Digital Humanities is what?

Lots of buzz recently (much of it in my brain) about what exactly constitutes “Digital Humanities.” It occurred to me recently (during an interview when I was asked what digital humanities meant to me and my scholarship and teaching) that I didn’t really have a handle on the issues, and after a bit of reading around, it seems like the academy has a fairly contentious range of opinions on what constitutes digital humanities.  For example:

Is it humanities research done with “digital methods” – whatever those might be?

Is it research on digital culture that takes a traditionally humanities or cultural studies approach?

Is it humanities pedagogy that incorporates new media technology ranging from online discussion to blogs, wikis, Twitter and tumblr into its methodology?

Is it digital methodologies in archival preservation of texts, and the implications of digital media as artifact on the future of the archive – data warehousing, data set preservation, etc.?

Or is it some nexus of all of these (and other) issues?

In my own thinking on the subject, I think there are three areas that Digital Humanities can be divided into: Pedagogy, Preservation, and Publishing/Presentation.

In the pedagogy arena, I believe we who teach need to develop methodologies that reach students who are “digital natives” – for whom new media are a foundation of their literacy. I think this needs to go beyond live-blogging lectures and assigning online discussion posts.

I haven’t worked through exactly what this would entail, but I think as technology evolves, teachers need to evolve their methodology along with it. This change will no doubt be bumpy and produce a whole mess of other questions like: What might a term paper look like that incorporated new tech? What are the implications on plagiarism and academic integrity of incorporating new media into student research? How do you grade something new?

I think Preservation and Publishing deserve posts of their own, which I hope to get to at some point soonish. In the meantime, what does “Digital Humanities” mean to you, your scholarship, your teaching? Are we all, like it or not, Digital Humanists?


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