Is the expression “Digital Humanities” a contradiction in terms? What matters the most when dealing with such topic, the “digital” or the “humanities”? What are they, in practice? We have asked two different scholars from Ca’ Foscari Department of Humanities (DSU) offering two well informed perspectives on the matter. In this second installment, we spoke to philologist Athanasopoulos Panagiotis.
Dr. Panagiotis is fixed-term lecturer at the Department of Humanities at Ca’ Foscari and a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (2016-2018). He works especially on Greek and Latin philology, palaeography and text criticism, mostly of Christian Literature as well as Greek and Latin Medieval Philosophy. He is also member of the Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini (AISB) and of the Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi sul Cristianesimo (CISC).
1) Could you give me a definition of what you think Digital Humanities are? For example: are they a tool, a method or a discipline (or a mixture of these)?
“Digital Humanities are definitely useful tools for academic research. Let us consider e. g. the site of Pinakes or the digitised watermarks’ databases as well as programs for text editing. As regards the Classics and Byzantine studies, I would say that Digital Humanities do not form a method or a discipline.”
2) Do you think you have ever used Digital Humanities in your academic career? Do you think you use them consistently? (Give, if you can, a practical example)
“Yes, of course, I use Digital Humanities in my research. I think they can be used on a constant basis, since they allow scholars to work much more quickly. Nowadays the academic standards require the examination of much more material than before. Thanks to the Digital Humanities, research may be much more accurate in the sense that a scholar may save time (during e. g. searching a database) and dedicate it to the elaboration of the data. However, the Digital Humanities cannot replace the human brain, they cannot elaborate information.”
3) Do you think that Digital Humanities have had an impact on the results of your research, in comparison to the “traditional” way of conducting research? Was/is it a positive or negative impact, in your opinion? (Give, if you can, a practical example)
“In practice, research is facilitated in the sense that the Digital Humanities can be used as a saving-time instrument. However, the research has to be implemented according to the “traditional” ways and methods, e. g. in the production of a critical edition of a text.”
4) Do you think that the Digital Humanities are used consistently by the majority of scholars in your field? Why? Do you think they should be used more? Why?
“It depends on the specific fields of research and each scholar per se . As said before, Digital Humanities can help the scholar to meet the current academic standards by providing continuously updated information. As far as Philology is concerned, I think that many scholars take advantage of such instruments.”
5) Do you think that Digital Humanities have made the Humanities themselves more “democratic” to different scholars? Have Digital Humanities made the Humanities more accessible to people outside academia?
“Thanks to the Digital Humanities, humanistic knowledge can be more accessible to the public, which is very positive. In this respect, Digital Humanities may offer equal opportunities to knowledge. Frankly, I do not know if these render Digital Humanities more “democratic”. It depends on certain factors and long debates can be held on this issue.”
6) Where do you think Digital Humanities could bring research within your field in ten years time? Can Digital Humanities save the Humanities by, let’s say, attract more funds from universities? Finally, if you could make a wish about the Digital Humanities, what would that be? What would you change/develop/implement in the near future? What is that the Humanities desperately need from the Digital, if anything?
“Surely, there will be many more databases and tools which will facilitate the implementation of research. For sure, such a development can bolster the Humanities in the universities, making the elaboration of data more up-to-date. Given that Digital Humanities constitute useful instruments for the production and the dissemination of knowledge, I assume that after ten years they will be still present in the academic research. I hope that Digital Humanities will help scholars to render Humanities more attractive to the general public.”
di Vania Buso