Tag Archives: DHdefinition

Redefining DH

The first semester of the Digital Praxis Seminar was an inspiring invitation into the new age of scholarship. The lecture series set a compelling foundation for engaging the Digital Humanities, and opened a portal to possibility. The seminar led me to imagine how I could elevate my own scholarship in the midst of today’s Information Revolution. It challenged me to consider ways to overcome traditional text-based modes of humanities scholarship, and conceive of new mediums to give scholarship greater relevance and influence in mainstream society.
At the close of the first semester, I find myself reflecting heavily on the Digital Humanities. At the beginning of the semester when we were asked to define Digital Humanities, I had trouble coming up with a definition. As I attempt to redefine the field now, one word comes to mind: Possibility. The Digital Humanities is all about possibility. It’s about the possibility that comes from collaboration, creativity, problem solving, technology, scholarship, and innovation.
I am very excited to begin working on projects after the break! I look forward to seeing you all. All the best for a happy and healthy new year!


The digital humanities is an academic community, its members united by interest in (and use of) digital tools to 1) redefine their research and analytical practices and/or 2) cultivate new forms of academic collaboration and dialogue. Its sustainability, emergent goals, and politics are reactive to wider industry developments and economic forces.

The Digital Humanities is an emerging discipline within the field of information science.

I have found it exciting to follow DH issues and studies that are continually emerging in networked spaces, shaped by a dynamic community that seems to self-identify and develop new ideas at a rapid pace. Discovering the latest questions and critique within the discipline itself has piqued my interest in understanding the trajectories of those discussions. But while I think the world of DH-introspection enriches the discipline and fosters its growth, it at times seems a veil for the natural growth and potential for the field. Given the rapid adoption of digital tools, computational frameworks, and data mining in most areas of contemporary scholarship (and industry, government, etc.), I’m interested in why proving the value and relevance of digital methods within the humanities is a different process than it is in other realms.

As a result, I’d like to further explore how DH, as a practice, resonates with larger trends in digital practices, and how deeply interdisciplinary projects manifest the value of DH methodologies — perhaps in ways that transcend semantic qualms and curb the agency of an Analog vs. Digital duality.

But if DH is contingent on dualism (at least for the time being), perhaps alternative definitions of DH arise when one of its basic value propositions (that digital tools will deliver new value to the humanities) is inverted. For instance, there are computer and social scientists interested in questions of language, interpretation, expression, philosophy….so how can longstanding lines of inquiry in the humanities bring new dimensionality to the methods that those social and computational scientists use? I am hoping to come to a 3rd definition of DH that fortifies the idea (in practice as well as theory) that the digital needs the humanities just as the humanities need the digital.

Defining DH

Before our class conversation, I defined Digital Humanities as the practice of accessing and exchanging ideas and scholarship through interconnected digital platforms. I understood the Digital Humanities as the field which merges scholarship across the wide spectrum of academic disciplines with modern technological advances to realize ideas through a more effective and relevant context.

Following our discussion, I would redefine Digital Humanities as a practice of accessing, developing, communicating, and exchanging ideas and scholarship through digitized mediums. I still hold that the field aims to fuse modern scholarship with modern technological capabilities in order to produce relevant, effective idea exchange. This growing field realizes that in our digitizing world, the individual’s capacity for thought and creation is heightened. In order to advance our ideas and scholarship in this changing context, we must utilize digital mediums. The Digital Humanities guides this adaptation.


Defining the digital humanities

Prior to class: The digital humanities examine social and cultural objects/phenomena that are the result of a collusion with digital technologies. Digital humanities examine digital space and concepts in the human disciplines.

After class: The digital humanities encompass a range of tools for analysis, instruction, and pedagogy that incorporate digital techniques to address questions in the humanities.

To me, there is a big difference between digital technologies (textual analysis, GIS, etc.) and studying the ways technology interacts with other fields of study. In the readings, I was particularly drawn to the concept of “eversion,” that cyberspace and physical space are deeply interwoven. I agree with Nathan Jurgenson’s argument about the queering of the on- and offline; though the digital and physical are not one perfect unity, the distinction between the categories has become increasingly destabilized. The idea that there is a separate “offline” is no longer valid.

Going forward in the course, I would like to better understand how the two definitions I stated above work in tandem: how can digital technologies and tools also be understood as a critical component of the humanities?

