Writing Assignment 1: What is DH?

Digital Humanities is a field in which people use technology and other technological resources to accumulate and to analyze information about humanity and its many endeavors. In other words, Digital Humanists access knowledge about the world through means other than reading physical print. Print is no longer the primary medium in which information is created and consumed. We are moving into an era containing immense online databases with more resources than a physical library can even hold. This advancement is truly the essence of Digital Humanities, and the reason it came about in the first place.

In 1949, Jesuit scholar Roberto Busa undertook the creation of an incredibly vast index. Using IBM’s automated machines, Busa successfully completed his mission quickly and efficiently (1). His use of technology to pursue a humanistic-related project has inspired countless others to commence Digital Humanistic projects of their own, and has also given rise to this complex hard-to-define field/term. One thing is certainly clear: there is no one well-defined definition of Digital Humanities, just numerous ways to describe it. For instance, Lincoln Mullen calls Digital Humanities “a spectrum” (2), while others, such as David M. Berry, use words such as “quantitative” and “computational” (3). I consider these contributions helpful in determining an understanding of Digital Humanities; however, I would also add other characteristics to my definition. Digital Humanities is a spectrum, and has much to do with computational work; but, the field mostly deals with the accessibility of knowledge and the connections between people. For example, Digital Humanistic projects such as the Bracero History Archive (4) or the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank (5) allow those seeking information to easily access articles, maps, drawings, etc. through databases and archives on the internet. Connecting people together through these websites also allows the projects to compile extensive amounts of data, with which they can use to further improve their knowledge on the subject.

The beautiful part about projects in the Digital Humanities is that they usually create more questions than they answer. With additional resources being contributed to these databases, there is so much more to process and to understand about the issue at hand. As we develop more advanced technologies and better digital sorting tools, projects will be able to address many of these additional questions; however, there will always be more information to accumulate and analyze, which is the reason Digital Humanities keeps progressing.

– Ian Nish

Links/Work Cited

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Busa

(2) Mullen, Author Lincoln. “Digital Humanities Is a Spectrum; Or, We’re All Digital Humanists Now.” The Backward Glance. N.p., 14 Jan. 2017. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

(3) Berry, David. “The Computational Turn: Thinking About the Digital Humanities.” Culture Machine (2011): 1-22. 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

(4) http://braceroarchive.org

(5) http://www.hurricanearchive.org

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