Supporting Digital Humanities

There is a conference being held at the moment in Vienna, Austria titled ‘Supporting Digital Humanities’ (19-20 October). It is the first joint conference between the two major European digital humanities infrastructure projects, CLARIN and DARIAH. There is a very important distinction to be made here between ‘supporting the digital humanities’ and supporting the humanities. Accordingly, the conference’s aims are stated as thus:

Digital technologies have the potential to transform the types of research questions that we ask in the Humanities, and to allow us to address traditional questions in new and exciting ways. Supporting the Digital Humanities will be a forum for the discussion of these innovations, and of the ways in which these new forms of research can be facilitated and supported.

It is important to make this distinction explicit; that new infrastructure development must support digital scholarship (ie. the digital humanities) and not simply be about storage and publication (like older style digital projects).  Infrastructures should support processes such as annotation, text encoding, mining and text analysis, and programmatic access (trough APIs) to the underlying structured data. In this way new questions may be asked or old questions asked in new ways. Often, this promise of the Digital Humanities is evoked more than it is actualised, but still I think there are enough honest researchers in the field who care enough about truth in research, that the potential research findings from these large public investments will be substantial (link).



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