THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

31 July 2014

The Emergence of the Digital Humanities

Today Reviews in History published my review of The Emergence of the Digital Humanities by Steven E. Jones, with a generous response from the author himself.

The premise of the book is rather simple: that the key contexts for the emergence of Digital Humanties from Humanities Computing were changes in network technology. As Jones writes:

The emergence of the new digital humanities isn't an isolated academic phenomenon. The institutional and disciplinary changes are part of a larger cultural shift, a rapid cycle of emergence and convergence in technology and culture (p. 31).

Take 'technology' out of that sentence and the current vogue for DH seems no more or less a product of its time than twentieth century turns by humanists towards gender, race, or global studies. And as we know, such self-reflection and self-awareness can only produce better research.

Now, however swift a publication is turned around by its publisher (and this one was super swift) the mind continues to move and thoughts on matters change. In this particular case, on reflection, one sentence of mine stands out:

Jones, like the majority of the prominent North American DH scholars that are introduced in this volume, from Matthew Kirschenbaum, Franco Moretti and Amanda French to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Matthew Jockers and Alan Liu, has a literary and new media studies background.

Following fertile discussions at DH2014 earlier this month (see 'The British Library at Digital Humanities 2014') I'd like to soften this: Jones is like many, not the majority of, North American DH scholars The Emergence of the Digital Humanities introduces in having a blend of literary and new media studies in his background. And this is of course, I should stress, no bad thing: just something worth pointing out when the audience you have written for was historians.

With that caveat out of the way, go read the review!

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My thanks to Danny Millum and all at Reviews in History for their editorial input, and for the Insitute of Historical Research for continuing to support such a valuable publication.

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James Baker

Curator, Digital Research

@j_w_baker

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