In order to help you focus your reading and to serve as a mnemonic device, I have provided key terms for each week, which we’ll collaboratively define in class on Wednesdays. You will need to know these terms for the final exam. Please note that the definition I will request is not the dictionary definition of the term, but an elucidation of the term as we have used it in the context of the class: in our discussions, in our readings, and in our project work. You will be expected to cite relevant authors (though not exact quotes or page numbers) as well as class discussions.
Here is an example of an “A” answer to a final exam question from last quarter’s Introduction to Digital Humanities class. The author is Hillary Cleary. Notice how Hillary defines the terms, explains how various authors have used them, and demonstrates she’s made original connections among the authors by formulating an argument about Drucker and Gaffield.
Please explain how classification is related to episteme, referring to specific authors and arguments as appropriate.
In Companion to Digital Humanities, C. Sperberg-McQueen defines classification as “the assignment of some thing to a class; more generally, it is the grouping together of objects into classes.” Simply put, classifications are made up of classes or collections of objects, which share some common property. From this definition, the notion of classification appears as a fairly straight-forward concept, which can aid archivists, scholars and digital humanists in the construction of stable and consistent data management systems which follow a definite schema of standards through the use of standards and tools like metadata and controlled-vocabulary. In “The Computational Turn,” David Berry defines episteme as a way or “method of understanding reality.” In other words, an episteme is the way we as human beings understand our world. Today, we see the world through increasingly an increasingly digital lens. As I write my final examination for this digital humanities course, our society’s current episteme is reflected in the fact that I am writing this examination on a computer, rather than with a pen and paper. In examining “classification” in conjunction with “episteme,” classification will often and inevitably reflect the episteme in which it was created. Thus, the creators of all classification systems will employ different techne in order to better interpret or parameterize the data in accordance to the time in which the system is created. InSorting Things Out, Bowker and Starr add complexity to the definition of classification by claiming that a classification is “a spatial, temporal, or spatio-temporal segmentation of the world.” Through this definition, it becomes clear that different systems of classification throughout history inject varying ideological, political and social biases into the standards of classification in accordance with the episteme in which the system is created. InPreservation Matters, Chon Noriega points to how”the archive is a political institution that excludes much more than it includes.” Thus, inevitably each classification system employed by different archives possess bias, assumptions, and often Westernized notions of what knowledge is “important” and how it should be classified. In her essay “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display” Johanna Drucker claims that “the history of knowledge is the history of forms of expression of knowledge, and those forms change. What can be said, expressed, represented in any era is distinct from that of any other era.” I think Julia Gaffield’s essay “Haiti’s Declaration of Independence…” strongly reinforces Drucker’s claims because she addresses how because of changes to epistemes or ways of knowing the world throughout history, the Haitian Declaration of Independence was lost for hundreds of years because of shifts in the understanding of the history of the Atlantic world and a loss of understanding about the connectedness and interaction between England, the US, and Haiti during the early modern era.