Digital Humanities?

Digital tools are nowadays indispensable in various research fields. Researchers in the arts and humanities are no exception: they are increasingly making use of digital tools and computational methods. Not only is their material digital, such as digitised collections of books and databases, the methods are becoming increasingly digital, too. Think of software to analyse languages and texts, applications for organising historical data or digital cartography. Although the use of digital tools and computational methods in the humanities seems new, it is in fact already half a century old. The use of computers in historical research, for example, goes back to 1963, when the first work of an historian involving computirised research was published.

Even though the digital humanities are not as new as first thought, the use of digital tools in the arts and humanities raises a number of challenges. Firstly, the term ‘digital humanities’ may be deceptive in the sense that it makes it seem like a specific research field, such as gender studies, political sciences or cultural history, exisiting next to other disciplines in the humanities. It is important to reflect on the way the humanities are changing as a result of the digital turn. Secondly, digital humanists are not just a small group of people working with complex digital tools or using databases. Anyone who is doing research in the humanities and is making use of a computer for their analysis, belongs to the field of the digital humanities. As only a few people are seeing themselves as digital humanists, too little attention is being paid what it means to use computational methods for doing research in the humanities.


Zaagsma, Gerben. ‘On Digital History.’ Low Countries Historical Review 4, 128 (2013): 3-29