Thoughts on Digital Humanities, part II

The workshop ‘(Politics of) Digital Humanities in Eastern European Studies’ was also attended by Felix Herrmann, a research associate IT (Research Centre for East-European Studies, Bremen) and Anastasiya Bonch-Osmolovskaya, an associate professor of School of Linguistics (HSE, Moscow).

Herrmann presented Discuss Data Project that aims to facilitate research data management in East-European Studies. In the project, an independent platform will be created for discussion and peer reviewing of datasets with links to literature and many more features. Bonch-Osmolovskaya, in turn, gave a talk on challenges and advantages of big data sources. She showed how to define context and discourse of a certain subject by combining computational linguistic methods, such as finding collocations, frequencies. Both scholars shared their thoughts on Digital Humanities with us.

Felix Herrmann presenting “Discuss Data Project”

What did you expect from the workshop?

Felix Herrmann: Organising these kind of events are necessary steps in forming Digital Humanities methods. In the field of digitalisation, there is still much to do and knowledge to share.

Anastasiya Bonch-Osmolovskaya: I am pleased to say that the workshop exceeded my expectations; as a result, we not only enjoyed a good organisation, but also got new contacts and effective results.

What are challenges of Digital Humanities?

Felix Herrmann: In Germany, computer literacy is less supported in school education compare to Finland, for example. Regardless of students’ digital nativity, they lack a deep understanding of things behind digitalisation. And again, talented graduates from Digital Humanities transfer into business life instead of remaining at university.

Another challenge in Digital Humanities is a need of transnational funding since most research projects are funded at national level. Yet, it would have been more efficient if funding were transnational with less bureaucracy occurring.

Anastasiya Bonch-Osmolovskaya: Digital Humanities is developing very quickly on a certain unprepared base. Projects are sometimes reminiscent of biology laboratories with experts with various backgrounds. Thus, these projects are very difficult to manage and they require certain organisational skills.

What are perspectives of Digital Humanities?

Felix Herrmann: For the future of Digital Humanities methods in compare to traditional ones, they will remain parallel. Choosing methodology indeed depends on research question.

Anastasiya Bonch-Osmolovskaya: In my opinion, the boundaries between different disciplines will be blurred. Science will be less descriptive and based on evidence. Thus, generalisation will occur through numbers.

What potential does Digital Humanities posses for students?

Felix Herrmann:  What I have observed among students is that the motivation for DH should come from inside. Digital Humanities courses should not be obligatory since it does not bring much. Generally, acquiring basic coding skills is yet an advantage in working life today.

Anastasiya Bonch-Osmolovskaya: We should promote Digital Humanities courses since students who will not attend them may lose some knowledge and important skills as future experts.

Anastasiya Bonch-Osmalovskaya presenting computational linguistic methods

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