The humanities are notoriously difficult to define. The National Endowment for the Humanities answers the question "What are the humanities?" with this definition from the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act:
The term "humanities" includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.
What, then, are the digital humanities?
While there's no single accepted definition, scholars who identify as digital humanists generally apply digital tools and methods to extend and, in some cases, transform "the study and interpretation" of the fields described above as well as the means by which humanistic scholarship is shared among scholars and with students. Some digital humanists turn humanistic methods of inquiry on the realm of the digital itself, examining that realm within the larger history of technology and the social, political, and cultural purposes it has served. Still others leverage digital technology to break new creative ground in literature and the arts.
Under the digital humanities umbrella, scholars are, among other things, building electronic archives that put culturally significant works, including overlooked or marginalized works, in historical, biographical, geographical, and other contexts; producing new scholarly editions of important literary texts and historical documents; using computational tools to analyze the form and content of individual texts or to seek patterns in large textual corpora; modeling and visualizing information flows and networks of influence among cultural figures and institutions; and creating new platforms for scholarly communication.
Like the NEH, SUNY Geneseo understands the humanities, and so also the digital humanities, to include "the social sciences which have humanistic content."
Digital humanities initiatives at SUNY Geneseo
- Digital Thoreau offers a digital edition of Henry David Thoreau's Walden based on Thoreau's manuscript, a social network for reading Thoreau collaboratively, and a student-run archive of digitized materials on the life and career of the late Thoreau scholar and SUNY Geneseo professor Walter Harding. Prof. Paul Schacht (English), director.
- OpenValley is a site facilitating original research by undergraduates utilizing archival materials, local fieldwork, and digital tools. Prof. Ken Cooper, director.
- ParaDigital is a companion website to an exhibit of student-created artist books. Prof. Ken Cooper (English), director.
- TimeStitch is a digital archive that allows students to create digital customized narratives based on virtual exhibitions and displays. Prof. Alla Myzelev (Art History), director.
- Cartulary of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Prémontré is a digital edition forthcoming in the Digital Latin Library. Prof. Yvonne Seale (History), editor.
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