The digital age—characterized by, among other things, web-based media forms, massive data archiving, social networking, mapping technologies, visualization environments, and cloud computing—has brought about a transformational moment that far exceeds the oft-compared revolution caused by the invention of the printing press due to the nearly limitless possibilities for the creation, analysis, and dissemination of knowledge. Digital Humanities interprets the cultural and social impact of new media and information technologies—the fundamental components of the new information age—as well as creates and applies these technologies to answer cultural, social, historical, and philological questions, both those traditionally conceived and those only enabled by new technologies.
Digital Humanities at UCLA is...
* Interdisciplinary -- The 35 affiliated faculty come from more than 20 different departments and five Divisions/Schools, including Arts and Architecture, Social Sciences, Humanities, Information Studies, and Theater, Film, and Television.
* Collaborative -- There are more than 6 core Centers and Institutes supporting the Digital Humanities Program, including the Center for Digital Humanities, Academic Technology Services, the Experiential Technologies Center, the Institute for Digital Research and Education, the UCLA Library, and the Ahamanson Laboratory for Digital Cultural Heritage.
* Hands-on -- Students take one year of foundational courses followed by a quarter of mentorship/apprenticeship that leads directly to the design and creation of a digital capstone project.
Digital Humanities scholarship is necessarily collaborative and interdisciplinary; it emphasizes design, multi-mediality, and the experiential by creatively expanding the networks of participation, the modes of access, and the mechanisms for the dissemination of scholarship. Digital Humanities practices are not limited to conventional humanities departments at UCLA, but can affect every humanistic field at the university, both those within the Division of the Humanities, and those in other divisions, including history, anthropology, arts and architecture, information studies, film and media studies, archaeology, geography, ethnic studies, and the social sciences. At the same time, Digital Humanities is a natural outgrowth and expansion of the traditional scope of the Humanities, not a replacement or rejection of traditional humanistic inquiry. In fact, the role of the humanist is critical at this historic moment, as our cultural legacy is migrated to digital formats and our relation to knowledge, cultural material, technology, and society is radically re-conceptualized.
The result is that the landscape of humanistic research and teaching has radically changed as digital technologies have enabled new modes of scholarly inquiry, collaboration, publication, and pedagogy. Robert Darnton, the Director of Harvard's Library, has argued that we have recently entered the fourth information age in the history of humanity. Catalyzed by the Internet and the World Wide Web, this information age builds on the massive social and cultural changes ushered in by the previous information ages: the invention of writing, the development of the codex, and the spread of print.
As we train students to enter the world of the 21st century, there are significant technological, social, cultural, and intellectual skills that they need to master. These skills include literacy in both traditional and new media, the technical skills related to this literacy, the development of tools for critical analysis, the ability to navigate across, reconfigure, and evaluate different media forms, the ability to synthesize information and bring together different media and methodologies to solve complex problems, the ability to construct models and visualizations for interpreting large-scale datasets, the ability to design information systems and technology platforms to ensure the long-term preservation and sustainability of digital data, and the ability to critically evaluate the potentials and limitations of new technologies. At its core, Digital Humanities addresses these issues by teaching students to create and critique media content, to develop the necessary skills and abilities to evaluate this content, to manipulate and transform digital technologies, and to develop the requisite literacy across information environments and media forms, including textual, aural, visual, and digital domains.