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Day of Digital Humanities 3/18

On this Day of Digital Humanities, here are some choice definitions of the chimera offered by participants in the past two years’ DoDH:

Humanism and its universe, digitally. –Guyda Armstrong, University of Manchester, UK

Bringing digital computing technologies to bear in humanities-based modes of inquiry, and/or bringing humanities-based modes of inquiry to bear in digital computing technologies. –Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona College, USA

I like to define it as injecting a little humanity into the machine. Bad metaphor? How about: applying the lens of the social sciences to computing science, and using computing methods in humanities research. But really, “Digital Humanities” just makes me think its practitioners are the first scholars to accept their cyborg-selves. –Eric Forcier, University of Alberta, Canada

‘Digital’ Humanities is a misnomer: there is nothing to essentially distinguish it from the disciplines of Arts and Letters as practised for centuries. Just as scientists who utilise grid-computing are not ‘digital scientists’ but still ‘scientists’, and fiction authors who publish in hypertext are not ‘digital novelists’, those working in Arts and Letters who use and generate digital materials and digital tools remain ‘humanists’. – Matthew Steven Carlos, Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien

Digital Humanities: the creation and preservation of extensible digital archives to document, and tools to interact with, material culture.- Robert Whalen, Northern Michigan University, USA

I often say that humanities computing involves three distinct research areas. First, some researchers apply computing to research questions in the humanities. These might be questions they’ve always pursued but can now pursue faster or at a larger scale, or they may be questions that could not be addressed satisfactorily at all without computers. Second, some researchers take computing as an object of study using humanities methods. Examples include cyberculture and posthumanism. Third, some researchers take a generative approach, creating new online materials or tools for subsequent study and use. Most of my own work is in this third area. – Stan Ruecker, University of Alberta, Canada

I define Digital Humanities as the natural evolution or extension of traditional academic humanities pursuits specifically through the use of digital technologies. –Michael J. Maguire, University College Dublin, Ireland

Digital Humanities to me encompasses any of a multitude of approaches to the arts and humanities that address and embrace the empowering societal shifts afforded by technology. Digital Humanities is about open communication, collaboration and expression. It mirrors my own artistic process of A/R/Tograpy, in that DH incorporates art, research and technology. It is about discovery and sharing as much as it is about archival and data visualization. Above all, Digital Humanities is about shedding light on the human experience and ultimately our own interconnectedness. – Jolanda-Pieta van Arnhem, College of Charleston, USA

I define humanities computing as the field of study that helps to provide insight into the human condition through digital technologies. The methods and techniques used in the digital humanities can be varied: algorithms for emergent art, the application of procedural rhetorics to explore sociocultural issues, or the design and analysis of procedures to make computing technologies more human-friendly. Research methods related to the digital humanities can be hermeneutic (e.g., what are the hidden cultural and social layers within technological practice, and what do they tell us about particular discourse communities?), ontological (e.g., how do I project my own beliefs, desires, and values onto a personal avatar?), or purely practical (e.g., how can I digitize this text to make it available and searchable to those audiences who do not have the means or ability to access a physical copy?) Humanities computing and the digital humanities are of vital importance as they keep technological systems human-centered, leaving room for creativity, exploration, and playfulness. The famous interdisciplinary German thinker G. W. Leibniz pursued the dream of the Universal Computer as a means for freeing up the human mind for more creative and enjoyable pursuits; although information overload and the increased workload of distributed industries have made this goal quite challenging, I feel that the field of digital humanities does more to advance this philosophy of creative playfulness and exploration perhaps more than any other area of scholarly study. – Rudy McDaniel, University of Central Florida, USA

I define the digital humanities as a methodology and as a field. I don’t see it as the logical telos of the humanities computing tradjectory, but rather as a parallel or sucessive movement. The digital humanities is a beautiful convergence of individuals interested in humanities scholarship, design, born-digital objects, technology and its impact on society, as well as contemporary history and culture. –Dana Solomon, UC-Santa Barbara, USA

For dozens more intriguing definitions of digital humanities/humanities computing by practicing participants in North America and Europe, visit the Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPoR) wiki at the University of Alberta.

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