A Note on Multicultural DH
While the definition of Digital Humanities is still a matter of debate, I think we can all agree that it involves incorporating cutting edge technologies to assist us with the research in the field of Humanities. Digital Publishing platforms (like WordPress), Data Visualization, Data Mining, 3D Modelling, Remote Information Retrieval (The Internet!), and Statistical Text Analysis are examples of the tools which can help us with our research. Despite their various functionality and use-case, however, all these tools have one thing in common: they need raw DATA. This brings me to my next point: Gathering Data to support our research.
One of the most critical steps of the research is the data collection phase. One could have a hypothesis as well as the tools and the skills to draw useful conclusion on his case. Yet, without supporting data, his case is incomplete. As researchers, we spend a significant amount of our time collecting evidence, relevant literature, already collected raw data and other kinds of information. Next, we pass these information through our analysis tools to get deeper insight, visualize, or interact with our data. Finally, we combine our results and draw conclusions to make our case.
I agree that new advancements in technology have given us the power to crunch massive amounts of data and process them at a rate that was not possible before. Yet, I cannot stop pondering about the large amount of data, that we are not looking at despite having the tools for it. Think about it: when was the last time you used Google to look for something in other French, or in German?
Lesser resources, Lesser Impact
As a part of looking for evidence for this article, I looked at Google Trends to see how popular “Digital Humanities” is in other countries. To my surprise, the topic is double as popular in Italy, just as popular in Canada, and just a little less popular in the UK, Germany, and France. Hopefully, this is enough to make us curious about the ideas that people are talking about in Italian, German, and French which makes “Digital Humanities” so popular in those countries. Perhaps, they have already invented the wheel that we are trying to invent. Perhaps, they have information that could help us move our case further. Perhaps, we might find something that sparks a revolutionary idea in our mind.
Similarly, Why should not limit the rest of the world from our knowledge. In face, most of the world does not speak English! If we don’t use the tools that are available to use and publish our results in English only most of the world will not see it. Maybe automatic translation tools are so bad after all!
Multicultural Digital Humanities you say?
Here is my though: search engines like Google, web browsers such as Google Chrome, and free publishing platforms including WordPress already provide with free translation tools that help us find content in other languages. It might be a good idea if we took the time to learn and use the tools that we already have. We can even take one more step to educate our colleagues, contributing to the Multicultural Digital Humanities. Wouldn’t you agree that if the second through fifth most commonly Googled words in the Digital Humanities top are not in English, perhaps there are useful information to be found in other languages? I suggest we all take a little time this weekend and familiarize ourselves with the tools which help us discover content in other languages. Personally, I would start from Google search engine, and Google Chrome web browser. Maybe you can start there too!