Preprint: “Ain’t No Way Around It: Why We Need to Be Clear About What We Mean by ‘Digital Humanities’”

I’ve published today a preprint of the paper that I’ve submitted for the proceedings of the symposium Wozu Digitale Geisteswissenschaften? Innovationen, Revisionen, Binnenkonflikte which took place in Lüneburg in November 2019 (↗ news item).

Here’s the abstract:

Digital humanities (DH) has gained the dubious reputation of struggling to define itself. Articles trying to define DH have become something of a genre—however, more often than not the conclusions boil down to “DH is undefinable” or even “DH must not be defined.” A question that is rarely addressed, though, is why DH is supposedly undefinable. In this paper we argue that this is not because it would be, for example, particularly difficult to come up with a definition or because unlike most other fields, DH would not benefit from delimiting its domain, but rather because the majority of researchers that self-identify as “DH scholars” are actively opposing a definition. This is due to the fact that they understand DH as “contemporary humanities,” i.e., humanities using contemporary tools, not a new discipline. While legitimate, this view is irreconcilable with the understanding of DH as the development and application of a new—computational—methodology in the humanities. We therefore come to the conclusion that there is ultimately no way around clearly delimiting these two opposing views; we propose to use the term “computational humanities” to refer to the latter field, and we present a concise definition.