Digital Humanities Subject Guide

Developed for a reference course in my Library & Information Science program, what follows is a Subject Guide or LibGuide providing an overview, and seminal and interesting texts in the field of Digital Humanities.

The term “Digital Humanities” (often called “DH” by members of the Digital Humanities community) was not widely used on university campuses until the 21st century. Now some see it as a way to rebuild the humanities in a time where grant funds are allocated to “innovations” in lieu of “research.” Others see it as a natural fit for their scholarly research, where they combine techniques borrowed from the computational sciences and apply them to subjects that teach about cultures, histories, and ways of life.

Few scholars define “Digital Humanities” the same way. The Day of Digital Humanities is an initiative that asks those who consider themselves digital humanists to blog about their activities throughout the day, building awareness of the types of things they do. In order to participate in the Day of DH, one must define what the term means to them. Answers to the question, “How do you define DH?” range from “You don’t” (erochest) to “The development, exploration, and evaluation of computer-based technologies and resources for enabling the pursuit of research questions in the humanities” (Susan Brown).

Digital Humanities scholarship has grown internationally since the mid-1980s. In 1986, Oxford University Press published the first issue of the journal Literary and Linguistic Computing, which was an early foray into using computational technologies to advance humanities scholarship. The University College of London (UCL) Centre for Digital Humanities published an infographic called Quantifying the Digital Humanities, which began as a blog post written by Melissa Terras after she began gathering statistics on the current state of Digital Humanities scholarship indicators. The infographic, also preserved on, displays the rapid growth of interest and scholarship in the field.

Seminal & Current Books

Schreibman, S., Siemens, R., & Unsworth, J. (2004). Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture). Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (Hardcover.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional. Retrieved from

Companion to Digital Humanities is one of the seminal works that published a collection of writings spanning several disciplines. This textbook provides thirty-seven chapters on topics involving humanities computing, a term used by Dr. John Unsworth before the term “Digital Humanities” became more widespread. The textbook is divided into four parts: History; Principles; Applications; and Production, Dissemination, and Archiving. Given the seminal nature of this work, it is a textbook often used in graduate-level courses on the Digital Humanities. Popular areas of research covered include Literacy Studies, Multimedia, Textual Analysis, and Speculative Computing. At its heart, the textbook aims to enlighten readers on the lessons learned in applying computational tools and methods to research inquiry.

Schreibman, S., & Siemens, R. (2008). Companion to Digital Literacy Studies (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture) (Hardcover.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional. Retrieved from

Another critical textbook, Companion to Digital Literacy Studies contains chapters used in Digital Humanities courses. Outside of the introduction, “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” the work is split into three additional parts: Traditions, Textualities, and Methodologies. The textbook follows in the Companion to Digital Humanities Studies’ footsteps by maintaining a focus on methodology to teach how computational tools can be applied in humanities scholarship contexts. This textbook, however, keeps pace with the rapidly changing digital media realms that affect learning and making meaning of the world around us. So by being published in 2008, this text could then include new understandings on how new media tools such as games and blogs can play a role in literacy.

Balsamo, A. (2011). Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work. Duke University Press Books.

Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work is a polemic on how culture influences technology and vice versa. Designing Culture and its companion interactive website demonstrate how new media can be one outlet to realize Digital Humanities projects. Of particular focus in the book is recounting visions for the future of the document. How will technology change how we read? Having begun work on this book and its transmedia iterations, reading and media literacies have already been exposed to the digital revolution of reading brought on by smartphones and tablets. Designing Culture may be an intellectually entertaining entrance into the realm of new media as it unfolds in our ways of life.

Scholarly Articles from Peer-Reviewed Journals

Fyfe, P. (2011). Digital Pedagogy Unplugged, Digital Humanities Quarterly 5(3). Retrieved from

Because Digital Humanities have an intimate connection to institutions of higher education, where teaching plays a similarly critical role as research, the topic of pedagogy interlaces itself with digital research questions. What good is building knowledge without being able to share and teach it? In “Digital Pedagogy Unplugged,” Dr. Paul Fyfe explores the meaning of digital learning without the facilitation of instructional technology. With the instructional crutch of PowerPoint bullets, the author describes learning moments that subvert the new, sometimes unproductive ways of teaching. By playing with the idea of pulling the plug on instructional technology, the author urges other scholar-teachers to reflect on their digital pedagogy.

Gibbs, F. (2012). Critical Discourse in the Digital Humanities. Journal of Digital Humanities 1(1).

