Defining DH: An Exercise

1st Definition: A discipline that functions to study, promote, and create digital technology and tools to advance scholarship, knowledge, and literacy among humanities disciplines.

2nd Definition: A field/movement that leverages digital technology to promote knowledge and exploration in the humanities.

When our class grappled with the definition of DH, one issue captured my attention in particular- will Digital Humanities become obsolete once the “Digital” component fully saturates the academy? If DH loses its luster on the way to commonplace, who’s to say a midlife crisis/senioritis moment won’t destroy the thing altogether? The intransigence, exclusivity, bureaucracy, etc. which often plagues the establishment could conceivably take the wind out of DH’s sails, too…right? As I imagine this doomsday scenario, I find myself asking another set of questions: What attracted me to DH? What do I want from DH? What do I want to contribute to DH?

The answers that come to mind have formulated my take on why DH has the potential to stick around for a while. I like DH for its flexibility and adaptability, its collaboration and interdisciplinarity, its versioning and experimentation, its hands on approach, and its scholarly approach. There is inherent dualism in much of DH and I believe there will never be a shortage of demand to improve the interconnectedness between mind and matter.

I expect DH will have quite a few growing pains, but I do believe there’s no reason why the foundations of DH can’t serve the next iteration well. First “Humanities Computing,” now “Digital Humanities” …what’s next?