Like the MTA — Improving non-stop!*

During class, I suggested that digital humanities was the digital creation and recreation of artifacts in order to reach the widest audience possible.

After listening to how others defined DH and reflection upon the reading, the field of digital humanities seems a bit harder to define. Since 3D printers can create physical objects, I think my focus on digital artifacts is perhaps too limiting. This time around I would also want to incorporate digital scholarship and pedagogy. Perhaps something more like: the incorporation of digital tools to create artifacts and methods that transform scholarly communication and pedagogical practices. That’s certainly a mouthful!

If I had to give certain attributes to the field of digital humanities I would say that it’s open in process and product as well as collaborative and disruptive in nature. I am involved in the ePortfolio project on my campus and trying to define dh reminds me in many ways of trying to define eportfolios. Of course, one could simply say that an eportfolio is a digital portfolio, but I would argue that it’s much more than that. I see it as a way for instructors to highlight (and perhaps recalibrate) high impact practices while giving students a sense of authorship and ownership.

In class I was struck by the number of students who expressed concern over privacy and sharing because it just seemed like a natural thing to me. Having graduated from one of CUNY’s online degree programs at SPS (and now administering their ePortfolio project) I guess I’m a bit more comfortable with the idea of sharing my work as well as the concept of peer review. After reading more about the history of peoples’ reactions to technology and it’s power to transform in my ITP Core 1 class, to question technology seems like a natural human response.

While I enjoyed all of the readings for class this week, Susan Hockey’s historical rundown of humanities computing and her focus on the importance of the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) really spoke to me. The fact that these academics were able to collaborate and create guidelines which served as a model for those in the field seemed at the very heart of digital humanities.

I just want to end by saying that what drew me to the digital humanities track in the MALS program was the idea of making (which is why I’m totally bummed that I didn’t go to Maker Faire this weekend). Creating resources for students and faculty is one of the things that I love the most about my work with the ePortfolio project on my campus, and, since I need to make ePortfolio resources for students who may live in Hawaii, I enjoy the challenge of having to create things that are comprehensive yet easy-to-digest. The point is that it’s always changing and (hopefully) improving.

Since this week is about data visualization I decided to make a word cloud based on the #definingdh tag for this blog using wordle.net. Enjoy. 🙂

word cloud

* I’m not the biggest fan of the MTA (as can be noted by my various MTA tweets), but I’m a sucker for a good slogan so there you go.

Digital Humanities: “It does things to things.”

At the beginning of class, Matt Gold asked us to write a definition of the Digital Humanities “as you would like it to be defined, not as it is defined.”

Definition at the beginning of class: The Digital Humanities is a set of computationally-based methods which study historical and contemporary artifacts and texts. I think Jamie Bianco’s statement about the Digital Humanities, “It does things to other things,” adds an important dimension to this.

There was much class discussion about definitions of Digital Humanities in relation to quantitative methods and the sciences. The parallel drawn between GIS and the Digital Humanities was particularly enlightening. A student said the field of geography had answered the question of whether GIS is a tool, a discipline or a field of study—yes, to all of these categories. GIS is now recognized as its own field of research, but also as a tool that can be used without knowledge of the theory behind it, similarly to the way some people say that you don’t have to be able to code to be a digital humanist. I think what happened with GIS in geography is a likely outcome of the debates around Digital Humanities.

During the discussion, Steve Brier pointed out that the structure that digital humanists work in, or aspire to work in, was created in the sciences where collaborative work using digital technology, and a quick process of review and publication is the standard. He said, jokingly, that humanists have been “slow” about catching on.

Are digital humanists laggards, or is this “slowness” partly because of differences between scholarly communication in the sciences and the humanities? Scientists have to move quickly to document their discoveries because the structure of the field requires it. Humanists work in a more drawn out time frame. Kathleen Fitzpatrick makes another crucial distinction, “The work in the sciences, on some level, is doing the science. The stuff that gets communicated afterward is the record of its having been done. Where in the humanities, the work is the thing that is communicated.” The insight that Digital Humanities projects are both the scholarly work and the communication of that work provides a context for thinking about the future of scholarly communications. Fitzpatrick says, “The sciences in their modes of communication are still very fixated on this object that is the journal article however it is distributed.” She says the strength of the humanities is that they are in a position to be “Utterly reimagining what the nature of scholarship can be. . . . That there are other forms that projects can take. They can take the form of Omeka exhibits . . . Scalar multimedia projects . . . databases . . . archives.”

