After seeing some initial work on Dr. Jones’ digital recreation of Roberto Busa’s facility, it was interesting to understand the context behind this project. Through the lens of reverse engineering, Jones positions his research as an exploration, as he looks to “grapple with what we don’t know about Busa’s practice” rather than simply reproduce a model (4).
While the project’s goals are to uncover Busa’s practices and use of technologies, I was particularly interested in some of the social discoveries. Through this examination of Busa’s facility, the study uncovered aspects of gender fueled by the human actors. Busa’s photo collection show expose “a two-tiered structure: technical workers down at the factory, and scholarly or intellectual supervisors up at the college” (9). However, through photos and interviews with former workers, it became clear that the women typically workers in the factory, while men were the intellectual scholars. While, yes, this would have been typical for the time period, Jones also uncovers that Livia Canestraro was an exception, as she held senior roles and crossed over to the scholarly side. This type of outcome is interesting and important to discover, while some of the workers are still around to contribute.
By utilizing digital technology, this project can begin to unveil the history of digital humanities (DH). Using a media-archeology approach, Jones begins to create and situate DH in a historical narrative. As a rhetorical historian, I strongly contend that we should explore and find inspiration from our field’s past. Whether we look back 2,000 years to rhetorical antiquity or 50 years to the beginnings of DH, there is value in exploring the past. Through reverse engineering, we can try to understand the history and development of technology to more properly situate contemporary studies.