Derek Weicht

Even though there is no specific definition for digital humanities, there are many different ideas which can be used to show what digital humanities are. As Unsworth says in his article, dh at its basic level involves “efficient computation” and “human communication.” Both are heavily involved in shaping dh. If the title “digital humanities” is broken down and each word is defined then the definition says this, classical languages and classical literature available in electronic form. This is essentially what dh is, but a problem arises due to the fact that so much more is involved with dh than just classical literature put on the computer, which is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to define digital humanities.

One of the problems is that not everyone who does this is a digital humanist. Lincoln Mullen hits on this point in his article. People do not think of themselves as digital humanists but their actions put themselves in the category of dh. One of the most remarkable things of dh is the fact that since it is digital, people around the world can access and work together on projects that otherwise could not have happened. Since this is all done on the computer, the actions we are performing have a common link but are very distinct from each other. The actions we perform are unique because each work is coming from a different person or group. Some tell a story while others use this for an experiment and to get a result. Some people are just pretending to be digital humanists while others are legitimately working on dh. This is where Unsworth uses the term “charlatan” to describe those that are not actually working with dh. To get to the real meaning of dh, these pretenders must be factored out. Once this has been done it becomes a bit more clear how the digital humanities are defined.

I believe that purpose is truly something that can separate that which is dh from that which is not. The quote, “it’s purpose that drives us, it’s purpose that defines us” (from one of my favorite movies, The Matrix Reloaded) can be related directly into figuring out what dh is. An example I can think of is that if a student’s purpose of going to college is just to graduate in 4 years with a degree, then they will just go to class everyday and put in the minimum work to get by. In 4 years they will graduate but with a C or D average. This will be how they are defined for the rest of their life, as the person who just does the minimum. On the other hand if there is a student whose purpose of going to college is to learn then they will be driven to do all that they can to learn. They may not graduate in 4 years but they will graduate with a much better understanding and will have infinitely more opportunities. They will be defined after college as the person who is truly trying to make something of their life.

If this mentality is taken and applies to dh then a correlation can be found. If a site is there just for the purpose of putting up random crap then that is exactly what it will be. If a website is trying ernestly to put up dh then they will be much closer to that result. Since dh does not have a set definition then it is much more difficult to evalute one against the other, but by comparing the two, it becomes much clearer which is striving to post dh. Using the Dante’s websites, just on the superficial level, as an example, a person can tell which is close to the dh level and which is bull. It’s really that purpose which was driving the website that can help us to define it as dh or not.

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