Writing Assignment #1: What is Digital Humanities?

Digital humanities is a branch of humanity research. Since the study of humanities is to find patterns and trends in human behavior throughout time, especially for a group of people, digital humanities utilizes digital tools that help scholars visualize and generalize large amount of data or graphs into a format that a trend can be easily recognized. By using these tools, scholars can save a lot of time of looking at the data and summarizing data by themselves. Sometimes, they don’t even need to look at the exact details themselves but only let the digital tools to process them and observe the summarization that can represent the data.

However, the above definition does not draw an exact line between what is and what is not digital humanities. In the reading, Mullen states that “digital humanities is a spectrum; we are all digital humanists now.” Due to the increased popularity of digitalized tool, scholars who consider them as digital humanists or not all use a form of digital tool to some extent. Then, the line is hard to draw because we cannot give a fixed criteria that measures how large the dataset the project is processing or how digital tools are used. Therefore, I’m leaning toward Mullen’s theory that we consider digital humanities as a spectrum. It may be easier to figure out where each project is on the spectrum relatively to the others than simply saying which is or which is not digital humanities.

Although digital humanities projects are diverse and the methods undertaken can vary, most of the projects focus on studying the trends of human history and changes over time. For the projects we examined in class, I think they all share some common factors. They are all brought together by collaboration among scholars who have complementary skill sets and share the same interests. Each project involves analyzing metadata throughout history and uses various tools to present a visually appealing, often 3 dimensional, demonstration of results. Each project has been made available to public with user-friendly and interactive interface. 

In conclusion, the definition of digital humanities is blurry and the range of what digital humanities cover can get bigger as technology prevails in our daily life. 

Mullen, Author Lincoln. “Digital humanities is a spectrum; or, we’re all digital humanists now.” http://lincolnmullen.com/blog/digital-humanities-is-a-spectrum-or-we8217re-all-digital-humanists-now/.

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