“The Humanities, Done Digitally” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick is a Looking Glass

This article intrigued my thoughts because it was something I felt like the theme was something I had possibly recognized before, but in some other form. I thought about it for some time, and the conclusions that I have come to are that there may be two ways to define the digital humanities.

Fitzpatrick draws a metaphor that she couldn’t decide on her grammatical choice for using “what are the digital humanities?” or “what is the digital humanities?” I think that both uses are valid depending on what part of the subject is being defined.

To define the field as a whole, the question “what is the digital humanities?” is necessary to use. There have been many instances of the digital humanities throughout history. Fitzpatrick describes that the more current field of the digital humanities is often defined by the more recent development of digital technologies that have an effect on traditional forms of “humanist inquiry“. Has not this been going on for centuries? I can only assume that the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century must have caused an uproar for many humanists questioning the matter of how this new and strange technology will affect people who have been painfully handwriting their works for millennia.

source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Johannes-Gutenberg

The changes in which technology develops are not separate from the humanities, but are part of the ongoing change that this field has always been a part of this field. The humanities arguably is a field that exists largely because of the changing technology that continuously puts new ideas forward.

The second way to define the digital humanities is to ask the question “what are the digital humanities?”. This definition is more contemporary and looks into field from a more digital world. This refers to the digital mapping that Moretti researches, or the expansion of building that Ramsey refers to in his lecture “On Building”. This is how humanists¬† seek to make sense of their world by using the current implements that exist in the digital world. This field considers how the humanities will develop going forward.

Fitzpatrick said it best when she stated, “The state of things in digital humanities today rests in that creative tension between those who’ve been in the field for a long time and those who are coming to it today… between making and interpreting”. (“The Humanities, Done Digitally“)


Marshall Ward · October 7, 2018 at 8:13 pm

So I really like the last quote that you pulled from Fitzpatrick because really who are the experts here in such a new field? And who gets to call the shots in this new category of the Humanities? Those changes and advances in technology are really pushing to field forward but I like how you brought up the fact that these advances have been going on for centuries. Because really wouldn’t there have been the same uproar and debate when the printing press came out? It all seems like this field is ever evolving as humanity evolves so it can’t just be stuck, it has to move forward.

Mikey Nielson · October 7, 2018 at 10:34 pm

I am curious to which school of thought, if either, you are more partial. Based on the quote, it seems that you feel that both are necessary, but are you more interested in the field as a whole and the development of the digital humanities over time or do you prefer the contemporary look at the humanities in a digital space? I would agree that both are necessary, but I am personally more interested in the contemporary school of thought. I was grappling with the reading, but I feel that your perspective on it has helped a little bit. I love the idea of “creative tension” that Fitzpatrick brought up and I’m glad you used that as your closing. The fact that creative tension exists indicates, among many other things, that digital humanities is not a stagnant field.

Hannah Chapman · October 8, 2018 at 1:30 pm

I liked how you said that the development of technology is not separate from the humanities but is in fact part of the field. I think it’s easy to view liberal arts and STEM as completely different fields, especially when we’re in college and separated into different majors. But I think that there’s a lot more interaction and interconnection between technology and liberal arts than we realize. I liked how you pointed out that technology always has helped us to understand, interpret, and share history, art, literature, and other aspects of the humanities. Your post made me start to think that while the “digital” aspect of digital humanities has probably only been around since computers, the idea that technology can be used to understand the field of humanities is not new.

Mary Gillis · October 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm

It is interesting to think about what technology is considered digital and thus a tool of digital humanities and what is not specific to it. Digital tools allow for the processing of information that would be impossible without, but that could be said of many non digital tools. What is it about modern digital methods of interacting with and answering questions about the humanities that has allowed for the field to be created? It might be a matter of perspective. There is a focus on using digital tools and ideas to find answers, and our progress furthers understanding of the digital, the humanist, and how they can interact with each other.

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