A Return to Computers and Digital Humanities

Although I must admit that I have yet to read all the assignment for this week’s class, I must also admit that I’m more than a little overwhelmed by all the jargon used in these articles, enough so that I am struggling to understand what is actually being discussed in some case.  For instance, while I found Cynthia L. Selfe’s “Technology and Literacy:  A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention” to be interesting in terms of its discussion of political and socioeconomic dynamics, I don’t understand what she means when she insists we must “pay attention to technology issues” (419).  Later, she connects this ignoring of technological issues with the need “to teach students how to pay critical attention to the issues generated by technology use” (429).  Yet this makes no sense to me either, and if I don’t understand what she is talking about, I certainly could never pass on such information to my students.  I find such lack of clarity in this article to be rather self-defeating, especially since the at times condescending tone would suggest that she thinks she is being more than clear and simple in her discussion.

However, I did find Selfe’s discussion of technological literacy’s socioeconomic disparity to be an interesting lens through which to consider John Unsworth’s “Medievalists as Early Adopters of Information Technology.”  Although the technological discussion was again mostly beyond my understanding, I do find it interesting to consider that medievalists are so “interested in exploring what new technology can bring to some well-established scholarly practices and genres” (Abstract).  Part of me can’t help wondering if the interest in new technologies isn’t a result of the need for new approaches to analyze texts that, based on their age, have often been the most studied over time.  Furthermore, it also makes sense that the oldest texts would need the most explanation, whereby digital resources such as the annotated Beowulf site can enable a person unfamiliar with the culture of the time to better understand the texts.

With that said, I’d like to turn to the setup of the website for the Unsworth essay and the Beowulf on Steorarume website.  I must say I very much enjoyed the simplicity of the Unsworth essay’s setup.  It was easy to navigate, and I particularly enjoyed the ability to return to the text from the endnotes.  This ability to quickly look at endnotes and return to the text was even more convenient than flipping pages in a book, and I very much appreciated its efficiency.  On the other hand, although I found it a lot more confusing to navigate, the Beowulf site’s use of two frames was also convenient because there was no need to return to the text as the second frame allowed the reader to view the text as well as the information in the annotations at the same time.  I also appreciated the sheer volume of information, complete with images and definitions from the OED, to be found on the site, as well as the convenient explanations of how the creator believed the site could/should be used depending on one’s knowledge and status as educator, student, etc.  However, despite all the advantages the Beowulf site offered, I must confess that my technological conservatism was still more drawn to the simple navigation offered by the Unsworth essay’s site.

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