digital humanities again

I have recently started to write about the digital humanities again – more specifically I am working on the second article in a series of three. Preliminary title: “The landscape of the Digital Humanities”. The first one is called “From humanities computing to digital humanities”. I hope to finish it by the end of this summer.

I could not attend the Digital Humanities conference in June even though Oulu is not too far from here, and I have tried to find some information on blogs etc., But I have not been able to find a whole lot. I guess it may be too early.

Trying to remember sources I have seen the last couple of months and including a few I found doing some googling today:

This report on DH2008 comes from Michael Sperberg-McQueen:

There were a lot of good papers this year, and I don’t have time to go through them all here, since I’m supposed to be getting ready to catch the airport bus. So I hope to do a sort of fragmented trip report in the form of followup posts on a number of projects and topics that caught my eye. A full-text XML search engine I had never heard of before (TauRo, from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa), bibliographic software from Brown, and a whole long series of digital editions and databases are what jump to my mind now, in my haste.

The full entry can be found here.

This blog entry on digital humanities by Darren James Harkness predates the DH2008 conference and discusses the perceived textual dominance of digital humanities:

I started my MA in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta in 2003. It sounded like an interesting program (and, thanks to my profs it was) at the time. I quickly learned, however, that one of the things computing humanists are most interested in is text analysis. Word counts, concordances, keywords in context, tagging… everyone’s focused on what we can do when we mix up words and silicon. We spent a fair amount of time learning about technologies: XML, statistics programs, GIS, text analysis portals, and the like.


It’s just as apparent today how deeply the digital humanities field is mired in text analysis and text visualization. Looking at the SDH/SEMI program, the bulk of the papers cover these two fields, and DH2008 is almost solely dedicated to the topic. The programs are full of titles like “The Margins of an Infinite Page: Paratext Display in Digital Online Editions”, “The pragmatics of a thesaurus-based multilingual information retrieval system”, and “Feature Creep: Evaluating feature sets for text mining literary corpora”.


We need to start rocking the boat, shaking the tree – whatever epithet works best for you – and start pushing our own research interests. There is a lot of work to be done in studying digital culture and literature, and it isn’t going to get done through metadata or cluster diagrams alone.

I also found a recent report from CLIR: “A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States” (only as a word document). I have not had time to look at it carefully, but I will read it over the next couple of weeks. Interesting stuff. This is the definition of a digital humanities center:

A digital humanities center is an entity where new media and technologies are used for humanities-based research, teaching, and intellectual engagement and experimentation. The goals of the center are to further humanities scholarship, create new forms of knowledge, and explore technology’s impact on humanities-based disciplines. To accomplish these goals, a digital humanities center undertakes some or all of the following activities:

  • Builds digital collections as scholarly or teaching resources
  • Creates tools for: authoring (i.e., creating multimedia products and applications with minimal technical knowledge or training), building digital collections, analyzing humanities collections, data, or research processes, managing the research process
  • Uses “digital collections and analytical tools to generate new intellectual products”
  • Offers digital humanities training (in the form of workshops, courses, academic degree programs, postgraduate and faculty training, fellowships, and internships)
  • Offers lectures, programs, conferences, or seminars on digital humanities topics for general or academic audiences
  • Has its own academic appointments and staffing (i.e., staffing does not rely solely on faculty located in another academic department)
  • Provides collegial support for, and collaboration with, members of other academic departments at the DHC’s home institution
  • Provides collegial support for, and collaboration with, members of other academic departments, organizations, or projects outside the DHC’s home institution
  • Conducts research in humanities and humanities computing (digital scholarship)
  • Creates a “zone of experimentation and innovation” for humanists
  • Serves as an information portal for a particular humanities discipline
  • Serves as a repository for humanities-based digital collections (e.g., Web sites, electronic text projects, QuickTime movie clips, etc.)
  • Provides technology solutions to humanities departments (e.g., serves an IT role for humanities departments).

It is obvious that this defintion has a fairly strong library science and humanities computing focus. Information technology and the digital humanities are largely (but not only) given an instrumental role.

Finally, I am also going to look at Jeffrey Schnapp’s and Michael Shanks’s article “Artereality: rethinking art as craft in a knowledge economy” again. Recommended reading.

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