‘Digital Humanities,’ in my opinion, is a wide-ranging umbrella term that is far too broad and inconstant (perpetually evolving) to give a coherent and accurate definition that does justice to the nature of the field (or discipline?) and encompasses its achievements. It is for this reason that anytime I am asked by an inquisitive stranger or acquaintance to define ‘DH’, my response usually is: “How much time do you have to spare?”
Having said that, some form of definition – although it may be exclusive and rather limited in its definitional scope – is better than no definition at all, but whether it is purposeful or useful to have a definition of ‘DH’ is questionable.
The first question that springs to mind when I attempt to formulate a definition of ‘DH’ is where to begin. Perhaps, the nomenclature itself would be a good starting point considering that it demarcates a transitional moment in the history of Humanities. The merging of technology with textual culture effectuated change with the reconceptualization of traditional practice, and the development of new fields of inquiry and new forms of learning, research and teaching, while preserving (temporarily?) the foundational aspects of the Humanities. Resultantly, knowledge has been opened up from the confines of the disciplinary boundaries of academic departments to an interdisciplinary educational ecosystem, and from the scholastic to the public domain via the digital realm of the Internet.
For me, ‘DH’ is obviously more than the mere intersection of Humanities and computer technologies, humanities through digital tools, or any other condescending overgeneralisation. In my opinion, I think we (Humans) are the definition of ‘DH’. “Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living,” as Nicholas Negroponte claims. We (Humans) are the etymological root of the word ‘Humanities,’ and it is not only because of this fact that we are very much a part of the definition of ‘DH’. Humans define ‘DH’ through our interactions with computers, which in turn assist the interpretation and definition of who we are, as humans in this digital age.
The definition of ‘DH,’ in my opinion, is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the hands of the Digital Humanist, computational tool holder. ‘DH’ is what we create it to be, which subsequently (re)creates us.