Surveying Digital Humanities

Debates in the Digital Humanities features a great selection of pieces that takes you right into the developing field of Digital Humanities.  With twenty-nine chapters and several additional blog posts following its four sections, it’s too unwieldy for me to write a blog-length review of all of its contents.  What I am most impressed by is how the book, in its structure and content, gives the old-fashioned print-reader a great overview of the world of Digital Humanities.

Having been immersed in a class on Digital History, I hadn’t really read anything about the Digital Humanities.  But I suppose almost every field in academia is making use of digital technologies in all kinds of interesting ways.  Given the growing number of academic subfields and the nature of collaborative work in digital work, the ability to do new interdisciplinary projects with new media is quite remarkable, and probably endless.

The excitement of this developing field is evident in the book.  Debates starting with, “What is/are Digital Humanities?” shows us that such a basic foundational topic is still being worked out, to some extent.  The speed and accessibility of digital media for communication make the formation of any new discipline a significantly different prospect from the days of print and less penetrable walls of ivory towers.  The notion that a field-wide values system ought to be collaboratively develop to foster positive development of the field was an example of an interesting contribution by Lisa Spiro (chapter 3).

Collaboration and collegiality are very appealing features of the Digital Humanities world.  However, much intentionality is needed as the field will surely repeat the short-comings of any human institutions, even if technology may make us feel like we’re in a new ideal space.  Ensuring that this newish field doesn’t exclude folks, especially people of color is an important contribution made by Tara Peterson in chapter 9.  Past, present, future – all things considered are in this thoughtful volume.

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