What is Digital Humanities- I mean History- I mean Humanities!
Digital Humanities is a broad term that refers to the intersection between, you guessed it, the digital world and the world of humanities. It uses technology as a means of studying the humanities, (creating new ways to interact with fields such as history, literature, art, etc.), while simultaneously using the humanities to study technology. Within the Digital Humanities is a two way relationship between technology and the humanities. As humanities scholars working in Historic Preservation create 3-D models of now demolished houses, there are humanities scholars working in New Media Studies analyzing the Internet’s impact on activism. As the humanities observe technology, technology changes the humanities.
Digital History is a cousin and branch of Digital Humanities. It is the use of technology to enhance the study of history, specifically in the public realm. Digital History focuses primarily on making history more accessible, placing advanced search engines, digitized documents, and visualizations of historical events onto the web in an effort to engage audiences. This process is done not only to engage an audience that may not have access to the Library of Congress’s physical HABS documents, but to encourage dialogue between historians (and the interested public!) so that discourse can happen more readily. Digital History also enhances the study of history with applications such as the digitization of texts, making it easier to create historical connections via online research. Ultimately, this field of research is about increasing the accessibility of History through the Digital realm.
The difference between the two is slight but significant. Digital Humanities technically contains Digital History within its scope, but Digital History’s accessible and public-facing focus sets it apart from Digital Humanities’ broad definition. They are cousins! They are not twins.
So why am I taking this class?
The easy answer is that I need this class for credit. The harder and better answer is that I care deeply about the way technology changes our understanding of how history should be… understood.
As a museum studies minor, I am constantly learning about how to make information more accessible to the public in a very tangible way. How are you supposed to write an museum label? What are ways to decrease prices? Which exhibits and displays are the most interesting? It’s interesting to come across this same problem through the internet, especially because part of history’s accessibility relates to its preservation, a direct connection to my (cooler) major, Historic Preservation. I’m hoping to learn more about this aspect of Digital History and understand how I can apply the skills I gain via the site restoration project to whatever the future demands of me. If I’m lucky, I’ll even become useful in the field.