Tag Archives: taxonomy

A taxonomy of the Digital Humanities?

There is already a non-trivial number of Digital Humanities blogs out there, and I think it’s probably fair to say that many of them blacken a lot of pixels in blogging about what the field actually is, or what it means. But curiously, despite the very large number of answers that have been formulated to these questions, I’ve never seen any that attempt to answer them in the most basic way — that is to say, by simply cataloguing the various things that people who call themselves, or get labelled as, ‘Digital Humanists’, actually do. Which I find curious, as the  activities that get lumped together under this rubric seem to me pretty diverse.

Off the top of my head, I’d say the field is often held to include:

  1. Digital preservationists: people who are interested in making sure digital artefacts aren’t lost in the future, whether out of concern purely for informational integrity (the folks at LOCKSS), or because they’re cultural curators in some sense.
  2. Cultural commentators: people who are interested in the effects or impact of digital technologies on (usually) mainstream culture, dealing with questions ranging from online identity to ethics and privacy concerns.
  3. Scholars with traditional scholarly ends who find that these are best realised by digital technologies. This group is of course in itself very varied.
  4. Philosophers interested in issues such as philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, singularity theory, or any other of a range of issues that are most readily discussed within a digital/technological frame of reference
  5. Computer scientists and/or developers who take traditional humanities domains as their targets.
  6. Digital artists, exploiting the computer as a medium.

Does this seem like a comprehensive list? Is it, perhaps, too broad? And can these groups all be considered to share sufficiently similar interests to form a community (or, for that matter, even to read a blog such as this?) Is it useful to try to address all of them?

My own feeling is that at the CCH we mostly do (3), with a bit of (5). (1) , (2), and (6) are mostly out of our purview, but I suspect a lot of us forage around in (4) as much as we can. Is this a fair characterisation? Is it a problem?