Digital Humanities (and Crowd Sourcing!): Search & Research

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I think that anytime you add the word “digital” you’re implying that that  “thing” will be open to collaboration with others and that the artifact will be openly shared in the creation process and/or the end result. It also implies that there is some kind of element that can be quantified thus feeding into data. Digital Storytelling is basically the act of telling a story in an online environment (using multiple online tools) with participation with others either in creating the story, or commenting on the story, or remixing the story into a new story. Digital Citizenship is basically participating in an online environment (using multiple online tools) in a respectful and purposeful manner much like you might be a citizen in a community or people or animals.

Digital Humanities opens up the many fields within the humanities to collaboration and openly sharing of ideas (which isn’t necessarily new to the discipline) but by incorporating the availability of online tools your thoughts, ideas and more importantly data derived from your study can be presented in new and interactive ways. Data collected through a variety of means can be visualized to tell a story, show relationships, and produce unexpected results.

My first stop on the research quest led me to a listserv where someone asked, “What is Digital Humanities?” That seemed like a good place to start. As I expected, there several who offered their own definitions or referred the asker to other resources. One response by Patrick Murray-John resonated with me:

Here’s another approach to responding. You might be a digital humanist if:

  • You use emerging technologies to rethink what “the humanities” is all about.
  • You collaborate with people across disciplines and backgrounds to explore innovations in academia
  • You are willing to experiment with new pedagogies and research approaches made possible by new technologies
  • You are not afraid to work closely and collaboratively with your friendly neighborhood technologist
  • You are willing to take a do it yourself approach to creating the tools and technologies you need for your teaching and/research
  • You use technology in a way that disregards traditional boundaries between disciplines and hierarchies

One of the links on the listseve went out to a The CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide which seems like a very rich resource. Of particular interest is the sample projects page with a rich collection of different types of projects that fit within the definition of digital Humanities.

I think came across this video called “The Digital Humanities in Oxford University” which really started to help me form a picture of Digital Humanities. One of the professors mentions that as a student of Digital Humanities, you’re getting a a twofer: 1) the knowledge and understanding of the humanity  and 2) the technical skills to do something with that understanding.

Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities, is actually a review of the book, Automate This, which the reviewer says “offers a fascinating general look at the new algorithmic culture” and the Google project set out to digitize literary works by scanning with Optical Character Recognition software. I was reminded that the reCAPTCHA program that one finds on websites to help determine if you’re a robot or not, was also a part of that project through getting the public to assist with unrecognizable phrases. Apparently there was a lawsuit, some ugliness, but in the long run, Google has provided free access to many works.

This video, “Digital Humanities at Vanderbilt University” provides a glimpse at how this discipline is being represented at a higher education level.  Alternate scholarship, online and interactive ways of presenting research is providing opportunities for students to get beyond writing a textual term paper as evidence of their understanding.

Whatever you do, don’t watch this video, you’ll fall asleep and…then this (speech bubble) popped up which totally turned me off and I almost quit my browser. But that being said, we all can’t be super engaging perfect performers (I’m certainly not) and he should be given credit for sharing this to the public.

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Another higher education resource that seems helpful is from the University of Illinois and offers good resources as well as this nifty infographic.


As I was exploring definitions and example of Digital Humanities, I kept thinking about how citizen science project methods of using volunteer public contributions could easily apply to many disciplines within humanities. It seemed very obvious that this would be a strength and could create some interesting outcomes.

Aaron Koblin: Visualizing ourselves…with crowd-sourced data (Ted Talk)

Aaron shows several projects and activities that are great examples of digital humanities and how results can change depending on who is involved, how much background or details are given when asking for input and the cultural trends of a population both as individuals and as a community.

Relate to this class

I can definitely see how a discussion about Digital Humanities could be a very rich topic for this class. The collaborative aspect speaks to digital citizenship and literacy, especially if you open up your research up to accept volunteer artifacts of data. Copyright, Creative Commons and Intellectual property also play a big part of both collaboration and the open sharing aspects. Both in the creation and presentation side of the discipline.

Other articles to explore

What is Digital Humanities?

Understanding Digital Humanities, edited by David M. Henry

Digital keys for unlocking the humanities’ riches

Conference Report: Applying New Digital Methods to the Humanities

Introduction course on DH – class site for student artifacts


Specifically related to Crowdsourcing

The Potential of Crowdsourcing for Digital Humanities Research

Manuscript Transcription by Crowdsourcing: Transcribe Bentham

Digital Humanities and Crowdsourcing: An Exploration

CFP: Crowdsourcing and the Academy


  1. Excellent work…you’ve found some great resources, some I knew about, some that are new and leave me eager to explore.

    It’s an interesting observation that, for you, the “digital” prefix implies collaboration and openness. It does seem to have evolved that way out of its colloquial roots in hardware and technology that didn’t involve such things (digital watch, digital clock). Perhaps that is one of the reasons I question the use of “digital” in this way. For instance, I am enamored with all kinds of things clumped together as digital humanities…but would it be richer or more open to call it connected humanities or something?

    Regardless, I am fascinated by some of the openings created by technology when it comes to understanding and analyzing language and literature…makes me wish I were a lot younger and smarter! At the highest level, projects using AI and other algorithms to analyze huge corpuses are revealing new things about the way we communicate almost every day. At the other end, the riches available to teachers and learners for alternative methods of teaching, presenting, connecting and collaborating are overwhelming (to people whose heads are not stuck in the sand).

    P.S. “listseve” — heh…made me think of a portmanteau: listsieve.

  2. I wrote on this topic as well. It is interesting to see where your journey took you different from mine. Although I didn’t see the CUNY wiki, CUNY is the host of one of the resources I did use: Debates in the Digital Humanities. I also like the digital humanist checklist.

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