My brain has been in overdrive this week. I have learned so much in the past few days that I have not even begun to digest it all. I think I will need an extra week just to put my thoughts (and many, many notes) in order. I have also had several “how did I not know about this,” “I feel so dumb,” and “I still have so much to learn” moments. However, the most important lesson I’ve learned, and one that I feel many others also need to learn, is that Digital Humanities is so much more than I could have imagined.

When I arrived here, I naively thought I was going to learn a series of tools created to facilitate research and, once I returned to Penn State, my duty would be to share these tools with others. As the days have passed, however, I’ve realized that thinking of DH merely as “tools” is a very small part of all DH encompasses.

DH gives us the power to transform our work. It allows us, among many other things, to pursue new pathways of research, to think of our work in quantitative AND qualitative terms, to create visual representations of our answers to questions, to disseminate and provide ample access to our projects, and, most importantly, to COLLABORATE. Now, yes, I know this can be an inconceivable concept for some humanists (a contentious term, but more on that at another time), but collaboration makes the world a better place, and, in turn, it makes our research better. DH creates endless new possibilities…

Take a moment to think about the name “digital humanities.” It’s a name with many meanings and many interpretations; nevertheless, if DH were just “tools,” why not just use the name tools? The word “digital” itself, the concept of digital, is much more complex than using a computer to type a new article into a word processing system instead of handwriting it with a pen. I don’t even know where to begin with the word “humanities.” It comprises many disciplines, many ways of thinking, many different people (as we’ve certainly evinced here at DH 2013)… In fact, if I think about it too much, it becomes too simplistic to place all of this knowledge and skill into one box called “humanities” and call all of those in it “humanists,” but I understand that doing so facilitates things.

With all of this in mind, those of you (actually, I guess I can now include myself in this group), those of us who are enlightened enough to know and understand the wonderful possibilities of DH have a very important role. We are the ones responsible for changing the misconceptions and sharing our knowledge with others. I know I can’t wait to return to Penn State and start spreading the word.


Share →

One Response to DH2013 A Few Lessons Learned

  1. Thanks for these reflections, Dawn. I share your feeling of being both energized and a bit daunted by the rich diversity of the Digital Humanities work we encountered this week.

    What I appreciate most about this post is that you placed collaboration at the center of it. The Humanities in a Digital Age initiative at Penn State is, at its heart, collaborative. It began as a collaboration between the University Libraries and the College of the Liberal Arts and is sustained by our ongoing collaboration.

    You are well positioned now, with your work in the Libraries with Dawn Childress, to facilitate further collaboration between the library and the college. Now, however, we need to extend this further to create a community of DH scholars among graduate students across the College of the Liberal Arts.

    How do you think we can best do this? What next steps ought we to take to continue building and enriching the community of graduate students doing Digital Humanities work?

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar