Natalie Greenholt

In the most basic sense, the digital humanities studies the human condition through the use of technology. The use of technology, however, does not imply that the digital humanities are in practice.

In defining what the digital humanities entails, Unsworth, in particular, notes the importance of distinguishing the tool, in this case the computer, from its use. Everyone can integrate technology into their lives by simply blogging and word processing. Typing a paper, for example, is simply the use of the tool. These activities lack a specific purpose or a set of guidelines that inform the reader not only what to look for but also how to find it.

Furthermore, when determining what exactly can be considered digital humanities, Unsworth acknowledges the importance of distinguishing between “exemplars” and “charlatans.” If the source provides a set of guidelines, principles, search features, and rules, then the research tool has a rational. In this case, the tool could be considered digital humanities. It has a deeper purpose than pleasure reading. Perhaps the work takes longer to absorb. Besides viewing just the text, one can delve into the author’s mind and writing process. The “pretenders” that simply provide the piece of literature lack the rich context found in the work of digital humanists. A website devoted to just pleasure reading cannot be considered the digital humanities.

In another perspective, Lincoln Muller describes the digital humanities as a spectrum. He explains the field as a incorporating a “difference of degree, not of kind,” implying that everyone can be considered a digital humanist. I agree with Muller in the sense that the digital humanities can range from very basic concepts to extremely complex ones; however, the digital humanities is not as simple as word processing. Everyone is able to take part in the digital humanities by reading and asserting their view, but the use of the computer does not indicate the use of digital humanities.

Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth also describe the field as incorporating a full range of multimedia tools. These tools clarify the human record and even create new ones. For example, Parker’s Dante Project is an excellent showing of the digital humanities. This source does not simply provide the text but also allows you to search the text for specific people, places, images, and so on. Furthermore, Parker’s Dante Project includes interactive features such as maps and a gallery that provide a visual look into Dante’s imagination. The interactive features allows the user to manipulate the text for their use, which fulfills part of Unsworth’s statements. The site has a deeper purpose beyond pleasure reading that causes the user to question the work and develop new ideas of their own.

In any case, the digital humanities is simply an extension of the humanities. Like Unsworth notes, the digital humanities is a means of representation and a way of reasoning. It’s not only a model of artifacts but also a tool for manipulation.

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