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Scholars propose ways to develop study of digital humanities

Author  :  PAN YUEFEI     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-12-09

Current digital humanities research needs to focus on how to use new technologies such as digital twin to activate and reconstruct humanities resources. Photo: FILE

Digital humanities, also known as humanities computing, is a discipline that studies the overlapping fields of computing and humanities, utilizing the different methodologies of social sciences and computing tools, such as hypertext, data visualization, text mining, and digital mapping. In recent years, this discipline has received increasing attention from academic circles.

Wang Xiaoguang, a professor from the School of Information Management at Wuhan University, said that the research of digital humanities is a major innovation in the production, dissemination and teaching of the humanities, with the help of digital technology. It can be seen as an inevitable revolution in the wave of digitalization. With the infiltration of digital technology into all aspects of the humanities, how academic materials are recorded is experiencing a digital transformation, and the production process of the humanities knowledge is also being affected by digital tools.

In addition to its status as an auxiliary tool, digital technology is reshaping the cultural context of humanities research. Wang added that the development of digital technologies and digital platforms such as digital cities, digital societies and virtual reality is constructing a digital world parallel to the physical world. This digital world has the potential to reconstruct the human cultural space, and this brings many new issues that are representative of the digital age, such as digital labor, data sovereignty and digital capitalism. These emerging topics of research demonstrate the vitality and broad development space of humanities research in the digital age.

Zhou Qingshan, a professor of the Department of Information Management at Peking University, said that the combination of research in digital technology and the humanities can endow traditional humanities resources with a new pedigree of knowledge and a new mode of knowledge presentation. For example, characters and plots in literary works can be analyzed in a relational and networked manner through digital technology, and traditional art works can be digitally displayed for immersive artistic performances. These are the new landscapes brought in by the digital humanities.

Ke Ping, a professor from the Business School at Nankai University, said that the study of the digital humanities explores humanities resources from a new perspective and with new methods. It is both a change in the methodology of humanities research and an extension of research fields. Digital humanities will continue to promote the development of more interdisciplinary research and the emergence of more interdisciplinary and marginal disciplines.

At present, the research of digital humanities contains many issues worthy of our attention, such as the digitization and data processing of historical documents and items of cultural heritage, digitized recording and visualization of national and folk culture, artistic image analysis based on computer vision, and big data analysis for issues of the humanities. Zhou said that current digital humanities research needs to focus on how to use new technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and digital twin, which refers to a digital replica of a living or non-living physical entity, to activate and reconstruct humanities resources.

How do we promote the study of digital humanities in the future? Ke said that first, it is necessary to build large interdisciplinary teams in the digital humanities to carry out research of major projects and cooperate with the international academic community. Second, we must carry out extensive and in-depth multidisciplinary academic exchanges and strengthen the construction of academic platforms for the digital humanities. Third, national science and technology policies and research projects should continue to increase support for the digital humanities. Fourth, we should promote digital humanities research findings to be productive forces, establish a platform of patents for the digital humanities, and strengthen the combination of production, teaching and research in the digital humanities.

Wang added that to advance the development of this field, computational thinking and human-machine collaborative thinking should be introduced into daily humanities research. We should also build more digital infrastructure, such as databases and software tools with a focus on humanities resources. In addition, we should also try to develop existing teaching and research systems. Research in the digital humanities is typical of a cross-disciplinary nature, but existing disciplinary structures are not conducive to the development of integrated disciplines. This new field is realizing how to construct theoretical and research paradigms. Digital humanities can realize the digitalization of libraries, museums and cultural institutions, thereby promoting the innovation of digital service models for cultural resources and of the discipline’s research and development, Zhou said.

Editor: Yu Hui

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