Writing Assignment #1: What is Digital Humanities?

The digital humanities reflect its predecessor’s goal of trying to answer core humanistic questions through the utilization of computing technologies. Though the name has changed from humanities computing, certain themes of the disciple have remained. Willard McCarty, an early digital humanist, argues that digital humanities will always be used as a way to preserve the past, grow on the present, and model the future (McCarty 2005, 1231-1232).

Rooted in collaboration and projects, the digital humanities follow McCarty’s view and further the debate with regards to the discipline’s core questions.  Each project may have different content and aesthetics, but they all create and use tools like javascript, metadata, mapping, and databases to analysis data and then decide the best way to display the project. Lincoln Mullen, among other scholars, takes a more liberal approach to the subject saying, “we’re all digital humanists now.”  Mullen believes the field is a spectrum rather than a concentration (Mullen 2010). From the person who creates an accessible website for all of Walt Whitman’s works, to the tenure professor who sets up meetings with his colleague to discuss Fitzgerald’s view of the American dream, the essence of research and study have been permanently altered by technology (Berry 2011, 1). However, others scholars like Michael J. Kramer believe the process leading up to the end result is the most important aspect of the field. Kramer felt his students were true humanists when they thought critically and explained their choices for why something is a certain way (Kramer 2012). Growing on the present, and modeling for the future happens in the process of creating a project; while the end result allows us to preserve and analyse the past. These scholars all highlight the importance of the process when creating a digital project in the humanities because it not only helps lay the groundwork for the next project, it allows the creators to think critically about the content.

In short, digital humanities is the process of creating projects through collaboration and tools to analyse past, present, and future data in order to answer core humanistic questions.

References:

  1. Berry, D. “The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities.” Culture Machine 12, no. 0 (2011): 1-22. https://blackboard.hamilton.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-614532-dt-content-rid-807558_1/courses/CNMS_201W_01_SP2017/Berry_The_Computational_Turn.pdf.
  2. Kramer, Michael. What does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table?. MichaelJKramer.Net. 2012. http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/what-does-digital-humanities-bring-to-the-table/.
  3. McCarty, Willard. “Humanities Computing.” (2005):1224-1235. doi:10.1081.
  4. Mullen, Lincoln. The Backward Glance. Lincolnmullen.Com. 2010.

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