Category Archives: Definitions

A Definition of Digital Humanities, Revisited!

The first post on this blog detailed my initial impressions regarding the Digital Humanities, which resulted in my interpretation of the field by trying to form a definition for it. This final post will review this initial definition, my updated understanding of the field in relation to that definition, what I believe I got right in my initial thoughts, and how we can improve upon all of this with an updated definition!

Located below is the initial definition; directly retrieved from the initial post:

Digital Humanities encompasses both an academic discipline and digital representations of research that, when put together, seek to act as a mediator between the academic and the public. The current landscape of the field tends to focus on tackling difficult topics: representation, intersectional analysis, accessibility, and other areas that are discussed through digital mediums globally. This endeavor must be multidisciplinary in nature, while fostering an environment that encourages new types of research as digital tools only increase in effectiveness and capabilities. Digital Humanities is at its best when its foundation is based on expanding knowledge upon different cultures, structural issues, and the experiences of others with the explicit goal of better understanding the world around us.

Personally, I think that this definition is consistent with some principles surrounding Digital Humanities that we have explored over the past three months or so. As the definition stands currently, I will keep the parts that I have bolded for us (although the wording may be altered here and there). We have explored different types of programs and projects that ultimately incorporated interdisciplinary study, are oriented towards public audiences, and have been adjusting to the ever-changing landscape of technology. I also believe that the distinction of DH as a field and mediator remains important to preserve in our new definition; due to the fact that its accessibility allows for target audiences of all kinds, visual information for the viewer to digest, and the ability to engage the public without needing an article/book-length text to make one’s point.

The entire definition is not in bold because I believe we can heavily revise those portions, as my understanding of the field has changed since late August and early September. I still believe these portions to be true, however more context needs to be added in order for the definition to represent my current thoughts. Features of those portions will be included in the revised definition, but will also incorporate other elements.

“The current landscape of the field tends to focus on tackling difficult topics: representation, intersectional analysis, accessibility, and other areas that are discussed through digital mediums globally.”

To start with the first portion of text that is not in bold (located directly above), I do believe that current landscape of the field is engaged with topics that have implications for broader society. However, I now realize that these elements are circumstantial and do not properly represent the point that I was trying to make at the time of writing. I believe that these are components that make for good research and the communication of the author’s points, rather than being the focus itself. In the new definition, these previous elements will work to support¬†assertions, rather than being the assertions themselves.

“Digital Humanities is at its best when its foundation is based on expanding knowledge upon different cultures, structural issues, and the experiences of others…”

To address this second portion of text that is not in bold, I do still believe in this sentiment of DH being at its best when it is able to draw conclusions that have broader implications to better understand the world. However, I also believe that I am confining the field to these types of projects that explicitly tackle these topics; thus discrediting the projects that exclusively digitize and/or transcribe texts, connections between a specific group of people, and those that track the progression of objects, ideas, or a trend through visual/audio mediums. This is why the last portion of that section, “…with the explicit goal of better understanding the world around us” will make it into my final definition. I believe that was the true sentiment of the overall statement, which can be elaborated upon with this newfound understanding we have gained throughout our journey.

The following text is my revised definition that I believe better represents such a diverse and complicated field…

Digital Humanities encompasses both an academic discipline and digital representations of research that, when put together, seek to act as a mediator between academic research in the humanities and the public through target audiences. Work in Digital Humanities includes–but is not limited to–utilizing podcasting, mapping software, text mining and/or analysis, network graphing, online exhibitions, digitizing collections, crowdsourcing projects, and more.

Projects in the Digital Humanities tend to be at their best when they feature multidisciplinary collaboration, while also fostering an environment that encourages new types of research as digital tools only improve regarding their effectiveness and the means of visualizing data.

Also, biases should be kept in mind to properly incorporate marginalized voices in one’s research, language, presentation, and analysis. This includes one’s personal biases and the biases that have been formed during the course of human history, such as: gender identity, race and ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, representation in corpora/archives, class, and other such identifiers.

Projects in the Digital Humanities have the explicit goal of better understanding the world around us through determining and cultivating target audiences, figuring out the medium in which they will present their research, and creating projects that are free and accessible to the public.

This newer definition–as concisely as I deemed possible–incorporates my updated understanding of the Digital Humanities. I believe we have better clarified what DH projects can look like, the process, and some core features that make DH projects successful and representative of the field!

With that, I want to thank you for joining me on this blog that I created to familiarize myself with the Digital Humanities by engaging with writing and projects related to the field.

A Definition of Digital Humanities

Definition: Digital Humanities encompasses both an academic discipline and digital representations of research that, when put together, seek to act as a mediator between the academic and the public. The current landscape of the field tends to focus on tackling difficult topics: representation, intersectional analysis, accessibility, and other areas that are discussed through digital mediums globally. This endeavor must be multidisciplinary in nature, while fostering an environment that encourages new types of research as digital tools only increase in effectiveness and capabilities. Digital Humanities is at its best when its foundation is based on expanding knowledge upon different cultures, structural issues, and the experiences of others with the explicit goal of better understanding the world around us.

Explanation: This original definition is guided by the current understanding of Digital Humanities and engaging with scholars writing about the field. More recent definitions emphasize ideologically-driven research that seeks to aid the public in understanding the world around them through digital means. Contributing to the field now tends to mean conducting and publishing research that is informed by the everchanging social landscape of any locality one is focusing on. Although not exclusive to these topics, there is a broad utility in educating the public on digital tools, media literacy, intersectional analysis, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Just as museums have seen a shift from essentialist preservation techniques regarding its collections to a more collaborationist stance, Digital Humanities has seen a similar shift occur since the early 2000s; where serving the public is just as important as the research itself in a way. Since target audiences are overwhelmingly a factor in the creation of research, it is important to adapt to the needs of the public; just as a successful manufacturing company would strive to achieve.

Overall, research conducted under the umbrella of Digital Humanities will never perfectly achieve the goals it sets out to achieve. Therefore, the current focus of the field should be technological advancement in terms of accessibility and presentation, while also striving to represent as many voices as are desired in order to create richer and valuable research for a growing population.