann, has made a big impact in the field of DH. It was the chapter title that grabbed my attention: I mourned the university a long time. Nyhann questions this statement, due to his myriad accomplishments and success, and we find out that McQueen really wanted to grow up and become a Medievalist that would impact the world of Literature. He tells Nyhann, “You can be extremely good, and the times are not the same, so it’s not really an option, because you can’t now have the same influence on German Medieval Studies as Heusler once did.”
There was something painfully true in McQueen’s statement that resonated with me, as I thought about how this is true across disciplines, as research grows more and more specialized and micro-niched in order to state something original or find something new. McQueen realized that the ambitions of many are impossible because of the passage of time. McQueen then stated that this was not true of DH because it was still a relatively young field, where such impacts could be made.
Digital humanists have many ambitions and want to change the world by democratizing history, creating greater access to everything across the board, to illuminate forgotten histories, and identify inequities. Roopika Risam speaks to this in her article on intersectionalities, (as does Elizabeth Callaway), and she challenges the notion that DH is merely a tinkering or “hacking” discipline but states that it can also take part in cultural critique and make significant impacts to our understanding of history as well.
Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn, “Introduction,” in Computation and the Humanities: Towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities (Springer, 2016), 1-19.
Elizabeth Callaway, et al, “The Push and Pull of Digital Humanities: Topic Modeling the ‘What is digital humanities?’ Genre,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 14, no 1 (2020).
Roopika Risam, “Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities,” DHQ 9.2 (2015).