The Differences Digital Technology Makes: Humanities Research & Scholarship in the Digital Age
New technologies are transforming how humanities scholars can frame questions, conduct research, construct interpretations, communicate our ideas and collaborate with audiences outside the academy. To help make sense of this rapidly changing environment, I’ll draw connections between the online databases, keyword searches and digitized documents accepted as unremarkable parts of scholarly work; the now common online collection, presentation and dissemination of documents, images and audio; and the growing availability and use digital mapping, text mining, topic modeling and network visualization software to explore collections of material. The impact of these developments is not to displace all the scholarly practices that came before them. Not all questions can be answered using digital methods. The technologies available to humanities scholars enable discovery and investigation rather than explanation. However, the scale of material made accessible by digital technology, and the ability that software now offers individual scholars to explore far more of that material than they could using traditional methods, require humanities disciplines to look anew at what questions they ask, how they frame evidentiary standards, and the forms in which they present scholarship.