There is a certain McLuhanist methodological irony at play using this sparingly functional wordpad application to finally write an article/blog post about digital humanities on my new three thousand dollar customer built hi-specification 64Bit gaming computer, so much raw power going underutilized, graphics capabilities going unused and entirely under-clocked under-rendered, text going automatically unspellchecked, (albeit blindingly fast though) an insulting algebraic reverse austerity gone too far really, potentially postponed postmodern propounding tripped up by real world incompetence and incompatibilities, contending with not only heartburn but headburn from digesting the additonal "these extended delays are not our fault excuse email" from my software supplier. Yes in my traditional engagement mode, I shall not unpack these ideas, strings of sentences, I will instead be bold.
There are also slightly more creative background frustrations undermining my genuine desire to write straightforward netural commentary around, about and in, these subjects for which I hold tremendous passion and lifelong investment, namely: writing, creativity and digital technologies. My by now annual participation in the Day of Digital Humanities, went to hell in a handcart, or more contemporarily went to pieces in the back of a large white courier van. So on the actual day itself I was custom built computerless... in that pavlovian canine mode of having timed the arrival of a new near-supercomputer to co-incide with the DODH, I had taken my old pc apart, transfered files, removed and stored it so as to make way for its far technologically superior ursuper... the first new/replacement machine when it did arrive was throughly mistreated by its professional interim gormless guardians.. a bunch of dyslic epileptic monkey brains who somehow interpreted the word 'Fragile' plastered across (I will conceed a very inviting glossy full colour image laden sexy black cardboard box) as 'come tear me apart fu*kwit and ensure your amobea brains hack at the most expensive and sensitive hardware inside'. Utterly incomprehensible behavior and the subject of a court case pretty soon I would imagine.
I did have my Blackberry Playbook, my trusty Dell laptop, at a minimum my mobile phone has internet access via 3G, I was even offered the unconditional use of a huge network of computers via a generous commerical contact (thank you again Dermot H) to whom I spoke on the phone that day... but with my dummie (soother) in mid air ejection from my pram (baby stroller) and my short trousers back on I became stubborn squared and simply refused to engage in a manner that was obviously counter to the ethos of a Day of Digital Humanities and in any instance as ever the Irish contingent.. would be my by now friends Shawn Day, maybe Charles Travis.. and oh... yes..that Lady from UCC (apologies her name escapes me), the DODH could wait.. those gurriers rather then couriers had just mashed not only my much anticipated hardware, tool of choice, my intellectual, social and creative window onto the world but had forced me to contend with every digital writers non-digital nightmare... On this one of the most public days for Digital Humanities, how can I be a digital humanist, a digital creative... without a computer ?
If I frame that situation in the context of my consistent annual (although occasional/sporadic) voluntary support of G.Rockwell's ideas and enthusiasm, his catalytic drive that is more than partially responsible for the general rise of digital humanities here in Ireland, the importation yet (multi-) institutional distillation of that vivid vision, the consequent emergence of an odd sort of promotion of visual/technical semi-literacies, essentially a stunted flavour of computer studies lite for humanists... an over emphasis on tools yet perversely an under emphasis on strong technical engagement grounded in creativity, that ultimately unproductive 'enough to get by' rules methodology, perforated by collaboration as a partial excuse for shallow individual knowledge and lazy project scoping, we all of course enjoy differences in interpretations, and not just concerning ideas of McGann's text as performance and Renears essentially ontological view, other ideas about approach give rise to welcome critical starting points... we have a basic toolbox.. the tyre kicking that's still going on here, coupled with a geekless academic reserve, means that we gently pick through the existing screwdrivers and pilers and to borrow from Henry Ford.. seek ways to make these new digital humanities horses go faster...
When essentially tool-less, computer less, that deep space for reflection opens up, and there emerges thinking without that unpacking or recording commitment, there's flow without channeling, not narrative theory and cognitive science but poetically technical alchemy, there is essentially an uneasy freedom to dream.. what I've been advocating in terms of digital literature creation and a phrase I (successfully) introduced at a transliteracy conference three years ago in the UK, 'to dream within the machine', and while my own research has moved beyond that fixed first point I still believe that's the kernel... so how could I achieve, create outside the machine, as I had done, outside myself.. Yes Walter Benjamin said most of it, almost in concert with Borges, Huizinga, Jung, Beckett, an otherness that requires significant erudition, committed scholarship and a Kavanagh like mastery to permit merely a first intuitive glimpse.. capturing just the feet of the muse, the idea that there is an inherent vulnerability about art, a genuineness that at its core is vague by nature, vague and ambiguous, and utterly unruly and remarkably wild, unnameable, almost unknowable..
So to actually achieve, there are steps, not QTC triangles or FAQs or BOKs or plans.. but, like any step into the dark, where we have rejected the illuminating opinions of others, any need for explanation and simplification, the easy way to proceed forward, as with any door in the dark, is to trust.
Shake the box, it will end up broken, the joy of digital humanities is putting it all back together a different way.