Defining "Digital Humanities"

There is no one definition for the term "digital humanities." The often-cited site presents a collection of distinct crowd-sourced definitions pulled from Day of DH conferences from 2009-2014 just by hitting the refresh button.

While quibbles over defining "dh" may seem inconsequential, arguments about what is and what is not DH correspond directly to the material needs of scholars. Posner (2018) keenly attributes the disagreements in part to expanded institutional attention to digital humanities scholarship. This has "animated" the field into "struggles over grants, jobs, space, resources, and institutional investment" (p. 332).  

It may suffice to say that the term digital humanities refers to the use of digital tools and methodologies in service of humanistic inquiry. In other words, DH can be the exploration of the human condition as represented and analyzed by machines (and by humans operating the machines).

This can take many different forms. Posner (2018) identifies several common digital methods, including:

  • Digital exhibits and archives
  • Databases
  • Data visualizations
  • Maps
  • Network analysis
  • Computational text analysis (distant reading)

If you'd like to learn more about frequently used terms and concepts in digital humanities, check out The Digital Humanities Literacy Guidebook (Weingard, Grunewald & Lincoln, 2020). 


Posner, M. (2018) Digital Humanities. In M. Kackman & M. C. Kearney (Eds.), The Craft of Criticism: Critical Media Studies in Practice (pp. 331-346). Routledge. 

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