Defining Digital Humanities (DH)

It’s something to do with the Humanities, and digital technologies, but what exactly…”

Melissa Terra
http://melissaterras.blogspot.com/2011/07/peering-inside-big-tent-digital.html

My definition of Digital Humanities

Computer applications in literary, linguistic, cultural or historical studies, including texts in electronic format, with a focus on interdisciplinary aspects. Research is conducted through digital media, data search, software studies or information design and processing.

In the popular imagination, a lab is one of the quintessential spaces for the most sophisticated technologies. And it might be true that perhaps never has an invention had such a decisive influence on the work of researchers as that which comes from digital tools today. Computers are not just used to make scientists’ tasks easier and more comfortable: they make entirely new forms of research possible.

Concurrently, the same perception is likely to assume that technology has little to offer the arts disciplines. What might a literary researcher, for example, or a historian need more than having access to libraries and archives full of documents?

Personally though, both the concept of “Humanistic Computing” and “Digital Humanities” are incomplete. The first because it would only cover a part of the DH work area and the second because the birth of the so-called Web 3.0 implies much more than working or consulting content in “Digital” format. I think it would be more appropriate to use a term that includes Interactive, since users currently play a more active role in the creation and distribution of materials on the Internet.

Why you defined DH in that way

The humanities offer a level of discourse that is inaccessible through quantitative research. However, the issues the country is facing are often far more complex than they initially seem. It is not just about stock market predictions but involve understanding, or empathy. To learn empathy with other people, one requires accessing that historical gold that is in all our heads – to exercise what’s absolute highest in us. That is the sort of civilization we should strive for. It is a bit broad but not totally an abstract way of saying it. And in creating that sort of civilization, humanistic scholarship is important. It has a role. Maybe not the most important role, but it’s a real role.  I don’t believe that everything that matters in planning our future can be quantified.

And then there is the popular imagination, where a laboratory is one of the quintessential spaces for the most sophisticated technologies. And it is true that perhaps never has an instrument had such a decisive influence on the work of researchers as that which comes from digital tools today. Computers are not just used to make scientists’ tasks easier and more comfortable: they make entirely new forms of research possible.

At the same time, the same popular perception is likely to assume that technology has little to offer the arts disciplines. What might a literary researcher, for example, or a historian need more than having access to libraries and archives full of documents?

More and more university departments of literature, philosophy or art history are exploring how digital culture strategies can discover valid and productive ways of producing knowledge in these fields. It is the promise of the digital humanities – a label still imprecise, but of undoubted promise.

The digital humanities are looking for what the great technological revolution of recent years can offer to the arts and social sciences – from history, philology, art history or journalism. Under the umbrella of the term are grouped a set of techniques and methodologies that computing and digital culture have contributed to our way of reading and interpreting information; from “data mining” (looking for emerging patterns in large databases) to information visualization and new digital cartographies.

Nicolas Jenkins , associate professor of English at Stanford University, has worked with these tools in the project Kindred Britain, “a network of nearly 30,000 individuals — many of them iconic figures in British culture — connected through family relationships of blood, marriage, or affiliation. It is a vision of the nation’s history as a giant family affair.”. To do this, his starting point has been to “capitalize on contemporary developments in network theory and digital technology that have made it possible to show in new ways how intensely familial British culture and society have been.” 

http://kindred.stanford.edu/notes.html?section=userGuide#faq_title15

Bringing together network data, geographic data, biographical data, and chronological data, while presenting that in tandem with traditional linear narratives, Kindred Britain was able to create a publication that ties together traditionally distinct categories of data in an accessible and scholarly manner.

All this cultural world that opens before me makes me wonder if there are also barriers to overcome within it. Much of the main research and activities carried out on Digital Humanities are based in North America. This hegemony can cause certain disadvantages in the development of DH in other languages ​​and in other countries that propose alternative projects. For this reason, it is important to promote investment and dissemination of Digital Humanities and to implement the use and reflection on them in our academic circles.


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