Blog Post #1 – Me and My Relationship with the Digital

These types of introductions always seem somewhat awkward, so I will just get to the main point. My name is Charlie Barth, I am double majoring in English and Mathematics at the University of Utah, and I am currently in my fourth year (I will be doing five years total, because of the double major). My key interests include mathematics and literature (hence my two majors), as well as music (I play the cello), video games (mostly RPGs), and cooking (although I am not that great at it). For more information about some of my interests and where I am from, look toward the First Digital Lab Assignment. I don’t really know what else to add, so I will leave my introduction there for now.

As this blog will ultimately develop into a virtual platform showcasing my journey toward becoming familiar with the multifaceted theories of the Digital Humanities, I should explain my current relationship with the world of the digital. My perspective may differ somewhat from other young adults, as I generally have been reticent to use the grand communicative abilities of the digital, such as those provided by social media, blogging, and online forums. I am definitely not one of those persons who discounts all internet communities as time-vampires corrupting the minds of all the kids these days, and I do think that important and significant social progress can be made through the global community made possible by the internet, but I have never really put in the effort to constantly stay well-informed with all the latest trends. In effect, my relationship with the digital has usually been an individual experience, whether that means playing a single-player video game, writing a (very) simple program with Java, or watching a show on some streaming service.

Even in an academic setting, I have only rarely used computers or digital technology for any purpose other than convenience. For example, nowadays, we use word processors instead of hand-writing, online resource catalogs instead of physical libraries, and calculators instead of arithmetical errors, but I believe that most facets of the average academic institution have not truly embraced the increasing prevalence of the digital in our everyday lives. Even computer science classes, which one would assume would necessitate computers, focus more on problem-solving techniques than humanity’s interaction with technology (which is understandable, since the purpose of computer science is to create programs without considering any of the potential ramifications).

However, I do think that the digital can be incorporated more fundamentally into the pedagogical structure of our education system. In particular, most of my English classes have only explored the technological world as a means of finding academic articles online for use in our own papers, ignoring how digital-born texts can have as significant of an impact as traditional literature. I am not denigrating this approach (because it definitely beats tracking down books and journal articles with the help of Melvil Dewey), but merely using these digital resources for the purpose of finding a work of print media seems like a waste of valuable data. On the other hand, I do not think that the digital should entirely supersede traditional literature, as the latter still has many values. Rather, some form of balance should be found between the two mediums.

This is one of the reasons why I am interested in taking a course in the digital humanities: to obtain a rigorous understanding of how digital technologies can intersect and interact with a traditional academic environment, and to see how they benefit each other. I am still not entirely certain what the work of a digital humanist entails (and looking at some of the various definitions indicates that many digital humanists disagree with each other on the subject), but I understand the importance of taking a methodological approach to the field. Rather than just using computers as a convenient tool to expedite tasks that could be carried out by hand, the Digital Humanities seem to make, use, and analyze tools that can only exist in a computer system. In this manner, the Digital Humanities appear to have as many possibilities for expression as computers will allow (ergo, virtually infinite (pun intended)). It is safe to assume that the digital will continue to play an integral role in most individuals’ lives, so it is of utmost importance that we look critically at how people interact with computers, because each will help develop the other.

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