A Look Back

The first week of this program, I went into the library and was asked to write a definition of Digital Humanities/Scholarship. That seemed like an impossible task, distilling all of DS/DH into a simple phrase. I know now that it is, it is supposed to be difficult, and that is the nature of DH.

I believe my initial definition was something along the lines of “the use of digital tools and platforms to create engaging and experimental scholarship.” It’s not bad for something I wrote in ten minutes while trying to comprehend everything I had read previously.

In the second blog post I made, I changed this definition to sound more articulate. Now, DH was “an endeavor that utilizes digital tools and platforms to enhance creations, are open to a larger community and perspectives, and are informed through risks and experimentation.”

Both of these definitions hold true for me in their own ways. DH does use the digital to enhance what is already there. Without good research, there cannot be a great project, even if the digital tools are top of the line. DH is open, both to a wider audience and experimentation, as that allows it to grow. One of the greatest aspects of digital projects is the fact that they do not have to be completely finished, they can change as needed over time. DH can also engage with audiences by making interactive sites.

These ideas guided me in creating my project. I made sure to use the digital platforms to augment my research, not distract from the lack of information with flashy features. I am not yet done with the project, but that is because I allowed myself room to continue working. I focused on what I could accomplish in a summer, and will build up my site as I can. I always kept my audience in mind, designing my site for their ease of use and comprehension of materials.

All that said, I do not have a definitive definition of Digital Humanities, but that is not for lack of trying. Over the summer, I have come to the conclusion that the scope of DH is much wider than initially perceived. I can define DH for myself and my project, and that definition will serve quite nicely. However, I do not know all the ways in which DH is being used, and I cannot speak for them all. I do not want to, as making a definitive definition might exclude some great DH that I do not know exists yet. DH should be thought of instead as a set of aspects. If a project utilizes many of DH aspects- digital tools, collaboration, openness- then it should be under consideration to be known as a DH project.

For those interested in joining the cohort next year, I urge you to try. Don’t be intimidated by the digital, embrace it and use it to your advantage. Have confidence in your project as a part of DH, it does have a place in this field. Most of all, ask for help. DH is collaborative by nature, it is the only way we all grow. I look forward to meeting you and seeing what you bring to the Digital Scholarship Summer Fellowship.


Emma Lewis

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