We are coming close to the end of the first day of the “Sorting the Digital Humanities Out Workshop”. One of the aims of the workshop is to focus on the intermediate future of the field, and some of the good and interesting discussions are centered on what constitutes Digital Humanities.
As Church historian, previously focusing on Christian revivalist movements in the 19th century, it is not difficult to see some parallels between revivalist movements and the discussion that took place today (and of course before today as well).
The aim of a revivalist movement is to revive Christianity among people. In a Swedish (and a European) 19th century context revivalist movements were either about revitalizing the Swedish state church, or to break away from it to start a free church. The need for reform came out a critique of the current state of the Church. And while state churches are based upon geography, revivalist movements emphasized the community among (true) believers – ecclesiolae in ecclesia. This could go in two ways – they either tried to revive the mother church (and thereby to be confessional), or separate itself from the established Church and initiate free churches.
The confessional revivalist movement had to struggle with their legitimacy toward the mother church, trying to revive it from the inside out of a critique toward it. The free churches could run their own business. I will not go into further parallels regarding charismatic meeting, activity of their preachers, media to spread the Word, and so on.
Is there a lesson to learn? I do not know. However, historical examples give us tools to reason about what is happening in contemporary society. Personally I like the idea of being part of a movement with the aim to revive the field of Humanities, but as many of us can testify – it is not easy. The other (easier?) way is to establish Digital Humanities as a separate field.
What way should the Digital Humanities take? Maybe we will have an answer tomorrow.