Introduction to Digital Humanities

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

Specifying the Digital Humanities

I think one thing we all learned from our readings last Thursday was that “specifying” the digital humanities isn’t exactly easy. There are multiple reasons for this, of course, not the least of which that, as an emerging field, all the scholars of digital humanities are having a particularly difficult time deciding whether the basis for digital humanities should be theorizing about it or actually practicing it. There are several other conflicts, including how the “digital” part should interact with the “humanities” part of digital humanities. Many scholars are unsure whether people should be using technology to study the humanities, or if technology should be studied in terms of the humanities. Observing all these disagreements, you can see why it’s pretty difficult to define exactly what the digital humanities is.

I think, perhaps, the most important idea that Spiro introduced in ways of defining the digital humanities is by introducing a set of common principles among digital humanities scholars. This would unite the interests and possibly the general aims of digital humanities research, even though there are already several divisions regarding what that research should actually be. Spiro strongly implied that collaboration was the most important aspect of digital humanities research, as well as openness (which, I might add, could be depicted as a facet of collaboration), diversity, and experimentation. Altogether, Spiro’s values can be construed into establishing a more united identity for the field of digital humanities, despite the multiple conflicts that occur within the parameters of digital humanities work (like the two I mentioned in the first paragraph).

Mark Sample, while his article was much shorter and less repetitive than Spiro’s, also got his point across that, even though the field of digital humanities is already experiencing several divisions about how the research should be conducted, collaboration was key to the main goal of digital humanities, that is: spreading knowledge. Sample states that it doesn’t matter how scholars go about doing their research, as long as they share it in the end.

The digital humanities is particularly beneficial to scholars of all fields because, as Sample says, it enables us to more easily share our research, no matter what it is about. Digital humanities provides the means for the important communication that Spiro describes, as long as we do exactly what we should as digital humanities scholars, that is, collaborate about our findings.

I think, perhaps, the most evidential aspect of digital humanities that we, as a class, have already experienced is when we form our groups and communicate our different perspectives as to the readings or whatever other topic we’re discussing that day. We collaborate, and thus gain a broader sense of what we are talking about through the different perspectives. How cool is that?



  1. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head when talking about the whole “openness and collaboration” aspect of the digital humanities. I know Spiro mentioned that over and over and over again in her article, and as repetitive as it was, it’s still probably the most important part of the digital humanities. I like that you touched on the importance of spreading knowledge, too. That’s like the essence of what the digital humanities is trying to do, I think. Pretty much all of our readings are doing just that, even if they aren’t explicitly talking about that subject. They’re sharing information with the rest of us digital humanities thinkers.

  2. I’m glad you like the collaborative aspect!

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