What’s up, Digital Humanities?

When I think about my relationship with the the Digital Humanities, a few things come to mind. I think about the way in which the internet and technology are not only changing the way we communicate, but the way we teach and the way we learn, too. I think about the vast knowledge I have access to because of the internet and technology. Mostly though, I think about the ways in which technology and the internet, the humanities, and digital humanities have been present in my education. In other words, the Digital Humanities makes me rethink my approach to literary studies in the past–as a grammar, high school, college, and graduate student–and in the future–as a graduate, a career person, and a human.

As an elementary school student, my classmates and I were encouraged to draw, illustrate, express our knowledge through pictures, through the visual. When it came to learning colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, the visual was the best way for us to learn. When I was learning the alphabet, for homework, my teacher would ask us to go home and find pictures in magazines and newspapers that were of objects that begin with the letter “A.” The next day she would ask us to find pictures of objects that begin the the letter “B,” the next day “C,” and so on. My notebook was filled with letters and their appropriate pictures. It was a fun exercise. It allowed me to learn visually. Looking back on it now, I see this past experience as setting the stage for the rest of my education. It shows me that learning is not just about writing, that one can learn through so many other ways. I see now that one has to learn through writing and other ways–visually, through audio, etc. It’s a necessity. It was a necessity when I was learning the alphabet in kindergarten because really, how can you learn the alphabet through writing when you don’t know how to write, nonetheless read?

Learning the humanities is like this now. The Digitial Humanities accepts and embraces that traditional learning like essay writing are not always the best method to teach and to learn. (Except now, instead of looking in a paper magazine or newspaper, we find pictures on the internet or we create pictures of our own through the technology we have at our fingertips.) Yes, an essay is a truly wonderful tool and knowing how to write an essay is a great skill, but it’s not the only skill. The Digital Humanities is opening up the door for us, it’s showing us a boat-load of other skills that we could stand to learn, skills that we will keep with us for as long as the internet and technology are alive–and I don’t expect them to go anywhere anytime soon. In my career as a college student, I created three webpages, one blog, and countless research papers. Both the traditional (writing papers) and the modern (creating content management systems) way of learning contributed to my learning experience as a college student. Both were necessary, the modern way even more so. The Digital Humanities has given birth to the “modern way” (modern for now) of learning. It’s given birth to collaboration, crowd sourcing, open access, design, participatory learning, and so much more. It’s given us a great opportunity to learn and to teach, to “make our own pictures.” How can we not take it?

This time last year I can honestly say that I didn’t know what the Digital Humanities were. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t know there was a term: “Digital Humanities.” Being in my second class on the Digital Humanities in less than a year, I can confidently say that I know much more about the Digital Humanities than I had previously. Does that mean that I know everything about it? Does that mean I am an expert? No and of course not. I know that the Digital Humanities is and will play an important role in keeping the humanities alive. I also know that the Digital Humanities will change teaching and learning forever. I think the best part about the Digital Humanities is that it is not limited to the classroom. With the Digital Humanities, the world (and the world wide web) is the classroom and we’re all the students and the teachers.  I am only just beginning to know the Digital Humanities in a way that can benefit me and my future. My adventure with the Digital Humanities is ongoing. If you’re reading this, I’m glad you can join me for the ride.

So finally I say, “What’s up, Digital Humanities? Where should we begin?”


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