Defining DH: There’s Never One Right Answer Anyway

I believe that people, in general, like to define ideas, concepts, etc. When we define these things, it can help us to begin to understand them. We can talk about them. We can study them. The definition of Digital Humanities may not be a concern for those who are currently participating in the discipline; however, for the people who may be interested in Digital Humanities, the definition or lack there of could be so important.

Having to define Digital Humanities was a problem that I ran into when I told people I was taking this class. Everyone I told seemed really interested and wanted to know more about it. The problem was that I wasn’t really sure how to explain it; I barely had an idea of what the class would be like myself. I love technology, and I love reading and studying literature. I knew that they are combined some way in Digital Humanities, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I was invested enough to pursue it further, but I wonder how many people don’t pursue studying DH because they don’t know what it is.

There is the worry of limiting exploration of DH by defining it; however, I’d argue that it may be important to try to define it anyways. The definition of DH doesn’t have to be concrete and static. It can be a dynamic, fluid definition that allows for change and adaptation. We’re English majors; we don’t prescribe to the idea of one right answer anyways. There isn’t one way to read a novel. Why would there be only one way to define the discipline of DH. It is a field of study that is still  growing and shifting. That is the beauty in it. Everyone who participates in DH has the capability and possibility to shape the study of it all.

After gaining some more experience and background information about DH, I think I would define DH as the intersection of technology and humanities studies. DH asks the question: how can we use the tools and uniqueness of technology to expand our studies of humanities? DH pushes us to think of new and unique ways to present arguments and share research. The study of DH allows for more access to academic work and even more fun with it. The tools and projects that digital humanists are making bring humanities studies into the technological world. It allows for the possibility to expand the study of literature beyond the reading and writing that is currently the focus. Don’t get me wrong, the reading and writing are still so important; however, DH creates a space for the humanities disciplines to grow.

The space that DH creates is one that excites me. The more I learn about it the more excited I get. It would be a shame if someone was turned away from DH because they couldn’t find a good definition of it. While the fear of limiting the expansion of DH by defining it is valid, I think the bigger concern would be limiting the people who participate in DH by not offering at least some stable ground to stand on.

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