Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age
Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age

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Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age

Session 1 Large scale v small scale

This session is written by David De Roure from The University of Oxford.

In this session you’ll look at working with the huge scale of available digital content, and the new research questions it raises.

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Transcript: Video 1

While working with a digital artefact-- is obviously not the same as working with a physical one, there are things that digital affords which enable us to do things we simply couldn't do before. For example, one of the affordances in the digital world is that copying digital content is pretty much free as is moving it over a network. So we can increase access. And we can bring things alongside each other that might not be possible physically.

But another really important benefit of digital content is that we can use our digital computers to help us examine and process the content in new ways at scale and at speed. And this is important, because the volume of content increases all the time, both ongoing digitization and today's content that's born digital. Just think of the corpus of social media, documents, and videos, that we're creating today for tomorrow's humanistic study.

So computers help us analyse content at scale, at a click of a button, where it might have taken teams of humans working for years. And very importantly, they can also help us search and navigate the growing array of resources for digital scholarship. And as well as computational methods, they can bring quantitative methods to humanistic study.

And there are software tools to help with all this. Some of you might later learn how to customise or create your own tools. Computers enable us to work at a much larger scale and to ask some new questions. They don't necessarily replace traditional methods. But being able to scale up and then focus back in is an incredibly useful affordance in our digital scholarship. And in this session, we're going to learn about this scaling up.

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By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • appreciate what is possible using ‘humanities big data’ and digital methods
  • be aware of approaches and tools that can help Humanities research
  • understand the need to apply critical thinking to the methods and outcomes.

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