The digital humanities are a series of methodological techniques relying on digital data platforms to store, organize, and present large quantities of information in an easily navigated format. Compared to traditional scholastic media such as journals, monographs and conferences, the digital humanities are new and, perhaps as a consequence, less popularly recognized. Digital pioneer Roberto Busa recounts how work began as late as 1949.[1] Contemporary technology was such that the database storing his Index Thomisticus weighed 500 tons! Of course, Busa’s early work was inaccessible to mass audiences. Since then however, technical advances in digital humanities, particularly “Web 2.0,” has made data more accessible by allowing scholars or anyone with a computer to visualize complicated information in a new way. For example, the website “Information is Beautiful” provides visuals to represent traditionally non-visual data.[2] Anyone with an interest in Gulags – for example – can learn about the topic from the comfort of their homes.[3] In essence, the digital humanities are trying to modernize and popularize how we think about the previously inaccessible areas of inquiry.

In yet another counterpoint to scholastic precedent, the digital humanities relies upon widespread collaboration to gather content, develop an interactive platform, fund the project, among many other partnerships. According to Matthew Kirshchenbaum, the digital humanities provides for open, collaborative, and nonhierarchical values.[4] With increased accessibility, the digital humanities make scholarly information accessible across disciplines. Willard McCartney provides a useful metaphor, imagining “humanities computing” as a sort of methodological commons linking the fundamentals of research with specific disciplines.[5] It’s rare for a field of study to span multiple genres, and for the first time, disciplines are considering the boundaries of their field… if there truly are any. Lincoln Mullen goes so far as to claim that all scholars are digital humanists to some extent. [6]

Sarah Scalet, Elise Eagan, Mike Diana


[1] Roberto A  Busa “Forward Perspectives on Digital Humanities”

[2] “Information is Beautiful.” http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/.

[3] “Gulag: Many Days. Many Lives.” http://gulaghistory.org/.

[4] Kirshchenbaum, Matthew. “What’s Digital Humanities and What is it Doing in English Departments?”

[5] Willard McCartney, “Humanities Computing”

[6] Lincoln Mullen, “Digital Humaities is a Spectrum; or, We’re All Digital Humanists Now” http://lincolnmullen.com/blog/digital-humanities-is-a-spectrum/\

 

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