After the class discussion, I would add a few words of explanation to the definition and also stress the role of communication in Digital Humanities projects.

Definition after discussion: The Digital Humanities is a set of computationally-based methods which study historical and contemporary artifacts and texts. Jamie Bianco’s statement about the Digital Humanities, “It does things to other things,” adds an important dimension to the description of Digital Humanities methodology by emphasizing that it is also about the creation of new artifacts, texts and tools that communicate interpretations and arguments.

Works cited

Bianco, Jamie Skye. Digital Humanities Interview Project. Video. Web.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities in and for the Digital Age.” Scholarly Communications Program, Columbia University Libraries. Video. 5 Mar. 2013. Web

Defining the Digital Humanities


DH before class: Using technology to study traditionally non-technologically inclined fields in new ways.

DH post-discussion: Using technology to shape learning, teaching and research.

Because academia often exists in a big bubble, it seems like DH scholars should be experts in keeping up with technology (as much as they can) as it pertains to research, teaching and learning. There are tools that exist that people use… that academics should know about and should also be able to use.

I guess I’m still a little stuck on the word “humanities.” Is Digital Humanities about digitization and technology in academia in general, or just within the humanities? If you don’t confine it to a field, is it just about technology? It will be interesting to explore parameters. I also keep coming back to what was mentioned in class, about how people in the physical sciences think this debate is silly–because of course you should be collaborating and using technology in your research.

I’m interested in writing,  literature, and publishing, so the scope of this definition is pretty huge here.  If you think about the future of books, for example, which is obviously an important question for universities (or it should be), the purpose is further complicated (or, has room for expansion). Is the future of publishing something that should be addressed by publishers, or should Digital Humanists be doing this research? Are DHers using the tools, developing the tools or both? So is it just about research and teaching or about technology in the world in general?  After the end of our discussion, the definition became more broad, more overwhelming and even more fascinating. I’m hoping DH scholars are aiming to pop the academic bubble.


What is Digital Humanities

First Definition:  Teaching and learning that take place using technology.  

Second Definition:  Research, teaching and learning that take place using technology.

Not a lot of difference between the two, I grant you, but a deeper synthesis exists in the second than the first. 

While I found the entire class discussion thought-provoking, the piece I most related to was Jones’ idea of eversion, the notion that this alternate reality we call cyberworld or cyberspace is leaking into everything in our world, that machines and humans are combining to produce some sort of postmodern reality and that DH is a crystallized form of that transformation.      

I tend to perceive reality as circles within circles, systems moving within systems, so the idea of DH as an expression of a larger process makes complete sense to me.  While Kuhn’s writings in the early 60s confined the term paradigm shift to a scientific context, I happen to think that Jones is right – we are in the throes of one conceptual worldview being replaced by another – which to my mind amounts to a paradigm shift.  The cybernetic metaphor that began reshaping our social values and environment in the 50s has now become the paradigm shift of the 21st century, within which exists collaborative practice and spirit of community on one side of the equation, and alienation, dehumanization and a means of revolt against the dominant hierarchies on the other.   We’re living in interesting times. 


Initial Definition: Academic research pertaining to the focus of the humanities with utilization of ever-advancing technology existing as the sole mechanism for publication and instruction.

Revised Definition: The application of digital methods for use of research, collaboration, pedagogy, publication, or cataloguing across a wide array of academic disciplines.

Post-Class Analysis: From the discourse in class to the thoughts posted thus far, I am hesitant to posit a theory on whether or not DH is best looked at as more than a set of new tools for previous methodologies of mused, “analog,” humanities. However, I do agree with others that the theoretical implications of DH’s practices is worthy of investigation and debate.

Before class: Digital Humanities is an emerging academic field that explores the intersection of traditional humanities research and technology

My knowledge of DH is still so new that many definitions sound correct to me.  I guess I’m less interested in a precise definition of what DH is than in learning what the philosophies and ideologies behind DH tools and projects are.

For example, does Digital Humanities presume OSS ? Can a library database that uses technology to transform humanities research be considered a DH tool even if it comes from a private company? Is curation required to make something DH tool?

Just some thoughts and questions….