I posed this question on social media last night as I was preparing for a series of talks on “What is the Digital Humanities.” In constructing these talks I’ve found Miriam Posner and Paige C Morgan’s blog posts on what digital humanists actually do very helpful. Miriam and Paige have listed projects such as online galleries/exhibitions, mapping projects, digital editions and online events as examples of digital humanities projects. But how large is this DH project tent? For example, would creating an online journal—completely traditional in scope and breadth, just born digital—count as a digital humanities project? Does the journal need to be about digital humanities in order for it to “count” as a digital humanities project?
Below are a range of answers I’ve gotten from different people. I’ve not catalogued everything, just what I’ve found to be most useful in answering this question.
1. You’re asking the wrong question.
Don’t call it DH, call it 21st Century Studies.
As Richard Grusin (@rgrusin) points out, calling it “digital humanities” overemphasizes the digital and underemphasizes the humanities part. We’re only talking about part of a whole shifting field. To be so obsessed with the digital might also lead us to neglect the more important aspect of DH to humanists—the “humanities” portion. So let’s emphasize the “h” by calling it 21st Century Studies.
— Richard Grusin (@rgrusin) September 18, 2013
2. No, not necessarily.
A DH Project has to be Technically Innovative.
If the journal or form of publication is not technically innovative, this will not count as a digital humanities project. Folks of this persuasion feel that as the barriers to entry for online publication (ranging from WordPress to Open Journal Systems) have gotten increasingly low, simply having some kind of online presence does not equate to digital humanities. In other words, having a blog does not qualify you to be a digital humanist. People who responded this way feel that a project that calls itself DH has to be technically innovative, or experimental, in some way.
— Patrick Murray-John (@patrick_mj) September 18, 2013
3. Yes, if.
If it’s experimental.
An online journal that would count as a digital humanities project has to be experimental in some way, outside of simply delivery. This can in ways which are not technical, such as use, purpose etc.
4. What is Scholarship?
Focus on the Scholarship, Not whether it is DH.
Folks of this persuasion ask, rather, is it important to have something termed “digital humanities”, or to make a contribution to scholarship? They answer that the latter is a more important question.
This seemingly easy question is particularly significant at a moment here the term “Digital Humanities” is becoming a strategic goal for many departments and institutions, bolstered by the belief that this is where the future (and funding of the humanities lies.)
What are your thoughts? Would an online journal count as a digital humanities project? Why or Why Not?