Digitization and the Humanities

It is hard to read an ‘Interview with Brett Bobley’ (written by Michael Gavin and Kathleen Marie Smith) without seriously questioning the purpose and effect of the digital era on the humanities. While it is easy to focus solely on the areas of digitization that we see and hear about everyday, namely that as a means of communication, it is imperative not to take lightly the impact it has had and is having on the digital humanities.

‘Digital humanities’ sounds like a futuristic term, and perhaps it is, yet it is not only a window to the future that these new developments offer but also a door to the past. Information about the past is uploaded every day, every minute in fact, onto the world wide web, be it documentation, or artwork or various other important artifacts which help us to understand our past. This does not only make for interesting reading for the everyday internet user, but also scholars and academics, allowing them quicker and easier access to information which, before, would have sent them trawling through libraries or museums for hours on end.

Brett Bobley discusses the three (arguably) biggest changes that digitization has brought onto the world. Firstly, it has allowed for far greater access than we ever could have seen before. We are able to upload, send and view information from an indeterminable number of people from anywhere across the globe. In relation to this, he says, we are able to produce and distribute this information to those that would ordinarily not have ever been able to see our work before. Before, you would have to ship journal articles or that new novel from your favourite lesser-known author half way across the world, now all this and so much more is at our fingertips. The possibilities really are endless in terms of reach and audience. What’s more, according to Bobley, we are able to consume more information than ever before. We are able to access and save more data than would have been possible before, and in such a concise and easy way. For example, we are able to store thousands upon thousands of texts on a single kindle, the same number of which would take up many, many shelves of many, many libraries.

So what does all of this mean for the humanities? The digital revolution has allowed us to reach greater audiences in more remote places, allowing us greater insight into different periods of time, into different perspectives; the possibilities that digital humanities allows us really are endless.

In a world where every generation under a certain age are being born ‘digital natives’, the ability for the internet and other technologies as a means for this vast and ever growing progression to carry on expanding is definite; digitization is here to stay.

You can find the interview here: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/49


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