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Photo: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Special Collections / Digital Collections

What is “Digital Humanities?”

“Contemporary research in the humanities has expanded beyond anything that could be considered traditional. Historians are building interactive digital maps, literary scholars are using computers to look for patterns across millions of books, and scholars in all disciplines are taking advantage of the internet to make their work more dynamic and visually engaging. Digital humanities (DH) is the umbrella term that describes much of this work. It is neither a field, a discipline, nor a methodology. It is not simply the humanities done with computers, nor is it computer science performed on topics of interest to the humanities. DH is the result of a dynamic dialogue between emerging technology and humanistic inquiry…”

This a description of DH is taken from an American Libraries Association Special Report on Digital Humanities. It’s as concise a definition as you’re likely to find, because scholars have such varying ideas about DH. A Day of DH event compiled 817 different definitions; follow this link to read a few.

Pinning-down “DH” is difficult partly because “The Humanities” is itself a widely ranging term, encompassing scholarship on art, literature, history, music, and more. Furthermore, the work of humanists is diverse; even within any one of these fields, it includes: publishing and displaying scholarly research; conducting research; and teaching and learning. DH scholars use computers in sophisticated ways to accomplish these tasks. (DH is not just using a word processor.) A good deal of this work is about analyzing data. Data, for DH, can be gleaned from pictures, text, and moving images. For instance, a person researching an author might examine how word distributions change over the course of that author’s career.

Soon, we’ll collect some digital humanities projects that have been conducted at UWM. For now, the articles and resources below may help you understand what DH is all about!  Welcome to this exciting, dynamic area of scholarship!



  • Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations
    • The ADHO is a longstanding, international umbrella organization, that coordinates activity across several constituents, including the the European Association for Digital Humanities (EADH) and the Association for the Computers and Humanities (ACH).
  • Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science
    • This annual, fall forum is in conjunction with a journal of the same name. The journal and the forum are to “examine the current state of digital humanities as a field of intellectual inquiry and to identify and explore new directions and perspectives for future research.”
  • Digital Library Federation Forum
    • This annual forum focuses on digital libraries, archives, labs, and museums. It’s especially relevant to academic librarians involved with digitization projects or digital initiatives. Notably for people at UWM, the 2016 Forum is in Milwaukee.
  • DevLearn Conference and Expo
    • This meeting showcases digital instructional technologies, geared for academic, corporate, and governmental environments.
  • Electronic Literature Organization
    • This international organization is devoted to the continually developing, continually evolving field of digital publishing, and it hosts an annual conference.
  • Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC)
    • Annual HASTAC conferences are hosted by affiliate organizations at locations around the globe.
  • International Conference on E-learning E-education and Online Training
    • This annual international conference focuses on digital instructional technologies.

Common Online Resources