A Definition of Digital Humanities

Practitioners1 of Digital Humanities, like those of Humanities, are interested in answering questions about the human condition. To this end, they utilize, create, and analyze digital materials2.  Technology, particularly that which creates or interprets digital information,3 is foundational to the field, both as tools for investigation and objects of study. The results of such efforts are often presented in digital form.

1 I think anyone engaged with the creation of a DH project can be considered a “Digital Humanist” on some level- perhaps not as professional Digital Humanists or Digital Humanities scholars, but people who contribute to DH projects by transcribing documents, uploading data, and the like are still part of the community.
2 Digital materials are images, text, data, code or anything that is accessible only through a computer (whether that computer be a desktop, tablet, gaming platform, wristwatch and so on).
3 I consider technology to be hardware and software. The technology pertinent to Digital Humanities is, obviously, that with a digital component.

My definition of Digital Humanities is influenced heavily by how I have seen the field operate in my academic and professional life in addition to definitions produced by the members of the field. I am an archaeologist by training, so when I think of DH, I think of how I can utilize the methods and theory in my research. GIS, interactive reconstructions, digital archives, database construction and online exhibits are just a few examples of what I think of as concretely Digital Humanities. So, when I think of a definition, I admittedly think of these types of projects, which are primarily electronic products. Stephen Ramsay’s “DH Types One and Two”1 made me aware of the coding concerns of Digital Humanists that I had not considered and tried to include in my definition. I also found Melissa Terras helpful in shaping my definition. Her talk, “Peering Inside the Big Tent: Digital Humanities and the Crisis of Inclusion,”2 made me sensitive to the debate in DH concerning who is and is not a Digital Humanist, and what is and is not DH. I don’t feel comfortable at this point in my study to definitively say who and what is not part of DH, so I consciously formulated my definition the other direction. I expect, and hope, that my definition will change as I grow to know the field better.

1 Stephen Ramsay (blog), 2013.
2 Melissa Terras (blog), July 26, 2011

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