Notes from the Field

  • The Short Guide
  • by Jeffrey Schnapp
  • March 5, 2013

Where Does the Digital Humanities Come From?

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

Where does the Digital Humanities come from?

The roots of computational work in the humanities stretch back to 1949 when the Jesuit scholar Roberto Busa, working in collaboration with IBM, undertook the creation of an automated approach to his vast Index Thomisticus, a computer-generated concordance to the writings of Thomas Aquinas. By means of such early uses of mainframe computers to automate tasks such as word-searching, sorting, counting, and listing, scholars could process textual corpora on a scale unthinkable with prior methods that relied on handwritten or typed index cards. Other early projects included the debut, in 1966, of Computers and the Humanities, the first specialized journal in the field. Seven years later, the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC) was founded, with the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) following in 1978.

By the mid-1980s computational methods for linguistic analysis had become widespread enough that protocols for tagging digital texts were needed. This... Read More

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

Where does the Digital Humanities come from?

The roots of computational work in the humanities stretch back to 1949 when the Jesuit scholar Roberto Busa, working in collaboration with IBM, undertook the creation of an automated approach to his vast Index Thomisticus, a computer-generated concordance to the writings of Thomas Aquinas. By means of such early uses of mainframe computers to automate tasks such as word-searching, sorting, counting, and listing, scholars could process textual corpora on a scale unthinkable with prior methods that relied on handwritten or typed index cards. Other early projects included the debut, in 1966, of Computers and the Humanities, the first specialized journal in the field. Seven years later, the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC) was founded, with the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) following in 1978.

By the mid-1980s computational methods for linguistic analysis had become widespread enough that protocols for tagging digital texts were needed. This spurred the development of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). This important undertaking reshaped the field of electronic textual scholarship and led subsequent digital editing to be carried out in Extensible Markup Language (XML), the tag scheme of which TEI is a specialized subset. The first human- ities-based experiments with database structures and hypertextual editing structured around links and nodes (rather than the linear conventions of print) date from this period, as do the many pilot projects in computational humanities in the United States sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and other agencies, organizations, and foundations.

 

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  • The Short Guide
  • by Jeffrey Schnapp
  • February 19, 2013

What Isn’t the Digital Humanities?

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What isn't the Digital Humanities?

The mere use of digital tools for the purpose of humanistic research and communication does not qualify as Digital Humanities. Nor, as already noted, is Digital Humanities to be understood as the study of digital artifacts, new media, or contemporary culture in place of physical artifacts, old media, or historical culture.

On the contrary, Digital Humanities understands its object of study as the entire human record, from prehistory to the present. This is why fields such as classics and archaeology have played just as important a role in the development of Digital Humanities as has, for example, media studies. This is also why some of the major sectors of Digital Humanities research extend outside the traditional core of the humanities to embrace quantitative methods from the social and natural sciences as well as techniques and modes of thinking from the arts.

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What isn't the Digital Humanities?

The mere use of digital tools for the purpose of humanistic research and communication does not qualify as Digital Humanities. Nor, as already noted, is Digital Humanities to be understood as the study of digital artifacts, new media, or contemporary culture in place of physical artifacts, old media, or historical culture.

On the contrary, Digital Humanities understands its object of study as the entire human record, from prehistory to the present. This is why fields such as classics and archaeology have played just as important a role in the development of Digital Humanities as has, for example, media studies. This is also why some of the major sectors of Digital Humanities research extend outside the traditional core of the humanities to embrace quantitative methods from the social and natural sciences as well as techniques and modes of thinking from the arts.

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  • The Short Guide
  • by Jeffrey Schnapp
  • February 6, 2013

What Defines the Digital Humanities Now?

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What defines the Digital Humanities now?

The computational era has been underway since World War II, but after the advent of personal computing, the World Wide Web, mobile communication, and social media, the digital revolution entered a new phase, giving rise to a vastly expanded, globalized public sphere and to transformed possibilities for knowledge creation and dissemination.

Building on the first generation of computational humanities work, more recent Digital Humanities activity seeks to revitalize liberal arts traditions in the electronically inflected language of the 21st century: a language in which, uprooted from its long-standing paper support, text is increasingly wedded to still and moving images as well as to sound, and supports have become increasingly mobile, open, and extensible.

And the notion of the primacy of text itself is being challenged. Whereas the initial waves of computational humanities concentrated on everything from word frequency studies and textual analysis (classification systems, mark-up, encoding) to hypertext editing and textual database... Read More

The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What defines the Digital Humanities now?

The computational era has been underway since World War II, but after the advent of personal computing, the World Wide Web, mobile communication, and social media, the digital revolution entered a new phase, giving rise to a vastly expanded, globalized public sphere and to transformed possibilities for knowledge creation and dissemination.

Building on the first generation of computational humanities work, more recent Digital Humanities activity seeks to revitalize liberal arts traditions in the electronically inflected language of the 21st century: a language in which, uprooted from its long-standing paper support, text is increasingly wedded to still and moving images as well as to sound, and supports have become increasingly mobile, open, and extensible.

And the notion of the primacy of text itself is being challenged. Whereas the initial waves of computational humanities concentrated on everything from word frequency studies and textual analysis (classification systems, mark-up, encoding) to hypertext editing and textual database construction, contemporary Digital Humanities marks a move beyond a privileging of the textual, emphasizing graphical methods of knowledge production and organization, design as an integral component of research, transmedia crisscrossings, and an expanded concept of the sensorium of humanistic knowledge. It is also characterized by an intensified focus on the building of transferrable tools, environments, and platforms for collaborative scholarly work and by an emphasis upon curation as a defining feature of scholarly practice.

