What is Digital Humanities?

What is Digital Humanities? The better question is what isn’t Digital Humanities in electronic world that we live in today?  Prior to this class I had never heard of the term Digital Humanities.   Being a social studies major throughout college I had studied humanities but not in what I had perceived in the digital realm.   I had been interpreting digital humanities for years without knowing the concepts name.  From the readings these past two weeks I’ve gathered that there is no one true definition of Digital Humanities.  A quick Google search would reveal that Digital Humanities “is an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities”.  However that’s not enough for the purposes of this course.  Digital Humanities in a since is a multitude of subject areas that intersect with technology and the digital world.  Something that is always present in our digital lives but not always noticed.  Some examples might include blog, vlogs, YouTube, social media, and gaming.  Not only the fields themselves but the ethics, history, culture, and science within them.   It combines the methodology of traditional subjects like the social sciences, history, art, science, philosophy, and math with the tools of modern day technologies.

The next logical question is why is Digital Humanities important?  Digital Humanities is important for many reasons. The world around us is constantly changing with technology as the cornerstone of this process. We need to meet the challenges that these new technologies bring in an ethical and rational way.  As a teacher it is important to stay up to date with technology because it allows us to be better connected to our students and transfer knowledge easier.  It also allows for better communication with students and colleagues.  In addition, it allows teachers to stay up to date of current methodologies and professional development.  It makes teaching a 24/7 profession and allows for more efficient data collection.  Throughout this upcoming semester I hope to gain more insights into what Digital Humanities is and how it will affect our perception of this course.  I am sure as we learn more this semester our definitions of Digital Humanities will continue to evolve and I excited to see where this course will take all of us.

10 thoughts on “What is Digital Humanities?”

  1. I think you questions of relevance are important. I found a lot of interesting parallels in the reading with the struggle that composition has experienced over the years. When questions in the debate arose such as: Does DH need theory?; Does it have politics?;Does it have meaningful opportunities for scholars?; arises, it is very similar to the debate and discussions have taken place in the field of composition over the last 50 years. I like when you say that using these tools enhances the discipline. The idea of mulitmodal assignments and using technology to not only enhance the composition classroom, but change what composition is, is huge in my field right now. MLA had to add how to cite a tweet to it’s handbook of citations. I think utilizing the new medium instead of resisting it will definitely be beneficial to the field. The concern of will scholars who do so be taken seriously is certainly a question, but I have witnessed firsthand how Twitter is used at conferences as mentioned in the reading and I feel like such platforms are being embraced more and more each year.

  2. David, good start, and I definitely agree with your implied point about one element of DH being essential for today’s wired (and wireless) world, namely, applying the kinds of questions we ask about philosophy or history or music to new media and modes of expression, for instance, to how people interact with youtube, and what that means in terms of how they perceive the world and their place in it. A question for you, similar to the question that I asked Sarah: is DH everything, and everything DH? For example, you mentioned Youtube. Is youtube, in and of itself, an example of a DH project, or is it how youtube could be interpreted that might be considered DH? Why or why not?

    1. I’m just throwing this out there to get my feet wet after being out for a while (the norovirus takes no prisoners), but my understanding of DH so far leads me to believe that Youtube would not necessarily be an example of a DH project. First of all, and I’m following Kirschenbaum’s lead here by using Wikipedia, Youtube was created by three gentlemen who had previously worked at Paypal: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Their backgrounds were in Design and Computer science, respectively. For all appearances, it seems that Hurley, Chen, and Karim set out to not only build a video search engine, but also to create a business. For this reason, I suspect that theirs is not a DH project. What’s more, they were funded by an ad-based revenue and eventually sold to Google.

      Beyond that, much of the subject matter of Youtube videos doesn’t seem necessarily relevant to my understanding of the Digital Humanities. The first video ever posted, “Me at the Zoo” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw), features Karim telling a joke. One of the most popular Youtube videos of all time is the “Evolution of Dance” video that has been engrained in many of our memories. To me, this is not the type of “building” that Stephan Ramsay refers to.

      Youtube could, however, be interpreted in a way that would allow for it to qualify as DH. Twitter offers a great parallel. Twitter itself is not a DH project (see Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed), but it has become an important mode for building- building networks, creating relationships, facilitating collaboration, sharing information and more. Youtube can do the same thing for the Digital Humanities, and, I believe, certainly already has. One of my past professors left the state a few years ago to take on work in New Mexico, where she has done great things. I have been able to witness some of these things via websites like Youtube, and even watched her Tedx Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o7JLQNOI5E) on Youtube. This is just one example.

    2. I think with the example of YouTube there are different aspects of DH. From the business side of YouTube that predominantly deals with view numbers and advertising, I don’t think this is a good representation of DH. However, from the content creator side of YouTube this heavily deals with DH. Every graphic or topic that creators decide to add is a representation of DH itself. I think of it in terms of politics of production, there is always a reason someone added a certain piece of content in their creation and it our job as students of DH to study why they added this content. Sorry for not giving a finite answer but I think defining DH is more philosophical than a science.

  3. I do not think that everything is considered DH. Youtube I do not think would fall into the category of DH. However, I will admit I am still blurry as to specifics on what would fall into the category of DH.

    1. I don’t know if all Youtube videos would be considered digital humanities, but I think we could argue that a lot are. For example, any video analysis of literature like Thug Notes and anyone making book trailers, reviewing books, etc. While these things range from humorous to serious, they are still representations of the humanities in digital form. Additionally, historically, the humanities in academia study human life and culture. I think Youtube is a huge part of our culture right now in the form of representing culture through music videos, online tutorials, Youtube celebs, parodies, etc.

      I guess I struggled understanding where the “line” was drawn in DH based on this reading.

  4. I believe that those things can be DH, based on the research aspect. I don’t think intent implies DH, I think discovery and future studies supports or examines DH.
    Also use of technology in the schools doesn’t imply humanities. It simply introduces the digital aspect. I think you are correct in assuming that it does, but I don’t believe that is always the case. I believe it is crucial to marry the two, Digital and humanities, when you expect a successful implementation of tools in a curriculum. The the DH can be composed into a theory or area of interest related to educational technology.

    I may be way off here, but that is what I thought about as I read these entries.

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