top of page

Book Review: The Humanities in the Digital, Lorella Viola, 2023
Emirhan Kabataş

The increasing prevalence and impact of Digital Humanities around the world has led to an increase in methodological debates about it. Scientists working and thinking in this context are intensively discussing both how to approach the field and what digital humanities are and how they can be theorized. On the other hand, the constantly evolving nature of "digital" technologies, which are the focal point of the field, makes it necessary to rapidly increase and constantly update the discussions within this framework. One of the most recent discussions in this context is Lorella Viola's The Humanities in the Digital, published in May 2023. In this article, we will introduce Viola's book in order to follow the course of current digital humanities debates, which will affect the studies to be conducted and the shaping of our perspective on the field.


Lorella Viola's book, which can be considered an example of contemporary discussion and criticism, consists of 6 chapters. Throughout the text, discussion topics such as the humanities in the digital and the importance of being digital stand out. In Viola's words, the book primarily discusses the current relevance and adequacy of the division of knowledge into disciplines, and of disciplines into sciences, as well as the ubiquitous impact of digital technologies on society and culture. Viola basically argues against the compartmentalization of knowledge and emphasizes the futility and limitation of disciplinarity.


Throughout the text, the author discusses the relationship between the digital and humanities in terms of the nature of knowledge and the impact of digital technologies on society and culture. Beginning by referring to a series of interviews conducted by the Los Angeles Review of Books, Viola notes that these interviews adhere to traditional notions of distinction and duality in knowledge creation. In general, the author criticizes claims that the use of language in discussions of digital humanities demonstrates a clear distinction between different aspects of the field. According to Viola, this language reflects a mental model that conceptualizes knowledge as compartmentalized within disciplinary boundaries. Based on the current status quo, this approach shows that binary distinctions such as digital and non-digital knowledge production are outdated. In this context, the text emphasizes the need for the digital transformation of society to rethink the current model of knowledge production. The author argues that the current model, based on the knowledge paradigm of industrial societies, is also insufficient to address technological changes. It is also argued that the distinction between digital and non-digital knowledge creation is artificial and hinders progress. Throughout the book, it is argued that the organic nature of the digital and its unpredictable consequences need to be understood in more detail.


An important approach is that the traditional model of knowledge creation, interdisciplinary approaches, hierarchical divisions and competition are insufficient to meet the challenges of the digital age. The text argues that disciplinary distinctions are not only limiting but also incompatible with current reality. The author supports this point by examining the various ways in which technology is transforming reality. Factors such as the widespread use of big data, algorithms, automation and digitalization have created interdisciplinary intersections and complexity.


As a solution to all these problems, Viola has proposed a new theoretical and methodological approach, which she calls the post-authentic framework. This framework challenges positivist and determinist views by introducing new concepts and terminologies for digital objects and knowledge production in the digital domain.


The book also addresses issues such as digital heritage practices, digital language injustice, critical digital literacy and critical digital visualization by examining examples of personal use in various applied contexts. Through these examples, Viola discusses contemporary issues such as transparency, reproducibility, open access, sustainability, data manipulation and accountability in the context of the architecture provided by the post-authentic framework.


The author argues that the positivist approaches of the digital favor digital methods over critical approaches. Human consciousness and traditional sources of knowledge are marginalized as carriers of bias and inequality. At this point, we can bring the debate on digital and digital humanities to the forefront. Because the point to be reached is to position human consciousness, which produces and processes knowledge at some point, in a more balanced position against the positivist digitalist approach. In this context, the proposed post-authentic framework advocates a restructured model of knowledge creation that transcends disciplinary boundaries and recognizes the profound effects of being in the digital. Balancing human consciousness and digital processes in this model of knowledge creation is also an important claim.


The book also includes a discussion on the role and impact of digital processes on education. Viola argues that higher education should not see the digital as merely instrumental or contextual, but must confront a world immersed in the digital. The post-authentic framework advocates a model of knowledge creation that can effectively respond to the complex challenges of the digital age. Moreover, instead of disciplinary divisions, the text presents the concepts of symbiosis and mutualism as alternative models of knowledge production.

In the final, the book offers an important perspective in that it includes important debates that aim to address fundamental questions about how knowledge is created and how the next generation of learners should be educated. With the book, the author presents an alternative approach to knowledge creation in the digital space that challenges rigid models based on segregation and competition.

bottom of page