Visuality in a Cross-disciplinary Battleground: Analysis of Inscriptions in Digital Humanities Journal Publications

Rongqian Ma, Kai Li

Like the old saying, "a graph is worth a thousand words," the non-verbal language, encapsulated in the concept of inscription, is a fundamental rhetorical device in the construction of knowledge represented by research outputs. As many inscriptions are deeply situated in a scientific and data-driven research paradigm, they can be used to understand the relationships between research traditions involved in the field of digital humanities (DH), a highly cross-disciplinary field that is frequently regarded as a battleground between these distinct research traditions, especially the humanities and STEM fields. This paper presents a quantitative, community-focused examination of how inscriptions are used in English-language research articles in DH journals. We randomly selected 252 articles published between 2011 and 2020 from a representative DH journal list, and manually coded and classified inscriptions and author domains in these publications. We found that inscriptions have been increasingly used during the past decade and their uses are more intensive in publications led by STEM authors comparing to other domains. This study offers a timely survey of the disciplinary landscape of DH from the perspective of inscriptions and sheds light on how different research approaches collaborated and combated in the field of DH.

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