“Computers should not be black boxes but rather understood as engines for creating powerful and persuasive models of the world around us. The world around us (and inside us) is something we in the humanities have been interested in for a very long time. I believe that, increasingly, an appreciation of how complex ideas can be imagined and expressed as a set of formal procedures — rules, models, algorithms — in the virtual space of a computer will be an essential element of a humanities education.”
Actually, I would go a step beyond Donahue. What I felt Kirschenbaum and Donahue did not emphasize enough was that the humanities have just as much to bring to the table in their relationship with computer sciences. Tim Hitchcock’s piece “Academic History Writing and the Headache of Big Data” illustrates this very well, and strongly resonated with my coding experience. In his experience, “however compelling the process [of building projects through computer science], it does not normally result in the kind of history I do.” Like him, I realized that for me the process of building worlds was as exciting as Kirschenbaum found it, but without keeping in mind the kinds of theories and perspectives I have learned in my studies of the humanities, it is easy to lose track of my goals and instead get caught up in coding just for the sake of it.
Hitchcock notes that this is especially important since his work is Marxist “history from below”, but the format and common uses of digital humanities technology often leads him and others into the more prevalent “history from above”, i.e. focusing on famous figures rather than experiences of common people. Additionally, he found himself building projects with the assumption that the users would be well-versed in technology, rather than following his original goal of accessibility. As someone in the field of feminist studies, these issues of representation and access are very important to me too. All in all, collaboration between the humanities and computer sciences can take many forms, but it is enhanced both by a knowledge of programming and a knowledge of humanities theories and methodologies.