Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Defining the Digital Humanities as Making, Interpreting or Both

The digital humanities, specifically what exactly encompasses the broad term, appears to be a topic that is of much debate between scholars. If we go back to our week two readings, there is an excerpt from our textbook titled, The Humanities, Done Digitally, where the author attempts to define what exactly the digital humanities are, or rather “what is the digital humanities” (Fitzpatrick), as she put it. What is interesting to me about this piece is the fact that our readings for week three both reference the work done by this author very early in each article, implying that she is a sort of expert on this debate.

The debate between what the digital humanities are seems to stem from what each individual considers to be the focus of the digital humanities, namely making, or if it should in fact expand to include interpreting as well. While some consider that the digital humanities should only include making, others, such as Mark Sample, believe that the digital humanities are not about producing, rather they are about reproducing (“The digital humanities is not about building, it’s about sharing”). In a similar attempt to define the digital humanities, Lisa Spiro attempted to create a statement of the core values of the digital humanities, including openness, collaboration, collegiality and connectedness, diversity, and experimentation (“This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”). It appears by the values that Spiro selected, she includes both making and interpretation in her definition of the digital humanities.

From my point of view, I think that the digital humanities are both about making and interpreting. The humanities at their core are about interpreting, but I think when the digital element is added, making is just as large, if not a larger, piece of the puzzle. So far in class we have discussed ideology such as the idea of us becoming post human with the addition of technology in our everyday lives. This is interpretation on our part relating to the digital world we live in. As for the “making” side of the digital humanities, we will be doing that as well, as I understand, later in the semester. To use an example of a program that follows this idea that the digital humanities can be about both making and interpreting, Voyant was made with the ability to interpret in mind. Voyant, in my opinion, represents the digital humanities and both of its sides. The making of the program, Voyant, is obviously the creation of it, and it can then be used to interpret some form of data in a humanistic way.

Kyle C.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally”. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2012. retrieved from

Sample, Mark. “The digital humanities is not about building, it’s about sharing”. 25 May, 2011. retrieved from

Spiro, Lisa. ““This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2012. retrieved from

1 Comment

  1. I never really thought about digital humanities as being a make vs interpret. I always thought of it as both, but your post brings up solid points from the readings and gave a me a different perspective of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *