Whenever I had Digital Humanities described to me when I wasn’t sure what it actually meant, I was always given a very specific type of example. It would take a very traditional type of humanities study (as I first encountered DH in a cross-credit English/DH class, it was always English related) such as the study of a Victorian novel, or an examination of social trends in old databases of newspapers. It would then speak about how to do data analysis on that body of work.
I’ll admit that this is a very useful example of DH. I’m not knowledgeable enough about DH as a whole to speak as to whether this is the majority of the sort of things that DH consists of. However, it gets me thinking about what else can be considered DH?
My first reaction is to look to popular media types. Some of my favorite times on the internet are when Google or other giants of the internet release their droves of statistics. This is certainly data on the digital realm. Is it digital humanities? I think it can be.
What I see as the biggest barrier to actualization is the massive hesitation I’ve seen in academia to interact with data sources outside of their control. To be fair, a lot of that hesitation is fully merited. It’s the sort of thing that can lead to hasty conclusions, something that no one wants. Even worse, the threat of incomplete data being used to show a skewed perspective is very real.
That said, I believe that this is one of the sacrifices that at least needs to be on the table, if these new and staggeringly huge data sets are to be used in the future.