Thoughts On Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities, in my opinion, is the new possibilities of the humanities made possible by digital tools. It brings opportunities as well as challenges to the people involved in this intersection between computing and humanities. The range of the people I mean here goes well beyond humanists. It includes anybody who teaches, learns or builds humanities. I would like to call it “democratization of humanities”.

Thanks to the digital tools, the humanists may make new conclusions of their previous research, have the capacity they did not have before to create, analyze and disseminate knowledge, collaborate with scholars from other disciplines to bring the research to a new level and interact with their readers. These are only some exciting possibilities brought by digital humanities. The exploration of possibilities of how the humanities may evolve through the engagement with technology, media and computational methods should be a subject of digital humanities. I believe with fast development of new technologies nowadays, such exploration is endless in time.

Besides the tech possibilities I discuss above, the new possibilities I mean in the definition include the people who do humanities. Before, humanities are specialties of humanists who might be scholars, librarians, archivists and graduate students who study humanities. However, with digital tools, people can have access to humanities from any location instead of having to show up in a library or academic conference. They can figure out a business route of Roman Empire by connecting dots on the map digitally, they can read digital archives from multiple libraries and do the research, and they can set up their own database combining what they find online and offline. These jobs were only possible for the professionals such as librarians and archivists before, but now anybody who is interested in this can do it.  And thanks to their different professional or cultural training, they might approach the humanities in different ways from academics, librarians and archivists and therefore bring new perspectives on humanities.  So, digital humanities not only brings new possibilities of knowledge, but also of the people who can do humanities.

So, digital humanities is an outgrowth and expansion of humanities in digital ways. It is a new way to build, discover and disseminate knowledge.

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