Reflection on Dr. Bill Hart-Davidson

bhdTechnological innovations have impacted the progression of societies throughout history, sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. In current times, technology is often met with skepticism, the future of technological progression posing threats to current ways of life and things such as changing modern warfare. However, technology also has the power to revolutionize society in a positive way, providing a platform for a more thorough understanding of other cultures and an ability to prevent outbreaks of sicknesses.

The field of digital humanities and its potential within engaged scholarship was discussed by Dr. Bill Hart-Davidson in his talk, DH: Rhetoric_And_Writing, this past Thursday. One of the first aspects of digital humanities he emphasized was opportunity- in its purest form, the ability to merge technology and the study of humans in order to create positive action. Dr. Hart-Davidson claimed that digital humanities is “humans doing engaged scholarship in digital spaces with computing as medium for action.”

The innovation that the digital humanities allows to occur is truly amazing. Cultural understanding increases monumentally as people are able to interpret ancient texts and interact with those of different backgrounds. Part of Dr. Hart-Davidson’s work, Archive 2.0, allows technology to take this role. Through using digital spaces, Dr. Hart-Davidson and his team were able to bring ancient texts out from storage and into an educational space that allowed for greater communication with and understanding of the Samaritans, a group of people in Palestine and Israel who practice Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related, yet distinctly different from Judaism. The literal interpretation of the text was combined with the ability to get feedback through the digital interface that they built. This interface allowed the Samaritans they met with in person to tell them where one parsha (section within the text) began and another ended. Dr. Hart-Davidson emphasized the fact that the Samaritans were not interested in having other people understand their culture as is contained in the texts, but rather understand their texts as a part of their culture. This focus on relationships is one of Dr. Hart-Davidson’s priorities.

Another main area of Dr. Hart-Davidson’s study deals with technology’s ability to help track outbreaks and prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Through monitoring Twitter, Facebook and Google searches, they were able to accurately predict outbreaks, and he believes that these types of ambient data streams can become a model for better predicting and preventing foodborne illnesses. These data streams are available to everybody; people just have to be willing to be innovative in scholarship in order to determine benefits such as this.

To Dr. Hart-Davidson, the digital humanities is “a humanities turned outward to face the world.” It is an opportunity for change. Through studying the technology that can help others understand texts, Dr. Hart-Davidson and those in the digital humanities are paving a way for technology in this revolutionizing world.

Did you go to Dr. Hart-Davidson’s talk? What did you think about his view on technology and engaged scholarship?

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