What is DH?

The interdisciplinary field of Digital Humanities began to be defined as such in the late 1990s, emerging out of the more narrowly defined field of Humanities Computing. Scholarship in the Digital Humanities brings digital tools to bear on traditional humanistic areas of study and prompts critical reflection, in the best tradition of the humanities, on the digital mediation of modern life. DH work differs in emphasis, from tool- and application-building, to the use of such tools to assemble, transform, or manipulate digital archives, to the use of computational methods to advance or question conventional methods of analysis, to the critical scrutiny of our computer-mediated culture. Digital Humanities can be broken down into disciplinary specialties that map onto familiar departmental divisions, including Digital History (see the Center for History and New Media), Digital Art History, and Digital Literary Studies.

Digital humanities projects in literary and historical studies currently cluster in the following areas:

  • Textual analysis: digital editions of literary texts; websites that invite linguistic, social, and historical analysis of literary works; text aggregation sites that link author or subject-oriented digital collections; and the development of tools for digital textual analysis.
  • Geospatial approaches to literary texts and historical problems.
  • Network Analysis of literary texts and historical problems.
  • Data-mining of large corpora for insights into genres, discourses, and the sociology of knowledge.
  • The creation of small or middle-sized archives of digitized texts, often in close collaboration with libraries, designed to serve particular groups of scholars.
  • Digital projects whose aim is primarily pedagogical, often undertaken with civic or public humanities goals in mind.

Digital Humanities as a field sustains a number of journals (Digital Humanities Quarterly, Journal of the Digital Humanities), annual conferences (Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations), on-line discussion boards (Digital Humanities Now, DH Questions and Answers) and resource lists (DiRT Directory). Digital Humanities scholars have been important voices in debates over new forms of scholarly communication, including Open Access and open peer review; they have been centrally involved in crafting guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship for promotion and tenure.