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Thu, 03 May 2012 04:45:12 +0000 1632@ <p>Thanks for your thoughts (and the links), Ben. Some of my initial ideas on this topic revolve around an amalgamated form of your first and third points ... I think that DH can offer coders a way to participate in the telling of stories that have the potential to really matter (however individuals want to interpret such a sentiment).</p> <p>I've also been thinking back to some things that Bethany Nowviskie asked about a few months back concerning DH's "greatest hits." At that time, the community offered up some of the innovations that grew out of the DH (or Humanities Computing) solar system. I wonder if DH can play a role in influencing some core concepts going forward that will also be of vital importance to to coders; for example, machine learning and natural language processing are going to become more and more important to programming paradigms and techniques across the board, and DH is in a prime position to help steer such fields as it helped steer the development of things such as XML.</p> <p>But I also think that you're right to qualify the extent of this influence, and wonder what the best way might be to make such a case to coders in various developer communities (especially those outside of an academic setting). That relationship between "scholars and techies" is often an uncomfortable one, though it really isn't either side's fault. I've always held out that one of the most prescient reasons to learn to code is not for what it can do for DH, but for what it can enable DH to then do for the coding community--almost a sort of cultural bilingualism that will better enable that conversation you talk about. </p> Ben Brumfield on "Should DH matter to coders?" Tue, 01 May 2012 14:05:01 +0000 Ben Brumfield 1619@ <p><em>Replying to's <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>I'm one of the coders you're talking about: a CS major in college who has worked in big enterprise software firms and little internet start-ups for the last decade and a half. (Though I did work in campus IT in the mid 1990s, running the university mainframe.) I recently left my industry position to start contract work developing transcription tools for historical manuscripts. I figure that puts me within many "big tent" definitions of DH and outside most "little tent" definitions.</p> <p>I was wondering about your question myself last week at RailsConf, where I considered proposing a lightning talk on the possibilities the DH world might offer software engineers. I'm really excited about what's going on here, and I'd like to share that with my fellow developers. However, I think that the best answer to your question is still going to be qualilified and partial: some DH work matters to some coders.</p> <p>The biggest thing that DH offers coders is an interesting problem domain. Only half of any programming job is purely technical -- the rest of the time you're grappling with the real-world issues you're trying to model. In my last position I spent a vast amount of time learning about <a href="">PCI compliance</a>, the different ways in which a charity may re-try processing a declined credit card donation, or the data characteristics that make it likely a race participant needs to be reminded to pester their friends for funds. That was fairly interesting compared with a lot of the problem domains out there, but it really can't compete with the happy weeks I've spent learning about medieval land tenure systems or documentary editing practices. I think that the DH domain can be tremendously attractive for coders more interested in art, history, literature, or gender than they are in building yet another ecommerce site. And I'm not alone in this -- while I wouldn't quite call it a crisis of meaning, I'm seeing <a href="">more</a> and <a href="">more</a> programmers questioning the vapidity of the kind of work we're often doing. </p> <p>A second possibility that DH offers is a transformation of the relationship between scholars and techies. I think it was Peter Robinson who coined the phrase "scholar + tame geek" to sum up the traditional arrangement. After my experiences as a campus techie, Bess Sadler's <a href="">complaints</a> about that relationship don't surprise me. But the increasing permeability of institutional walls and the rise of digital humanities may transform that: Jeff McClurken and I are not "peers" in any meaningful professional sense, but DH means that we can have an interesting conversation, and--better--that we might want to.</p> <p>So far I've only talked about the influence of digital humanities on individual programmers. DH offers an interesting resource to the development community as a whole -- a large, diverse community of undoubtedly smart adults who are learning to code and writing about that experience in public. Because of the immense demand for software engineers, a <a href="">lot of work</a> is being done within the development community to bring more people in from outside the CS undergraduate pipeline. Knowing more about how people learn and the challenges they face can only help. It's also valuable to see the discussions about gender and code that the DH community is having. Far too often programmers have heated discussions about the issue that are made more painful by being wholly uninformed by either gender theory or the decades of research on the issues. Similar discussions I've seen within the DH world come from the opposite perspective, so while they are sometimes shockingly ignorant of real "code culture", at least they discuss the issues within the context of that intellectual tradition and can avoid a lot of the conversational thrashing we programmers end up with. Finally, thoughtful ruminations on everyday work emerging from the should-DHists-code discussion--like Tara Andrews' <a href="">"Coding and collaboration"</a>--sum up a lot of true things about programming which many developers--myself included--lack the eloquence to express. After all, we're all still learning to code too. </p> on "Should DH matter to coders?" Mon, 30 Apr 2012 17:55:02 +0000 1618@ <p>The debate rages on about whether or not (or to what degree) coding matters to the Digital Humanities. I'm curious to hear thoughts on the inverse relationship ... should DH matter to coders? And by coders, I mean those very starkly outside the Humanities and outside academia (I know that it's really a false dichotomy I've just set up there, but indulge my intellectual exercise a bit). Should your typical developer/app-builder/code monkey need to care about the Digital Humanities, beyond any arguments we might make about the value of the Humanities as a whole? Are things going on in DH centers, being written about at DH blogs, etc. etc. etc. of any significance to your average attendee at Apple's WWDC or at a local jsconf?</p> <p>Any conversation welcome... </p>