The Digital Humanities: Third Culture and the Democratization of the Humanities
Hunter, Andrea Leigh
third culture , digital humanities
Over half a century ago the scientist and novelist C. P. Snow described a world divided into two cultures – scientists on the one hand, literary intellectuals on the other. Both played a significant role in shaping the world, but were unable to even hold a conversation (Snow 1971). This dissertation brings a sociological perspective to this divide (now seen as a divide between the sciences and the humanities) and hope for reconciliation, as it has been revisited in the more technologically saturated environment of the twenty-first century. The digital humanities combines computer science and the humanities and its impact on the humanities has been called “game changing” (Bobley 2008). Just as technology has revolutionized science, in fields such as astronomy or neuroscience for example, by allowing scientists to see and analyze objects and patterns they could not before, digitization allows humanities scholars to ask questions, and find answers, that were not possible in the past (Katz 2005; Kirschenbaum 2010; Kornbluh 2008). The digital humanities also promises to expand the reach of the humanities in terms of what is studied, who is able to participate, and who has access. This dissertation argues that the digital humanities is leading to the democratization of the humanities by expanding access to and participation in the humanities. In addition, although there are still divides between the two cultures, the digital humanities is a place where a third culture is fostered, as digital humanists are increasingly becoming experts in both the humanities and computing. Three case studies are examined: the Centre for History and New Media at George Mason University, The Orlando Project, a joint project between the University of Alberta and Guelph University, and the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.