Blog Post

Digital Humanities and DH Centers

To continue the ongoing discussion about what "digital humanities" means, I wanted to share this CLIR Survey of Digital Humanities Centers http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub143abst.html report with everyone.

In the process of identifying and surveying DHC's, author Diane Zorich had to create some working definitions of "digital humanities" and the work done at "digital humanities centers." I think her framework is a good place to start and adds to this discussion, especially in thinking that digital humanities can be both "prosaic" and "transformative." This work needn't be both, although it certainly can be.

Another useful piece from the report is the Appendix on tools, which offers a matrix for evaluating tools and then ranks them by that score : http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub143/appendf.html

Here are Zorich's definitions from the Selection of Survey Participants section:

"Digital humanities" implies humanities-based research, teaching, and intellectual engagement conducted with digital technologies and resources. The use of these technologies may be prosaic (e.g., using new media to conduct humanities research or enhance teaching) or transformative (e.g., developing wholly new products and processes that transform existing knowledge and create new scholarship)

A digital humanities center is an entity where new media and technologies are used for humanities-based research, teaching, and intellectual engagement and experimentation. The goals of the center are to further humanities scholarship, create new forms of knowledge, and explore technology's impact on humanities-based disciplines. To accomplish these goals, a digital humanities center undertakes some or all of the following activities:

  • builds digital collections as scholarly or teaching resources;
  • creates tools for
    --authoring (i.e., creating multimedia products and applications with minimal technical knowledge or training)
    --building digital collections
    --analyzing humanities collections, data, or research processes
    --managing the research process;
  • uses digital collections and analytical tools to generate new intellectual products;
  • offers digital humanities training (in the form of workshops, courses, academic degree programs, postgraduate and faculty training, fellowships, and internships);
  • offers lectures, programs, conferences, or seminars on digital humanities topics for general or academic audiences;
  • has its own academic appointments and staffing (i.e., staff does not rely solely on faculty located in another academic department);
  • provides collegial support for, and collaboration with, members of other academic departments within the DHC's home institution (e.g., offers free or fee-based consultation services; enters into collaborative projects with other campus departments);
  • provides collegial support for, and collaboration with, members of other academic departments, organizations, or projects outside the DHC's home institution (e.g., offers free or fee-based consultation to outside groups; enters into collaborative projects with external groups);
  • conducts research in humanities and humanities computing (digital scholarship);
  • creates a zone of experimentation and innovation for humanists;
  • serves as an information portal for a particular humanities discipline;
  • serves as a repository for humanities-based digital collections (e.g., Web sites, electronic text projects, QuickTime movie clips);
  • provides technology solutions to humanities departments (e.g., serves an information technology (IT) role for humanities departments).
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