What is Digital Humanities? – HP

What is digital humanities?

In order to define digital humanities, the two words that make up the phrase need to be defined; only then can we try to define the whole term. Digital can be defined as a non-physical representation of ideas and physical objects via digits. Additionally, it is a subset of technology that serves as a general purpose technology that leads to copious possibilities in display, interaction and computation. On the other side, humanities is the study of the human experience. More specifically, it is the study of the human race and what makes a human, a human. Digital humanities is a term that has no concrete definition. In fact, the definition is fluid and controversial amongst digital humanists. Furthermore, there is debate over what makes a person a digital humanist. Some believe it to be an all-inclusive word, while others believe that there are criteria that exclude some from being labeled as a digital humanist. For example, Mullen believes that everyone is a digital humanist and that the tent is very inclusive (Mullen, 2010). Mullen thinks that by making the tent more inclusive, more people will be willing to think about digital humanist projects. On the other hand, Fitzpatrick does not believe that we are all digital humanists. The main reason is that there are scholars who “work with digital materials, but who remain outside the traditions and assumptions of the digital humanities” (Fitzpatrick, 2012). Fitzpatrick would align with Berry who claims that digital humanities is a process, not a final product (Berry, 2011).

Digital humanities is very much a process; it is the application of different methods that take a physical subset and input it into a digital form. For example, taking Walt Whitman’s works and putting them into an online database that everyone can access. The reason why this database is not a final product is because there can be no end to the building of the database. As Ed Folsom notes, the database continues to grow just like the branches and roots of a tree (Folsom, 2007). Digital humanities is the application of new methods to find new knowledge. It is the remapping of traditional disciplines into a digital form. In a way, digital humanities is a renaissance of preconceived notions of “concrete disciplines,” such as sociology. Some argue that digital humanities is an academic field concerned with the application of computational tools and methods to traditional humanities disciplines such as literature, history and philosophy. To me, digital humanities is not so much a discipline, but rather a methodology. Digital humanists are able to take a discipline and apply digital humanity methodologies to the discipline. These methodologies democratize the information for those that have internet access.

If I have showed anything within this post, I hope to show that digital humanities has no concrete definition and everything about the “discipline” can be argued. I believe the definition consists of methodologies applied to concrete disciplines (ie. history, sociology, etc) that take physical archives and create virtual representations open to all that have access to internet and proper bandwidth.