Study Guide

Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities Introduction

Could any of us live without computers in this day and age? Imagine life without email or Facebook. Imagine if we couldn't Google an answer to a question, or (gasp!) if we couldn't Shmoop our way to awesome literary knowledge.

It's old news that computers have transformed the way we do things. If you were born in the '90s, you may not even remember a time before computers. How the heck did anyone do anything before the Internet? We have no idea.

Information technology is the central concern of the Digital Humanities. Digital Humanists are totally into studying how digital technology can help us better analyze and understand literary (and other) texts. After all, those computers can do things that our own measly brains, no matter how clever they may be, can't do, like run through hundreds of millions of words in a matter of seconds to find linguistic patterns.

On the flipside, Digital Humanists are also interested in the way that digital technology has had an impact on the way we study, learn, and do research. In other words, Digital Humanists are interested in things like what we're doing right now: Shmooping. We wouldn't be able to Shmoop—and expand our literary horizons—if it weren't for digital technology.

Digital technology is especially useful when it comes to studying and analyzing texts. Unlike video, photography, and other visual media, for instance, texts lend themselves especially well to the super-duper computational powers of computers. It's for this reason that many important Digital Humanists also work in literature. Who knew that there were literary scholars out there who also happened to be computer whizzes? Welcome to the world of the Digital Humanities.

What is Digital Humanities About and Why Should I Care?

Have you noticed those all those people on the bus or in coffee shops reading e-books on their Kindles or Nooks or iPads? Maybe you've got one of those devices yourself. Or maybe you've taken a stand and decided that you prefer your books printed on straight-up paper that you can mark up and dog-ear and smell, thank you very much.

Either way, digital texts are an issue you can't ignore.

But even you're not out there walking down the sidewalk reading something on your Kindle (don't think we didn't notice, dude), the fact is that we all, to some extent, read digitally. Maybe you read the news, or do research online, or get the dirt on celebrity break-ups. If nothing else, you sure as Shmooping on a computer screen, like, right now.

These days, reading and digital technology are like two peas in a pod: it's becoming harder and hard to separate the two. And the Digital Humanities is just the place to start to begin to understand why these things are so connected—and to understand why on earth we're so addicted to our computers.