What better way to define Digital Arts and Humanities (DAH) than at a DAH Institute by DAH scholars? The following piece is DAH in our own words, the editors simply facilitating a more coherent narrative. The following points attempt to define both the doing and the doer, of Digital Arts and Humanities.
1. DAH, An interdisciplinary community aware of its surroundings:
The DAH programme is a collaborative space that accommodates exchange of ideas and skills, it is an ideas co-op with all the challenges that structure brings, whilst still retaining freedom of creativity. As DAH PhD students, we are united in our diverse practices by the digital.
Our overarching modus operandi involves the use of the creative properties of digital tools and networked digital media to innovate in our respective fields and to understand the impact of digital technology on those fields as well as its wider impact on society. This mix of alternative and critical practices offers excellent opportunities for review from peers outside of our research comfort zones, as well as offering them a bridge into digital scholarship. The alternative perspectives and skills transference within DAH offering up digital as a springboard for productive connections between people and ideas, fostering a visionary research environment. DAH evokes an intellectual entrepreneurialism, characterised by: reaching wider audiences other than those of the scholarly world, being accessible to the general public and by conducting research that will benefit all, with community access encouraging public engagement.
2. Digital Arts and Digital Humanities, an unnecessary dichotomy?:
At times the boundaries between analogue and digital, as well as arts and humanities blur indeterminably. In fact, it is debatable whether we should make any distinction between both sets of complementary fields at all. Our work in both Humanities and Arts explores the relationship between the physical world and the digital. We do so through academic enquiry, exercising best practice in our use of technology to increase understanding of our respective research practices and to study the impact of the digital upon academic and social practice.
Andy Warhol was the original multimedia artist. He used all media production tools at his disposal, and interpreted and reshaped the culture around him through his practice. There are so many ways that his work can be categorised and defined in respect to his chosen media, whether it was film, screen printing, cinema, or television. At the end of the day, his work was art. The inclusion of this Warhol reference highlights two points brought up by the Arts strand of DAH: 1) Arts scholars may not feel the need to attach the term digital to their work, and 2) the digital art side feel that they are more comfortable with using art as an umbrella term for what they do, while it appears to them that the digital humanities strand perceive a more defined divide between humanities and digital humanities.
This point echoed in the question arising from the digital humanities contingent: ‘Will digital humanities eventually just be humanities and will doing digital work be one thing a humanist does and not something that makes them separate from ‘traditional humanities’?’ With some referring to themselves as avant-garde humanists others believe they are bringing humanities scholarship to the digital age, by employing technical expertise to humanities knowledge resulting in the examination and explication of digital society.
A theme common to many of our research directions is the discovery of new ways to deal with the the apparent tension between physical and digital artefacts. We seek to move past reflexive responses to the digital and the perception of it as ephemeral, critically engaging with the primacy of the physical source, and creating new artefacts. Or in the words of another, we are preserving the digital artefact and perennializing digital scholarship. DAH seems to be be where technology interfaces with tradition in the arts and humanities and as DAH scholars we create, transform, adapt and translate, moving beyond the limitations of the analog medium in which ‘classical’ scholarship is conducted.
The DAH compact was written by the students of the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD Program on 13 September 2013, and was edited by Mary Galvin and Kieran Nolan.