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Digital Humanities

What Is Digital Humanities?

Digital Humanities (DH) can be very broadly described as the use of technology to study humanities and the study of technology’s effect on humanity. The very nature of DH – collaborative, multidisciplinary, and evolving – makes giving it a fixed definition more difficult. Consistent with the adaptability of the field of DH, multiple definitions are accepted. For example, “What Is Digital Humanities?” is an entire website created simply to display a collection of definitions of DH (and is itself an example of a DH project).

One way to approach this question is to define not what DH is, but rather, what it could be. Stuart Varner explores this idea in his post, "What DH Could Be," where he touches on DH as simply a study of humanities but also a study of neoliberalism, post-colonial critique, public humanities, and experimental humanities. He also expresses DH's potential to be empowering because of all of the possibilities it opens for researchers of all kinds.

Below are a sample of DH definitions:

“The simplest definition is that it’s a community of practice that inhabits the intersection of technology and human culture. How that’s enacted depends on the subdiscipline. Are we using technology to make certain cultural objects more accessible? Are we using critical approaches from the humanities to explore the influence of technology on our lives/thoughts? Are we using digital models to understand the ecology of genre in an art form? Are we critiquing the seeming objectivity of the platforms that deliver digital archives? Are we teaching students how to use markup in order to reveal the structural aspects of texts and how groups of texts relate to each other? DH people do all these things and more.” -- Laura Braunstein, Digital Humanities and English Librarian at Dartmouth College

“Digital humanities (DH) is an area of scholarly activity at the intersection of computing or digital technologies and the disciplines of the humanities. It includes the systematic use of digital resources in the humanities, as well as the reflection on their application. DH can be defined as new ways of doing scholarship that involve collaborative, transdisciplinary, and computationally engaged research, teaching, and publishing. It brings digital tools and methods to the study of the humanities with the recognition that the printed word is no longer the main medium for knowledge production and distribution.” -- Wikipedia (another example of a DH project), synthesizing definitions from “Intro to Digital Humanities,” “Quantifying Digital Humanities” and Digitial_Humanities

 “Along with the digital archives, quantitative analyses, and tool-building projects that once characterized the field, DH now encompasses a wide range of methods and practices: visualizations of large image sets, 3D modeling of historical artifacts, ‘born digital’ dissertations, hashtag activism and the analysis thereof, alternate reality games, mobile makerspaces, and more. … The expanded field is constructed by the relationships among key concepts, rather than by a single umbrella term.” -- Lauren F. Klein and Matthew K. Gold

DH and COVID-19

As with almost everything, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected digital scholarship. There are several initiatives developing that use digital scholarship and, in particular, digital humanities to archive, collect, analyze, and otherwise take a look out our responses to and experiences with the pandemic.