A Review of “A New Page – Digital Humanities: Editing, Reading, and Understanding” By Dr. Orla Murphy, School of English, UCC, October 21 2009.

Orla Murphy gave a stimulating paper in the School of English Research Seminar, University College Cork, which asked the fundamental question: In the coming years, is digital illiteracy going to place people on the margins of research?

According to Murphy, the library, which has long been the nucleus of the modern humanities, is undergoing a complete digital refurbishment. The lack of digital resources in humanities departments such as English is leaving many academic researchers without the adequate skills to keep up with and participate in this new digital revolution.

Web Fonts. Source: Wikimedia Commons, 2011

The seminar began by retracing the very earliest forms of knowledge sharing from oral culture to the paper page to the digital page. By detailing this transformation over millions of years, Murphy brought us to the present situation of transference of paper knowledge into the digital sphere of information in the humanities, now known as the digital humanities.

Following this, the need for us as scholars and researchers to revamp our skills in knowledge gathering and recording was addressed by the speaker. This stimulating viewpoint certainly provoked me to evaluate my own computer skills. This in turn instilled me with a new sense of urgency about my education, and digital literacy. This was clearly the overall aim of the research seminar: to display the many digital changes that the space of the library and the humanities are facing, to incite conversation between researchers about this issue, and to cause an increase in the number of scholars thinking about, and improving their digital literacy. In fact, following the lecture, one member of the audience expressed his own concerns about his capability to adapt to the digital changes, and his students abilities to cope in a new academic landscape of digitality. Another interesting topic covered by the speaker was the new ability to edit and add to the digital page.

No longer are researchers faced with the flat one-dimensional page. According to the speaker, we now have the exciting new opportunity to contribute and collaborate in new ways due to the digital revolution. The ability to mark up a document in an electronic resource and create blogs gives scholars and researchers new tools for sharing information, publishing their work and adding ones knowledge to a digital page.

In my own research area (Chicana/o Studies, poetry and art) digital resources are widely used from blogs to databases and more. Poets, writers and artists such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Sandra Cisneros, Luis Alberto Urreanila northSun and Alma Lopez utilize blogs and websites to display their work for the contemporary digital audience (click on the names to see their sites).

Additionally, online databases such as Voices from the Gaps and the Library of Congress provide a wealth of digitised scholarly resources much of which is free to access, not to mention TED a not-for profit online forum, born out of a conference, facilitating the sharing of ideas across across the world.

In my opinion, Murphy illustrated these arguments quite effectively through the use of actual online examples of digitisation in the humanities. The seminar presentation was innovative, thought-provoking, and dealt with an important current issue in the humanities and indeed in other schools and departments in the university community.

Works Cited.

Murphy, Orla. “A New Page – Digital Humanities: Editing, Reading, and Understanding.” School of English Research Seminar Series. 21 Oct 2009. Lecture.

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