A Digital Humanities project is one which uses digital methods and computational techniques as part of its research methodology, dissemination plan, and/or public engagement.
A typical Digital Humanities project will use both digital and non-digital methods in its research design. Digital methods enable scholars to ask questions that are difficult to answer using non-digital methods, due to the size or complexity of the source material. They also enable the public to engage with research in an accessible way.
Digital methods are not always quantitative. Scholarly digital editions, for example, use digital methods to support the manual production of texts that are designed to be read.
A typical Digital Humanities project will use digital methods in both its research methodology and dissemination plan, simply by making the products of its research (data, tools, web apps etc) publicly accessible at the end of the project. Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity is an example of this:
- A database was designed so that the team could input information about exile cases. The team had full control over the design of the database, because it needed to reflect their source materials and enable them to capture information that was pertinent to their research questions.
- Advanced search and data visualisation tools, such as historical mapping and social network diagrams, were designed so that the research team could analyse their data and thereby answer their research questions.
- At the end of the project, the research team added user guidance and background information so that the database, advanced search, and data visualisation tools can be used by their peers and a wider audience. This online resource was one of the project’s key research outputs.
Some projects use digital methods as part of their impact and public engagement plans, rather than as an aid to the research. Cine Ricordi: Italian Cinema Audiences is an example of this. We worked with the project team to develop a map of Italy which provides location-based access to interviews of people recounting their memories of attending the cinema in the 1950s. It also includes a system for enabling the public to upload memories and memorabilia to the map.
The outputs of a Digital Humanities project are often:
- An online resource or mobile app, for use by scholars and the public, as a research output or medium for public engagement.
- High quality data for sharing under an open access license.
- Submission of the online resource and/or data for REF as either research outputs or impact case studies. Many of the DHI’s online resources have been submitted to previous REFs and RAEs.
Most successful Digital Humanities projects begin with Principle Investigators who have an idea or a research problem but do not know whether it will benefit from a digital approach.
Examples of Digital Humanities methods, processes, and activities
- Recording source materials into a database, usually from an archive.
- Digitising and preserving archives.
- Conducting interviews and ethnographic studies, usually coded for thematic and discourse analysis.
- Transcribing manuscripts, letters etc for a digital scholarly edition, including variorum and genetic editions.
- Coding data for qualitative and distant reading methods, including codebooks and domain ontologies.
- Analysing large archives, such as newspapers, journals and picture libraries.
- Compiling and analysing social media content.
- Compiling and annotating audio-visual databases (audio, images and video).
- Immersive technologies, such as 3D virtual reconstruction, augmented reality, and virtual worlds.
- Crowd-sourcing (sometimes called citizen science).
- Web apps, mobile apps, websites, virtual exhibitions, online research resources, user-generated content.
- Map-based approaches, such as historical GIS and walking tour apps.
- Corpus linguistics, dialectology, stylometry, translation studies, and other approaches to language study (written or verbal).
- Data visualisation of humanities content, such as social network diagrams and cluster diagrams.