Digital? Doesn’t that imply STEM?

The humanities are evolving in the face of the computational revolution. As social media drives cultural expression and political discourse in dynamic and unpredictable ways and “Big Data” proffers unrivaled insight into cultures past and present – along with the potential for grotesque distortion and invasions of privacy – humanities-based disciplines are responding by elaborating on new critical methodologies and reinvigorating older ones. While the “digital” may be new, humanities scholars have a long history of employing and evaluating a wide range of evidence, including quantitative data and the human experience of technological innovation. The humanities have always excelled at creative articulation, helping us break out of established hierarchies and conceptual frameworks in order to create new spaces for analysis and comparison of what is truly significant to human beings. The work of humanists in this regard is foundational as we confront unprecedented challenges to democracy and human life driven by the computational revolution.

What does work in the digital humanities look like?

Data culture is an evolving, partly humanistic enterprise, encompassing ethics, education, language, literature, new media, art, and history. The DHI will support research into the development of innovative tools and methodologies for the curation, preservation, dissemination, creation and computational analysis of human culture in all its forms. Aimed not only at “digitizing the humanities,” but at “humanizing the digital,” the Initiative will preserve the traditional role of the humanities in interrogating the conceptual frames and ethical stakes involved in these activities while encouraging nuanced and imaginative digital research in the best tradition of humanistic inquiry. The DHI will also enable research that addresses larger questions raised by the digital, including evolving understandings of evidence and experimentation in humanistic disciplines, the identification and mitigation of structural biases and blind spots encoded in digital corpora, and the epistemological consequences of massively expanded historical, artistic, and literary archives.

Who will the Digital Humanities Initiative engage?

Collaboration here is bi-directional: bringing to digital initiatives in other units the critical and ethical insights of humanities scholarship and its commitment to diversity while also enabling humanities scholars to tap into expertise and resources for digital scholarship from across the University. Centered in a physical space called the “DH Lab,” the activities of the Initiative will raise the visibility of ongoing work, provide a home base for the community of scholars employing digital approaches, and coordinate framework necessary to support existing projects and create new projects from idea to concrete output. A number of campus programs and initiatives, including the BU Libraries, BU Spark!, UROP, the Hariri Institute, the Shipley Center for Digital Learning & Innovation, and the new Faculty of Computing and Data Science, support digital research and programming in various ways. As the first dedicated space for digital humanists, BUCH’s DHI will be a hub from which to coordinate collaboration with these existing programs.