Assignment#1: Define Digital Humanities

The definition of the Digital Humanities, in short, is an interdisciplinary field in which the scholars investigate traditional humanities questions using computing technologies, or the other way around, study computation by asking Humanities-related questions[1]. However, this definition is not as solid as it seems at the first glance– it does not define the object of study and its methodology, in another word, it has no defined boundaries as a field. Moreover, this definition suggests its duality which has aroused the debates from the two sides of the major academic fields: the humanities and science. Even in the field of Digital Humanities, as Professor Nieves mentioned in the class, the American scholars’ research topics are different severely from the European scholars’. Then, how can we really define the Digital Humanities as a field of study? From one stand the Digital Humanities is indeed undefinable because of it’s blurry boundaries, yet if we drop off our eager to pursue an absolute definition but to understand it through examples, we will be better guided to understand the Digital Humanities.

In the early study of the Digital Humanities, the more fruitful and therefore more demanded linguistic researches occupied the field[2], but in the recent years the scholars start to expand their scope to the field of traditional humanities subjects and beyond. Subjects like games and media study are not abnormal to be seen on the scholar magazines anymore. Through this evolution, one can see an ever-expanding range of topics in this discipline and also a trend of digitalizing information.

The digitalization of information is part of the methodologies widely used by digital humanists, which include using software, database and programming languages to collect, process and analyze data to suffice the need. The spectacular sparkles from the collisions of the humanities researches and digital humanistic approaches can be observed from the project conducted by scholars in UCSD which attempted to find the relationship among one million images and display them through computing technology[3]. The team collected the already digitized manga from websites, processed and analyzed each page of the manga by their grayscales through software, and eventually presented the final outcome in graphs. One has to notice the importance of the Digital Humanities methodologies adopted by the team, but also has to notice the fact that the pages of manga were already scanned, uploaded and stored by the websites.

As we can see from the examples above, the Digital Humanities is a discipline that follows such trend of ever-expanding virtual reality, which is rapidly constructed by the large amount of information either born digital or digitized from original media, and approaches the culture through the media which are available in the virtual reality[4]. This definition might be as abstract as the early one mentioned in the beginning, since the virtual reality has no specific boundaries as well, but one has to recognize the potential in such a discipline, and understand that it is undefinable until it is definable.

 

Work Cited

[1]Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2012. Accessed January 6, 2017. http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/30.

[2]McCarty, Willard. “Humanities Computing.” 7. Accessed January 6, 2017. http://www.mccarty.org.uk/essays/McCarty,%20Humanities%20computing.pdf.

[3]Manovich, Lev, 
Jeremy Douglass, and Tara 
Zepel. “How
 to 
Compare
 One
 Million 
Images?
.” 2011. Accessed January 6, 2017. http://softwarestudies.com/cultural_analytics/2011.How_To_Compare_One_Million_Images.pdf.

[4]Berry, David M. “The Computational Turn: Thinking About the Digital Humanities.” Culture Machine 12 (2011). Accessed January 6, 2017.

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