What is “Digital Humanities?”

Defining the “digital humanities” is far from an easy task- it has been, and continues to be, a key aspect of research within the field itself. As a broad and ever-growing subject, the digital humanities is best and, in a sense, most accurately described in broad terms; a study regarding the humanities via technology.

Digital humanities is a new field of study. It was titled “humanities computing” by the researchers who worked on creating the philosophy and the field. The name was changed to “digital humanities” in 2005 when Blackwell’s famous Companion to Digital Humanities was released, because researchers realized that the term “humanities computing” did not feature the vital human element that the field involves in the way that it should. The field went from being studied by a small group of researches to becoming a field that multiple universities worldwide study.

Matt Kirchenbaum- an avid “DHer”, wrote an essay that tackled the ongoing discussion of a Digital Humanities definition. Kirchenbaum defines the digital humanities as more of a “methodological outlook” than a “specific set of texts or technologies”- in other words, it is a large umbrella under which many categories involving any form of humanities along with a variety of forms of technology fall under. The field involves research, creation, analysis, and presentation of information in any electronic form.

Perhaps the best way one can make sense of the Digital Humanities is through examples. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, fall under the DH category; they act as electronic forms of communication. Works of what DHers call electronic literature (or E-Lit), such as the never ending electronic poem titled Toroko Gorge.

Kirchenbaum mentions other digital tools and projects that fall under the digital humanities. He mentions Voyeur; a tool that allows its users to analyze the usage of words and such in a piece of text. Kirchenbaum also mentions a digital archive, titled Shakespeare Quartos Archive, which preserves a variety editions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. With tools such as these, DHers are able to make text analysis quicker and easier, as well as digitally preserve texts.

These act as just a few examples of digital humanities. One of the most interesting aspects of this field and its definition is while technology continues to advance, tools, platforms, and other aspects of the digital humanities will continue to advance and grow as well. As a new, broad, and ever-growing field, the digital humanities offers seemingly endless opportunities for research and creation.


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