Blog Post #1

My understanding of the digital humanities field is that it is relatively undefined as of yet. Scholars in the field are still in the process of defining exactly what digital humanities is, and how society can use it and benefit from it. They seem to have been exceedingly successful in beginning to do so thus far. An integral part of the field of DH is curating and preserving physical objects by digitizing them. This will be very powerful to future and current generations because digitizing physical objects not only preserves them for many years, but also makes the knowledge that they contain more widely accessible. As Dr. Schnapp explains, the “laboratory” for digital humanities is in the library. The reasoning behind this sentiment is that a huge component of digital humanities involves physical books and papers.

Many academics are extremely skeptical of digitizing works that are so highly revered, as they believe that it removes the human element. However, Schnapps explains that most digital humanists do not discount the value of touching and holding the physical objects and books. However, digitizing these works re-arranges the physical works so that they are more accessible. Many scholars are unable to travel to the hundreds and thousands of libraries across the world that preserve physical writing, and many physical writings are not in the protective hands of librarians like the ones at W&L. Digitizing academic works also allows for collaboration. In previous times, people could only get input from people who they were in personal contact with, which is why many academics chose to work alone. However, using email, twitter, blogs like this one, and many other collaborative tools, people are much more able to collaborate their ideas. Furthermore, while DH allows us to quickly organize and make sense of massive amounts of data, human opinions, analysis, and interpretations continue to be crucial to all academics. Computers can organize data, but they are incapable of interpreting it unless a human programs it to do so.

Digital humanities open up many possibilities in the academic world. However, it also presents incredible possibilities for people who are outside the realm of academia. The disciplines within the humanities are so frequently studied because they are for the most part very interesting to a wide variety of people. This is why people choose to watch movies and read books about history, learn other languages, and go to museums. However, very few people are likely to pick up an academic literary work or journal that is outside of their discipline or line of work. Digital humanities make different academic works more accessible to non-academics. While some people think that digital humanities will ruin the humanities, digital humanities is actually saving the humanities for the most part by generating funds, publicity, and accessibility.