Whether or not digital humanities, this hard to define field/thing, has certain values inherent to it, may be equally hard to prove, but many DH projects, often due to their digital nature, do have characteristics and traits in common to the point where one can see a community of practice built around, supported by, an interested in building upon, a set of common values. Even if the term “values” is problematic, these threads common to DH are an interesting way in getting to understand digital humanities itself, in both form and content, theory and practice.
Critical & Theoretical
Digital humanities scholarship is grounded in theory and critical in the tradition similar to many scholarly practices. However, and in addition, DH is often also grounded in a humanistic self-criticism, including the criticism of the very tools, technologies, and platforms that enable its own practices and publications.
Iterative & Experimental
As the authors of Digital_Humanities (2012) write, “one of the strongest attributes of [DH] is that the iterative versioning of digital projects fosters experimentation, risk-taking, redefinition, and sometimes failure. It is important that we do not short-circuit this experimental process in the rush to normalize practices, standardize methodologies, and define evaluative metrics.”
Collaborative & Distributed
Digital humanities texts often have multiple authors, but more subtle and robust collaborations are the foundation of many DH projects, involving distributed networks of expertise including scholars, students, programmers, technologists, librarians, designers, and more.
Multimodal & Performative
Not always confined by the strictures and structures of print, digital humanities scholarship embraces many modes—text, audio, video, etc.—while also being expressive and performative in and of themselves. These performative texts use design and multiple modes of expression to put forth an argument, often breaking down the reader/writer dichotomy in new ways.
Open & Accessible
While not exclusively open access, most digital humanities scholarship embraces open and public forms of publishing, from the pre- and post-publication peer review of Twitter and blog posts, to Creative Commons-enabled digital publications, curated digital archives, and interactive digital projects.
Along with the central role of theory, methodologies drive much digital humanities work. However, DH methodologies vary and should not been seen as explicitly linked with, or confused for, DH technologies (Kraus, 2013). In many ways, understanding digital humanities is easiest through grappling with its many methodologies, which may be why so many DH presentations focus on process and project. It’s difficult to collocate the totality of DH methodologies, but in the book Digital_Humanities (2012), the authors dedicate a chapter to “emerging methods and genres” which we synthesize below by way of an introduction.
Enhanced Critical Curation
Object-based arguments through the curation of digital media, including collection repositories and scholarly narratives supported by digitized or born-digital primary source materials.
Augmented Editions and Fluid Textuality
Digital critical editions, marked up and encoded texts, often created through crowd-sourced methods and open to perpetual revision, annotation, and remix.
Scale: The Law of Large Numbers
As data sets grow larger and larger, humanists hope to create new findings through computational- and algorithmic-enabled interpretations of our digitized and born-digital culture materials.
Distant/Close, Macro/Micro, Surface/Depth
In contrast to, and often in conjunction with, close reading, distant reading looks to understand and analyze large corpora across time through “trends, patterns, and relationships.”
Cultural Analytics, Aggregation, and Data-Mining
Through computational means, cultural analytics mines, studies, and displays cultural materials in new aggregated or remixed forms, often including interactive and narrativized visualizations
Visualization and Data Design
Arguments made from the visualization of data, including virtual/spatial representations, geo-referencing and mapping, simulated environments, and other designs constructed from and informed by data.
Locative Investigation and Thick Mapping
The creation of “data landscapes” through connecting real, virtual, and interpretive sites, often manifesting as digital cultural mapping or geographic information systems (GIS).
The Animated Archive
In which the static archive of the past is made alive and virtually experiential, including the active archiving of physical spaces through virtual means, and multi-modal/faceted approaches to collection access and interactivity.
Distributed Knowledge Production and Performative Access
Digital projects take collaborative teams that cross both disciplines and borders and that often challenge the idea of “the author” through team contributions, crowdsourcing, and the user-based performance of the “text.”
Taking on “historical simulation,” humanities gaming uses virtual learning environments to create interactive narratives that engage users and enable the exploration of humanist themes.
Code, Software, and Platform Studies
Humanists have studied texts, the book, and many other forms of writing, so what to make of the code programmers write, the software computer users use, and the platforms that shape our social and cultural interactions?
Multi-modal narratives formed from a database, branching out into multiple paths users explore, possibly incorporating live-feed data, all calling into question authorial control/intent and the role of the reader.
Repurposable Content and Remix Culture
Digital content can be read, written, and rewritten, and as such all digital objects are subject to sample, migration, translation, remix, and other forms of critical reuse.
Our digital realities encompass many types of machines and screens and increasingly our objects are stored in the cloud, distributed over servers in multiple locations, so what does that mean for humans and data?
Print publication no longer is the only way forward, and as new modes of publishing proliferate, and new players in publishing participate, publishing becomes increasingly ubiquitous and open.