Week 1: What is Digital Humanities?

This is certainly not a question I ever thought I would ask myself.

I graduated waaaaay back in 1994 with a BA in English Literature, back when it was just “Humanities.” Back when the concept of Digital Humanities was still in its infancy (to some extent, anyway). After perusing one of this week’s assigned readings, I soon learned that “Digital Humanities is born of the encounter between traditional Humanities and computational methods” (Burdick et. al. 1). It is, in fact, a way of melding the Humanities discipline with “networked, digital environments” (Burdick et. al. 7).

I teach IB English Literature and IB English Language & Literature (yup…both Humanities) at a private K-12 school in Singapore. Digital Humanities is a part of our school culture; as educators, we are constantly seeking out new ways to teach our students so that they are well prepared for the world that awaits them. Most of my classes blog using WordPress; beginning next week, my students will be designing posts based on various speakers who are presenting workshops for our annual Writers’ Fortnight. They themselves have already attended workshops on how to create a blog, but most of them already knew how to do it (so jealous of their tech-savvy!) I will link to some exemplars in the coming weeks.

“How has digital humanities changed in the last decade / decades? How is it an extension of what we already do? How do we need to be even more aware of our processes?”

To answer this, I would turn to my IB Language and Literature class, where students learn to read visual texts (ads, posters, etc.) alongside the more traditional written texts. The difference between this course and the IB Literature course is that students study blog posts, websites, political speeches, Tweets, and podcasts in conjunction with their study of Shakespeare, Atwood, Satrapi, and Poe. My students have changed the way they read to include a critical understanding of “graphic design, visual narrative, [and] time-based media” (Burdick et. al. 10). Some may argue that these types of texts are not literature. Perhaps in the traditional sense of the word, they’re not; however, we are well into the 21st century now and many things have changed. We no longer wait for the 6 o’clock news to find out what’s going on in the world; we can use our smartphones to read a 140 character post on Twitter. This is progress. This is “multum in parvo” in all its glory (Burdick et. al. 10).

I’m a tech geek in the making, which is one reason why Burdick’s article appealed to me so much. I got excited reading about the emergence of Digital Humanities and what that means in terms of design and new media. My hope is that through this course, I will extend my own learning to help enhance the learning of my students.

This is my favourite quote so far. (Burdick et. al. 16)

Works Cited

Burdick, Anne; Joanna Drucker & Peter Lunenfeld. 2012. “Humanities to digital humanities” in Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, US: The MIT Press.

Morgan, M C. “Digital Humanities Books.” Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcmorgan/.


2 thoughts on “Week 1: What is Digital Humanities?

  1. Hi Uzay,
    Thanks for sharing this. If you haven’t already come across this gem which unpacks ‘Twitterature’ and the twitter story composed by Teju Cole, it has some great links with your post above: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/jan/10/twitter-birth-new-literary-genre

    I think may digital storytelling tools have given a resurgence of interest for classic traditional storytelling. The online spaces which allowed for Harry Potter fandom in real time has completely changed the way we experience stories as a global society.
    (I learned all about that from one of my fav podcast’s SCG on this episode: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/culturegabfest/2016/09/slate_s_culture_gabfest_on_don_t_breathe_high_maintenance_and_harry_potter.html)

    I think we are on the cusp of having another revolution in storytelling–not only with virtual reality becoming more and more accessible, but I think we will see platforms like Netflix begin to personalize narratives and allow the viewer to choose which character’s perspective they want to experience.

    Thanks for sharing–I can’t wait to read future posts!
    Kind Regards,


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