Journal of Digital Humanities is a new, open access journal whose first issue was released March 2012. The journal publishes pieces with an open peer review protocol rather than the anonymized peer review tradition. Open peer review makes a public call for reviewers through whatever publicity channels available and comments are attached to the names of the people reviewing the item. “Critical Discourse in the Digital Humanities” highlights the lack of such discourse currently in this field. The article was revised from a talk and is divided into three sections: Towards a Critical Discourse, The Value of Criticism, and New Kinds of Peer Review/Criticism. In that last section, the author advocates for a similar sort of peer review his own piece went through to be published in this open access journal. He also highlights how Digital Humanities efforts often require collaboration, and the resulting scholarship would thrive from such collaborative reviewing as well.

Bucher-Gillmayr, S. (1996). A Computer-Aided Quest for Allusions to Biblical Texts Within Lyric Poetry. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 11(1), 1-8. doi:10.1093/llc/11.1.1

First published in 1986, the journal Literary and Linguistic Computing from the Oxford University Press is one of the earliest journals that published articles on using computational methods in humanities research. “A Computer-Aided Quest for Allusions to Biblical Texts Within Lyric Poetry” is a title that describes exactly that: this is a humanities research inquiry undertaken through the aid of the computer as a tool. The article describes marking texts to discover relationships between two genres with centuries separating them. The author primarily used tagging and search methods to re-imagine meanings within the poems studied. Some use of computer-aided textual analysis has come under criticism for being unscholarly at its root. Having the purpose and methods elaborated on in articles allows readers to judge the research individually.

Sweetnam, M. S., & Fennell, B. A. (2012). Natural language processing and early-modern dirty data: applying IBM Languageware to the 1641 depositions. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 27(1), 39-54. doi:10.1093/llc/fqr050

Using more robust computational tools than were available in 1996, “Natural Language Processing and Early-Modern Dirty Data: Applying IBM Languageware to the 1641 Depositions” elaborates on how the researchers adapted a piece of software in order to examine a rich body of historical documents. This piece describes the strengths of the software, the challenges of the project, and how they had to adapt the process along the way. The article emphasizes the amount of testing necessary to ensure computational methods are sound and rigorous. Their aim was to develop a model that could be used on other large collections of texts. This piece demonstrates how digital and computational tools must not be used carelessly for the purpose of fitting in with the Digital Humanities community of praxis.

Reference Source

Mapping History

Digital Learning Tool Example

The Spread of Cotton: 1790–1860. (n.d.) Mapping history. University of Oregon.

Many Digital Humanities projects turn to geolocational data and mapping software to discover patterns for scholarly research. Maps are also used to teach historical information in an interactive, new media format. “The Spread of Cotton: 1790-1860” is an example of such a map. Facts are represented as the combination of text and illustrations, and the person interacting with the tool determines the path on which the story unwinds. Information-rich maps allow new questions to be asked by enthusiasts who may have traditionally been alienated by barriers in the academy. Through “The Spread of Cotton: 1790-1860,” learners at all levels can engage with a Digital Humanities interface to explore their individual interests.



HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) is an online community of scholars whose research accomplishments and interests span the fields of study that comprise its acronym. Some of the most current ideas in Digital Humanities are posted on this website. According to the HASTAC website, “We are motivated by the conviction that the digital era provides rich opportunities for informal and formal learning and for collaborative, networked research that extends across traditional disciplines, across the boundaries of academe and community, across the ‘two cultures’ of humanism and technology, across the divide of thinking versus making, and across social strata and national borders.” HASTAC thrives on interdisciplinarity of research and convenes conferences and events for scholars at all levels in their academic careers. The organization was founded by Dr. Canty N. Davidson and Dr. David Theo Goldberg to advance interdisciplinary inquiry and exchange.


DMLCentral is a blog focused on the application of digital media in a classroom, most often K-12. The three words that make up the acronym (digital media learning) each find a home in Digital Humanities scholarship on their own, but together, they bring a new frame to an old question: How does media affect learning? The blog publishes writing and resources that explore the potential of different digital tools and digital environments to enhance the educational growth of youth. The focus of DMLCentral is on original inquiry into the effects of digital media on youth and the potential impact innovative teaching strategies may have to advance 21st-century learning. In addition to the blog component of the website, DMLCentral disseminates the latest resources coming out of the digital media and learning community, including reports, conference papers, and keynote presentations. In addition to being on the executive board at HASTAC, Dr. David Theo Goldberg is the executive director of Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, the organization behind the blog.

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