Redefining DH- One Year Later

Defining Digital Humanities is a nebulous task. We spent a while defining and refining our perception of DH last year. I do not, however, have a solid definition of DH that I use for myself. I went through many blog posts last year trying to understand DH for myself, from the first post to the last. It became a frequent topic of discussion in our cohort and at conferences. I mused on the topic in overly wordy ways, and even got trendy to appeal to those on social media.

Despite all this work, I am still refining my definition of DH. This adaptability is one of the qualities I most admire about DH. I can come back to my initial definition a year later and apply my new experiences to create a more nuanced definition.

My DH is open above all. It engages with an audience and is approachable. It is transparent. It creates excitement in its audience. It can and will change over time to fit the needs and values of the community surrounding digital excellence.

Digital Humanities is the use of digital technology to inform academic work and promote collaboration and communication.

In all this discussion, I am using my personal definition of DH that guides my own work. Creating a definition that can inform a broad group about DH values is a harder task. Luckily, Musselman Library has created one for use at Gettysburg College, so I need not worry.

The library definition is as follows:

Digital Humanities encompasses any humanistic inquiry facilitated by digital technologies. Digital humanists use tools for mapping, data visualization, text analysis, online exhibits, digital collections, storytelling, and more to interpret, analyze, and present research across all disciplines to a broad audience. Digital Humanities work is characterized by collaborative approaches, public engagement, openness, and transparency. We value process and experimentation as well as scholarly outcomes.

This definition works for the library. It encompasses a variety of DH tools and uses for those tools. This allows people outside the DH community to understand DH and envision what types of projects it can produce. This definition is far more public facing than mine because it needs to be. It reads like a mission statement, proclaiming the purpose of DH at Gettysburg College to the world.

This definition is open, far more open than any I had crafted. It does not use words like “project” or “academic work,” instead opting for the all-encompassing human inquiry. This expands the sources that DH can come from. It is not limited to professors, researchers, or students like me. Any curious mind with the capacity to create digitally can produce DH works under this definition.

Definitions of DH can vary greatly in length and specificity, but they all share similar ideas. The website What is Digital Humanities? has a collection of definitions from many sources. Last year, this website annoyed me. It had too many definitions and I could never find the same one twice. But that is a strength of this website. Users are constantly exposed to new definitions and can think about DH in a different way.

I was satisfied with my understanding of DH last summer and thought I had an encompassing definition for DH. I realize that is not the case. To improve my understanding and definition of DH, I will reexamine my ideas every year as I and this community grow.

One Reply to “Redefining DH- One Year Later”

  1. Thanks for your willingness to keep push at the edges of DH and what it means to you. It’s good that you’re seeing how the definition may change in relation to the person or group who is defining it. Check out the #OurDHIs hashtag on Twitter to see how BIPOC DH folks are pushing even further. I’m really glad you have the #dssf18 cohort to keep you on your toes here!

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