Final Exam

Your final exam will draw on our list of key terms. Three of the following questions will appear on your final exam, to be held in class on Thursday, March 12. You will need to answer two. The terms that appear in brackets will be specified on the final exam. I will not try to trick you or throw you any curveballs. If I ask question one, for example, I will not choose two wildly unrelated terms. Similarly, I will not expect you to discuss authors, terms, or ideas we haven’t discussed in class.

  1. Please explain how [key term x] is related to [key term y], referring to specific authors and arguments.
  2. Please describe some differences and similarities in how [author a] and [author b] use the term [key term x], explaining how that term is used in the context of each author’s argument.
  3. If you had to suggest a key term to contribute to our list, what would it be and why? Please be sure to explain how your suggestion relates to the other terms on our list and how your key term fits into our class readings and discussions.
  4. We’ve discussed various critiques of the concept of [key term x]. Please outline some of these critiques, referring to authors we’ve read for this class.
  5. Select a primary source — an advertisement, a book, a movie, etc. — that you think best exemplifies [key term x] and explain why you’ve chosen it, referring to specific authors and arguments from our readings and discussions.

If you’ve contracted for a B, I need to be able to tell from your responses that you’ve read and thought about our readings and discussions. If you’ve contracted for an A, I need to be able to tell that you’ve read and thought about our readings and discussions and that you’ve formed opinions and new arguments about them.

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. In Sorting 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. In Preservation 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.

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