A glance at Digital Humanities
What are Digital Humanities?
Digital Humanities as a discipline is at the intersection of humanities studies and digital media. It’s a two-sided relationship, where digital tools are used to enhance our exploration of humanities studies, and also where the modes of inquiry practiced in the humanities are applied to digital media in order to better understand our increasingly digitized world.
This is important because it builds some core strengths in students.
- It develops technical skills that are no longer an added benefit, but a necessity in the job market and also in participating in public discourse.
- The integration of digital tools into the curriculum also, very importantly, builds digital literacy in students. And I don’t just mean using digital tools well. I mean the ability to closely read, to analyze, to scrutinize our use of digital applications. The kinds of questions asked in Humanities disciplines are the very questions that we need to ask of our digital habits. This is where students practice that thinking.
- Finally, these teaching methods develop the skills of creative problem solving. In a world so highly unpredictable, those people who are skilled in developing innovative solutions will be the ones prepared to be leaders across industries.
My “Best of” DH projects list
There are two projects that focus on historic Auburn Ave.: Georgia State University is building a simulation of the area that students can explore in virtual reality using the Oculus Rift. Students can walk down the streets in VR. Georgia Tech has also developed an augmented reality simulation of the area. When you’re on Auburn Ave you can use this mobile app and hold your phone up and see the historic buildings and signs overlaid on the current environment. Both projects make the study of local history into an embodied spatial experience that comes alive. They’re remarkable for their exploration of experiential learning.
Faculty at UNC Chapel Hill (and collaborators from across the world) have worked to build the William Blake Archive. On this site, users have access to thousands of digitized primary source documents that are filed away in archives and special collections around the world that would otherwise be nearly impossible to access. This project is remarkable for breaking down barriers to rare literary collections.
Cycle Atlanta is a project out of Georgia Tech that uses a mobile app to track cyclists’ routes in Atlanta and sends that data to transportation planning committees to better inform policy-makers about pedestrian needs. It’s remarkable in that it challenges the ways that we participate in civic decision-making and our individual impact in local government.
Unfiltered News by data-artist Martin Wattenberg is an interactive online visualization where you can explore how different topics are being reported (or less reported) around the world. On the right, you can scrub through a timeline to see how news coverage has changed, and you can access links to those articles directly. This one is a remarkable tool for comparative media studies or mass communications.
What does this mean for Humanities curriculum?
- New methods of analyzing and sharing data that was previously unavailable — text/data-mining: for example, Google’s Ngram Viewer
- New ways of archiving & preserving material: for example, Omeka
- New ways of sharing research and participating in a broader conversation: for example, Scalar
- New media like AR and VR to facilitate experiential learning