The Digital Humanities

As a student at FSU the past few years I have become more and more obsessed with technology and very un-arty things like RAM and HTML. Yet, I had a nagging feeling of rootedness in the humanities (my undergrad degree); I am a music-snob of sorts, 70% of my tattoos are of Renaissance art pieces, and I can have a mildly cogent conversation about Foucault and Barthes. So how to bridge the great divide between techy geekdom and arty geekdom? Why, the Digital Humanities, of course! (I stole that last sentence from the Ben Franklin episode of The Office… “why the tyrant King George, of course!” HA!)


What, you may ask, are these digital humanities and how might one become involved in them? Below is a short article I wrote for my Digital Media Conceptions and Production course, and I hope if it doesn’t answer some questions it at least will pique your curiosity and prompt further inquiry into this area, which could perhaps be the future direction of higher education. At least that’s what some scholars think!


As technology is rapidly and fundamentally changing the face of higher education, many disciplines are finding resourceful and interesting ways to adapt. The humanities – typically encompassing visual and performance art, literature, history, philosophy, religion, and more – have held a tenuous relationship with technology, perhaps encouraged by the core principles of critique and analysis that characterize the discipline. However, in recent years there has been a rising sense that technology as tool should be the next logical step for the Humanities.

The Digital Humanities are defined in complicated ways. Being true to the interdisciplinary nature of humanities, and reflecting the utility of Web 2.0, there have been many collaborative and collective definitions offered. Last year the Journal of American History sponsored and published a collaborative conversation piece between several scholars in the field titled, “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History.”  Perhaps most encouraging to proponents of the movement, The National Endowment for the Humanities recently opened an official Office of Digital Humanities, signaling an important acknowledgment. Out of that office, has come funding opportunities for conceptual spaces like HASTAC (pronounced ‘haystack’) which is a digital hub of scholarship, research, and projects seeking to answer the questions, “What would our research, technology design, and thinking look like if we took seriously the momentous opportunities and challenges for learning posed by our digital era?  What happens when we stop privileging traditional ways of organizing knowledge and turn attention instead to alternative modes of creating, innovating, and critiquing that better address the interconnected, interactive global nature of knowledge today, both in the classroom and beyond?”

Stan Katz, a leading voice in the crowd, claimed its ‘emergence’ (another culture studies buzz term) in an article for The Chronicle stating, “Much remains to be done, and campus-based inattention to the humanities complicates the task. But the digital humanities are here to stay, and they bear close watching.” In response to his quote, several questions arise for the field of Library and Information Studies. As information professionals how do we react to the traditional disciplines (English, History, Philosophy, ect.) going digital? How will this affect: the mindset of ‘customer/student’, the workspace we occupy, the skills needed to effectively capture and transmit desired information? Ultimately, in this age of connectivity, do barriers of discipline even matter? What will be the “Three R’s” of the Digital Humanities: RSS-ing (reading), microblogging (writing), and coding (arithmetic)?

For further research –

Delicious Search

Symposium at University of IL at Champaign-Urbana

Wikipedia Links for “Digital Humanities”


Post inspired by Lisa Spiro’s Digital Humanities in 2008, Part 1.

Image from Flickr user WordSendTHATCamp” has a Creative Commons License – Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic


3 thoughts on “The Digital Humanities

  1. Hi Brett. I do follow Dan Cohen and his list of DigiHum twitterers. I am planning a trip to DC this coming march and would be happy to stop in. I’ll be in touch. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Know thy audience « The Infornado

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