A deeper look at the work of digital humanists

York’s Institute for Research on Learning Technologies will host the upcoming Topographic Media Seminar for Advanced Research day-long mini-conference where Brock University Professor John Bonnett will discuss the domain of the digital humanities.

As the featured plenary speaker, Bonnett, an intellectual historian and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities at Brock, will explore “The Implications of the Topographic Revolution for the Digital Humanities” from 10:30am to noon on Friday, April 24 in 1009 TEL Building, Keele campus.

Right: John Bonnett

Bonnett posits that one of the key challenges digital humanists face is defining what they do. “For nearly 40 years, scholars in the humanities have applied the computer to support their research and teaching, and each year more colleagues join their ranks. But even scholars with a deep commitment to computing often have a hard time defining a distinct domain of research that distinguishes their research objectives and methods from traditional humanities disciplines such as literature and history,” says Bonnett. “To date, the dominant distinguishing feature of the digital humanities has rested on the task of text analysis.”

The purpose of Bonnett’s talk is to suggest that the domain of the digital humanities is evolving to a point that it is distinguished by a second trait – its preoccupation with the topographic revolution.

“Researchers in all disciplines are being confronted with a new category of sign, one that contains instruments of representation that are topographic, containing two, three and four dimensions; dynamic, meaning they move; and autonomous, meaning they perform behaviours independent of the immediate control of their author,” says Bonnett. “Research will be required to support scholarly appropriation of these signs to support analysis, expression and teaching.” The talk will also describe what such a research agenda will entail.  

Left: Shelley Hornstein

In the afternoon, from 2 to 4pm, York visual arts Professor Shelley Hornstein will lead the panel “Zoom, Grab, Click, Twitter: Technologies Transforming Space and Place”. The panel will look at the impact Google Earth, YouTube and Twitter have had on what people take to be fixed notions of the local and global, and ultimately how they think about visuality, information and mobility anew.

The panellists include Laura Berazadi (MA ’07), online content assistant with the Art Gallery of Ontario; Rodolphe El-Khoury, Canada Research Chair in Architecture and Urban Theory and Design at the University of Toronto; and York art history Adjunct Professor Reesa Greenberg.

Everyone is welcome to attend. For more information, visit the Institute for Research on Learning Technologies Web site.