Hello DH Friends!

This is the first blog of our spring semester series, in which we will be visiting prominent members of SDSU’s Digital Humanities community and asking them a few questions about their relationship to DH and how they see the Digital Humanities evolving in the future. 

Our first interview is with Dr. Jessica Pressman, co-founder and former co-director of the Digital Humanities Initiative at SDSU. Dr. Pressman is a scholar of electronic literature, media theory and history, and history of the book. Her most recent publication, Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Agewill be available October of this year. 

Be sure to follow along this semester as we meet with other DH scholars to hear what insights they have to offer!

Click below to hear the whole thing, or scroll down for the full transcript. Minor edits have been applied for clarity.

Interview with Dr. Jessica Pressman

Jared Zeiders: [00:00:00] Hello DH friends. My name is Jared  and I am the program’s assistant for the Digital Humanities Initiative here at San Diego State University. And today I am here with Dr. Jessica Pressman, associate professor of English and comparative literature, and the co-founder and former co-director of SDSU’s Digital Humanities Initiative.

Good morning, Dr. Pressman. How are you today? 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:00:24] I’m fine, thank you. 

Jared Zeiders: [00:00:26] That’s great to hear. And now I have just a couple of questions I would like to ask you. As the co-founder of the Digital Humanities Initiative, you seem a very logical person to interview to kick off our spring blog series where we will be visiting different faculty members to find out their thoughts on the climate of the digital humanities community.

So Dr. Pressman, what would you say is your working definition of digital humanities? How would you define it for someone who had only encountered it in say, writing? 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:00:54] Well, since I helped write the definition that’s on the website, I think it’s the one that rings most true to me. I think digital humanities is a umbrella term that explains how traditional humanities research and modes of thinking are renewed with importance and opportunities with digital. So it’s an opportunity to think about how digital technologies and methods are modes of practice and objects of study and methods of collaboration that can enhance and also change what we do as humanists and how we see practice, humanity’s knowledge production. 

Jared Zeiders: [00:01:39] That is an absolutely excellent definition. And in your opinion, what does the future of the digital humanities look like as a field? How do you see it evolving, changing, keeping up? 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:01:53] I think the digital humanities is less a field actually, than a note of convergence for fields.

So, and that is one of the reasons we made digital humanities not a department or a field here at San Diego state, but actually a working group and initiative that is located in the library, kind of a neutral central place on campus rather than in a specific college or department. So I think digital humanities will continue to be important as it serves existing departments and disciplines and enhances them and allows them to work across their disciplinary and department boundaries. 

Jared Zeiders: [00:02:34] Okay, cool. So it seems like you, that collaboration is a huge part of how you view the DH, especially here at SDSU. 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:02:40] Absolutely. Absolutely. Especially here at SDSU. We built the Digital Humanities Initiative to work against the silos of the institution; to work against the idea that humanists just sit in offices and write books and that they’re only beholden to their departments and to their students and to create a way for faculty who came to this profession to learn and be educated and as well to, of course, to educate others, to create a way for them to meet and learn from each other and work together. So it is about collaboration. 

Jared Zeiders: [00:03:16] So how would you say that you see your work as being in conversation with global diversity issues? 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:03:23] Well, I work on digital literature, which is literature that’s made on the computer and meant to be read on the computer and where computational aspects are inseparable from the poetics of production and reception.

And this literature is global. It’s made around the world. It’s read on the worldwide web and made in many different languages. So the work by definition is global and diverse in, linguistically, thematically, and certainly formally. So, understood that way, digital literature is a literature of global diversity.

Jared Zeiders: [00:04:01] Excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time with us today. We really appreciate you taking a few minutes to give us these insights. 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:04:08] Yeah, no, thanks. 

Jared Zeiders: [00:04:09]All right.  Have a good day. 

Dr. Jessica Pressman: [00:04:10] You too.