DH in the Hispanic Context

[This is my attempt to translate the last section of my article published in 2013 entitled “The Map and the Territory. A Historical and Bibliographical approach to the emergence of Digital Humanities in Spain”. In translating it I couldn’t avoid to rewrite, correct, summarize and deform the text. For more info check out the Translation Group: http://dayofdh2014.matrix.msu.edu/groups/translation-group/].

Let’s begin by searching the terms “Humanidades digitales” in Scopus. The Elsevier bibliographic database retrieves a unique result that corresponds to Juan Luis Suárez’s “Digital Humanities in Spanish?”. This publication gives a good account of recent Hispanic DH projects developed in the United States and Canada that remain unknown to big audiences. Juan Luis Suárez argues for Spanish libraries and archives to make public their APIs in order to enable access to data and perform some kind of statistical analysis.

The same query in Dialnet – a database created by the University of La Rioja – retrieves twenty documents but just a few of them uses the expression in the title. Moreover, titles usually end with a question mark that expresses suspicion or lack of consistency. One of the earliest works that focuses on Digital Humanities was published in 2006 by Isabella Leibrand. “Humanidades digitales, ¿ciencia ficción o  realidad inminente?” gives a brief depiction of the history of Humanities Computing in the English-speaking world and highlights some features that define the discipline such as the importance of designing new tools to analyze texts. Besides, the author mentions Literatura y multimedia (1997) and Filología e Informática (1999) as some Spanish publications that might be a counterpart to the Companion to Digital Humanities edited by Susan Schreibman et al. in 2004.

In 2012 Luis Rodríguez-Yunta reflects on how this new approach to Humanities may benefit librarians and archivists. The author focuses again on the English-speaking world and only mentions the MA in DH launched in 2006 at the University of Castilla La Mancha and the Mexican association RedHD.

Apart from these three articles there are more valuable contributions but I think they all have the English community in mind – sometimes the Italian. Hispanic scholars very often present English DH projects as if there were no equivalent in other language or context [1]. The truth is that in the nineties and the early past decade there have been many databases and projects devoted to encoding texts as part of a linguistic corpus or a digital library. The CORDE and the Cervantes Digital Library are two good examples launched in 1999 – some scholars also used to describe their job as “Informática humanística” following the Italian model. Actually the bibliography in Spanish is quite large already – specially the one related to hypertextuality, multimedia and eLearning – but somehow scholars don’t read or acknowledge each other and very rarely quote previous work. Personally I think that Digital Humanities has allowed me to meet up with a lot of scholars whose ideas, advice and friendship, even if they identify themselves as DH practitioners or not, have changed my own research – these new encounters forced me to dig into the Hispanic history of this field and discover unforeseen digital projects – think of  ADMYTE created by Charles Faulhaber in the early nineties at Berkeley.

To sum it up: on one hand the term “Humanidades Digitales” is a bit confusing because it presents in a new fashion the kind of projects that were and are developed in mainly Spanish Philology and History departments with the support of IT services – as far as I know we don’t have any DH center in Spain yet. On the other hand, this new label has proved useful in gathering experienced scholars and young researchers – for instance within the framework promoted by the Hispanic Digital Humanities Association created in 2011. Also DH has expanded our disciplinary limits and pointed to new artifacts likewise social media and electronic genres -blogs, e-Lit, digital art, etc-. There are, however, remaining challenges. One of them is the promotion of international encoding standards and of access to our digital heritage allowing repurpose. A further challenge could be engagement with methodological diversity, as opposed to using only the approach of textual studies or simply philology [2].

In contrast to the international context, as part of the Hispanic community I feel we are just beginning to know each other thanks to initiatives like DíaHD or MapaHD – in other words we have just started sharing and maintaining conversations about the same topic across many countries. This may or may not give way to the creation of centers, tools and teaching environments but it is essential for building a community that is aware of its past and complexity in order to face its future.

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[1] Amelia Sanz suggests renaming the field “Hypercolonial Studies”: “I use the term ‘hypercolonial’ to describe the forms of technological practices and discourses framed by a relatively small Western-style, Western trained group of technicians, scholars and thinkers (stakeholders indeed), who mediate the trade in cultural commodities by means of the so-called Digital Humanities”. http://responsible-innovation.org.uk/torrii/sites/default/files/Final%20_sanz_hypercolonial_sent3.pdf

[2] See about this Nuria Rodríguez (2013): http://journals.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/artnodes/article/view/n13-rodriguez