new digital teaching tools new digital teaching tools new digital teaching tools Digital Humanities: Course modules designed to teach people to think about how technologies affect us

Professor Willard McCarty, moderator of the Humanist listserv and recent recipient of the Lyman Award, points out that "there have been more jobs in humanities computing advertised [on the Humanist list], and more explicitly academic jobs, than ever before -- most recently and endowed chair at Dartmouth" (McCarty). Digital Humanities now has its own online journal, the Digital Humanities Quarterly, and its own official organization, the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations. Moreover, you can now study Digital Humanities at many institutions across the U.S. and can actually purse an MA and Ph.D. in Digital Humanities at London University. The Centre for Humanities Computing at King's College, London University defines Digital Humanities this way:

The digital humanities comprise the study of what happens at the intersection of computing tools with cultural artefacts of all kinds. This study begins where basic familiarity with standard software ends. It probes how these common tools may be used to make new knowledge from our cultural inheritance and from the contemporary world. It equips students to analyze problems in terms of digital methods, choose those best for the job at hand, apply them creatively and assess the results. It teaches students to use computing as an instrument to investigate how we know what we know, hence to strengthen and extend our knowledge of the world past and present.

The field of Digital Humanities involves thinking about the impact of new technologies on thought, about ways of shaping and visualizing information, and about the relationships between code and language, programming and ideology (see a select bibliography of the field). The key to understanding this emerging field, I believe, is realizing that Digital Humanities is not about teaching nor about service, nor even about public citizenship -- all worthy pursuits -- but about the kinds of research one can conduct in the Humanities if one uses the computer as more than a presentational medium, if one exploits its full capacities, whatever they turn out to be.

The implications and applications of Digital Humanities are numerous, but one could begin to think about them this way:

  • Mightn't Humanities methods be, in fact, algorithms expressible if not mathetmatically then perhaps in some programming languages?
  • What will we discover about those methods and about us, about non-programmable human intuition, if we try to automate -- say -- the methods described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his "Essay on Method," beginning with his own preferred methods for thinking, desynonymy and chiasmus?
  • What aspects of the humanistic analyses of natural language are applicable either to artificial intelligence or to a new field now coming into existence, the study of the limits on thinking imposed by software and database design as well as programming-language type?

A series of essays produced here will explore these issues, and recommended blogs follow our table of contents:


The Humanities and Communication Technology, by Frank Eastman


Humanities Methods

Digital Humanities: A Select Bibliography

Analyzing Visual Culture

Going Public: Humanities at the Core of National Knowledge Work (a study/discussion seminar for faculty on the meaning and value of the Humanities


The Valve

The Digital Humanities Blog