Being digital humanists….
Before coming to McGill, I did not know what the expression Digital Humanities means. Now, one year and a half after, I’m focusing my research on this field. I presented it at the last Digital Humanities Showcase that this year took place at McGill on January 26th. It was not only an occasion to share my work with other scholars, but also an example of how this field has become paramount for the curriculum of any graduate student.
Generally speaking, the expression Digital Humanities includes a large field of research where Humanities meet the digital world. This does not mean only that the content of humanists’ studies will be something related to the digital, rather than the analogue, but that their methods too are influenced by new tools introduced by contemporary technology. Think of search engines, like google, that instead of looking for the name of the pub where your friends meet tonight can find how many times a word occur in a text, or underline which is the most frequent linguistic expression for describing a man, a social group or a place. These tools mine texts in order to extract data from them, data that the humanist will use to better understand a particular culture, style or historical period.
This is just an example among many and I cannot refer to all of them here. The McGill Digital Humanities website reads “McGill University is home to over 45 Digital Humanities projects. We have strengths in Cultural Analytics, Text & Language Interaction, Knowledge Environments, Spaces & Publics, Cultural Archives and Curation, Audio Visual, and Visualization” in one word, variety. Then, it is interesting to see how the network of these projects overcome the boundaries of faculties and departments and find people working on it in different buildings of the McGill Campus. Digital Humanities are not only a new field of research, but a new language that build a different and innovative network of scholars and knowledge.
I fully understood this potential during the last Digital Humanities showcase. Researchers from different universities gathered at McGill to present their work, related to the digital world
in different ways. It was a truly enriching experience, where I met people interested in my research as well as groups and labs whose projects represent compelling examples. From images to words, from videos to screenplays, the showcase presented many aspects of our culture, more and more intertwined (if not completely merged) with the digital world. In order to describe and understand it, we need methods that take advantage of that merger and bring us closer to our relationship with our virtual dimension.