What Is Digital Humanities?

Bell Telephone Magazine

Digital humanities research approaches engage directly with digital technologies and computational methods in supporting core humanities scholarship. These innovative tools and methodologies can overcome constraints that have previously made some modes of humanistic inquiry impossible, such as time, distance, or scale. Computational analysis can expose language patterns over millions of pages of text, collections of digitized photographs curated in a web repository can bring research materials to scholars across the globe, and advanced image analysis and rendering methods can help to reconstruct lost physical spaces.

Like all research endeavors, every digital humanities project begins with a question. Digital tools and methodologies—including text and data mining, visualizations, mapping, network analysis, digital text and image collections, and others—can assist researchers in answering their questions, or guide them to further lines of investigation. Web technologies can disseminate the products of this research to fellow scholars, to students, and to the public at large in both new and established presentations.

At the University of Chicago, humanists who employ digital methods in their work are supported by and collaborate with computing experts, librarians, web specialists, and other scholars. Faculty may receive guidance on their projects ranging from the small-scale—such as digital notecard management—to the complex—such as an interactive map integrating historical GIS and encoded textual data. They find opportunities to connect with other scholars, as well as to expand their skill sets, whether they are currently engaged in digital humanities research or just beginning.

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Bell Telephone Magazine, Vol. 44, Summer 1965