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Digital Humanities-- an advantage, or disadvantage?

vgaffney's picture

 As an English major at Haverford, I’ve found Hayles’ two articles to be particularly interesting. The idea of transforming/altering humanitarian disciplines in order to transition into a more digitized humanities is something I’m still not sure I entirely support. I think that both close reading and hyper reading are important—both are legitimate avenues to critical thinking. As someone who spends the majority of my time bogged down by close reading hundreds of pages per week, I realize the advantage, and, in fact, the necessity, of developing the skill of hyper-reading. That being said, I’ve made a point to do all the readings for this class primarily online. Reading on a computer lends itself to faster paced reading: there is no underlining and highlighting (at least not immediately accessible). The environment of the text—the screen—lends itself to hyper-reading because it is an environment of quick, fast paced navigating through a series of instantaneous clicks. The context of reading online naturally primes one’s brain to read and take in the information in a different way-- a faster way. I’ve found this experience to be really interesting, and in fact advantageous for this class. I’ve found hyper-reading to be more accessible. That being said, I don’t think that all reading should be done online. There are numbers of texts which are extremely rich and dense with detail and complexity—these texts should almost always be read closely, with a keen attention to their richness (and the ability to mark the pages). I suppose I’m still a bit traditional, but I do think that the humanities—English in particular and philosophy—should be primarily based in the text. I think the only way to truly comprehend and engage very difficult material is through meticulous reading. The notion of digital humanities is interesting, but I think there would be a great loss to critical comprehension and the corresponding ability to really engage with high level texts. The most important and relevant skills that are developed in the discipline of English are the abilities to close read and think critically and creatively about the text—I would hate to see these skills fall by the wayside. 



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