Co-research and transdisciplinarity

In the previous post, I mentioned the issue of co-research between the humanities and digital technologies quite in passing. Today I will go deeper into this issue.

Usually, the digital humanities of the first kind use information technologies as an auxiliary collection of techniques to help solve humanistic problems. This is not unlike archaeology using radiocarbon dating or art history using analytical chemistry. In other words, the research questions that we often see in digital humanities are about humanistic objects of study and of humanistic relevance, rather than being related to information technologies.

This does not constitute a problem by itself, but leaves much room for improvement in two different but connected aspects. First of all, humanities benefits from information technologies (IT) by adopting and using them, but information technologies rarely obtain much in exchange. In other words, the relationship between humanities and IT usually takes the form of a mere service-providing scenario. However, we can envision a situation where IT, while providing support to the humanities, are also inspired and extended by them, thus achieving a symmetrical relationship where the results provided to research questions of one discipline boost the other, and the other way around. This would need that the posed research questions incorporate elements from both the humanities and IT, and that the objects of study are also combined in meaningful manners.

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