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  • The Short Guide
  • by Jeffrey Schnapp
  • February 2, 2013

What is the Digital Humanities?


The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available athttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What is the Digital Humanities?

Digital Humanities refers to new modes of scholarship and institutional units for collaborative, trans-disciplinary, and computationally engaged research, teaching, and publication.

Digital Humanities is less a unified field than an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which print is no longer the primary medium in which knowledge is produced and disseminated.

Digital tools, techniques, and media have expanded traditional concepts of knowledge in the arts, humanities and social sciences, but Digital Humanities is not solely “about” the digital (in the sense of limiting its scope to the study of digital culture). Nor is Digital Humanities only “about” the humanities as traditionally understood since it argues for a remapping of traditional practices. Rather, Digital Humanities is defined by the opportunities and challenges that arise from the conjunction of the term digital with the term humanities to form a new collective singular.

The opportunities include redrawing the boundary lines among... Read More


The Short Guide is an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities, by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, MIT Press, 2012.

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-nonComercial-ShareAlike license, available athttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain view, California, 94041, USA. 

 

Questions & Answers I
Digital Humanities Fundamentals

What is the Digital Humanities?

Digital Humanities refers to new modes of scholarship and institutional units for collaborative, trans-disciplinary, and computationally engaged research, teaching, and publication.

Digital Humanities is less a unified field than an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which print is no longer the primary medium in which knowledge is produced and disseminated.

Digital tools, techniques, and media have expanded traditional concepts of knowledge in the arts, humanities and social sciences, but Digital Humanities is not solely “about” the digital (in the sense of limiting its scope to the study of digital culture). Nor is Digital Humanities only “about” the humanities as traditionally understood since it argues for a remapping of traditional practices. Rather, Digital Humanities is defined by the opportunities and challenges that arise from the conjunction of the term digital with the term humanities to form a new collective singular.

The opportunities include redrawing the boundary lines among the humanities, the social sciences, the arts, and the natural sciences; expanding the audience and social impact of scholarship in the humanities; developing new forms of inquiry and knowledge production and reinvigorating ones that have fallen by the wayside; training future generations of humanists through hands-on, project-based learning as a complement to classroom-based learning; and developing practices that expand the scope, enhance the quality, and increase the visibility of humanistic research.

The challenges include addressing fundamental questions such as: How can skills traditionally used in the humanities be reshaped in multimedia terms? How and by whom will the contours of cultural and historical memory be defined in the digital era? How might practices such as digital storytelling coincide with or diverge from oral or print-based storytelling? What is the place of humanitas in a networked world?

Coming soon: What defines the Digital Humanities Now?  

 

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  • The Short Guide
  • February 1, 2013

The Digital Humanities, Design, and Material Culture: A Short Guide and an Ongoing Conversation

A video introduction to The Short Guide to the Digital Humanities starring our very own (and the metaLAB (at) Harvard's) Jeffrey Schnapp.

 

As part of our directive to consider all aspects of design history and material culture, we would be more than remiss not to consider the enormous impact that digital culture continues to have not only on the rapidly changing practices and methods of producing scholarship in the humanities, but also on what the ongoing digitization of culture means for material culture writ large. 

The premise on which much of the hand-wringing within the academy, the publishing industry, and amongst lovers of books more generally is predicated is that we are, or that we will soon be living, in a post-print culture. And while books are still being written, pitched, acquired, edited, printed, bought, shelved, and read in massive quantities, there is no question that most of us now rely for our research, writing, and reading on technologies, networks, and displays that did not exist or at least could easily have been avoided twenty, ten, and even five years ago.

... Read More

A video introduction to The Short Guide to the Digital Humanities starring our very own (and the metaLAB (at) Harvard's) Jeffrey Schnapp.

 

As part of our directive to consider all aspects of design history and material culture, we would be more than remiss not to consider the enormous impact that digital culture continues to have not only on the rapidly changing practices and methods of producing scholarship in the humanities, but also on what the ongoing digitization of culture means for material culture writ large. 

The premise on which much of the hand-wringing within the academy, the publishing industry, and amongst lovers of books more generally is predicated is that we are, or that we will soon be living, in a post-print culture. And while books are still being written, pitched, acquired, edited, printed, bought, shelved, and read in massive quantities, there is no question that most of us now rely for our research, writing, and reading on technologies, networks, and displays that did not exist or at least could easily have been avoided twenty, ten, and even five years ago.

So let’s posit that we are already living in a rapidly evolving post-print world. For those of us in the humanities, this has already had a profound effect on our research and routines, our basic assumptions about the breadth and depth of information we can gather and consider, and of course on the ultimate outcome and dissemination of our findings.

Published in December by MIT Press, the book Digital_Humanities attempts to answer a question that has been difficult to avoid in recent academic discourse: “What is digital humanities?” and perhaps more poignantly for humanists, “How does this affect me?” One of its five co-authors is Jeffrey Schnapp—who in addition to being the faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard, where he is Professor of Romance Literatures, teaches at the Graduate School of Design, and serves as faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society—is also a contributing editor to West 86th Online. (For information on the book and its other authors, please visit the MIT Press website.) 

In collaboration with Jeffrey Schnapp and with the metaLAB (at) Harvard, West 86th is pleased to host The Short Guide, an open excerpt from Digital_Humanities. We will be posting excerpts from The Short Guide in regular installments, in the hopes of generating and facilitating discussion around the topic, particularly amongst our readership of design historians and material culture specialists.

Some of the more general questions we might want to keep in mind are: What is meant by the term “digital humanities” and how does it affect the study of material culture?  What part does design have in the development of the digital humanities? And further, how does digital culture affect the study of material culture?

We hope you'll join us in the conversation.

 

Up Next: What is the Digital Humanities?

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