By Matthew Lavin
In the wake of President Barack Obama’s electoral rout over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney last fall, the concept of data mining has become conversationally ubiquitous. The 2012 election result, however, is just one example of what might be characterized more broadly as the digital turn in American culture. This turn has included streaming video and smartphones, but it has also involved the collection of sophisticated information and the leveraging of that information in service of various agendas.
In the higher education, a related movement known as digital humanities (DH) has garnered increased attention in recent years. Multiple definitions and characterizations of DH exist, but the most prevalent is the application of computation methods to humanities research.
Such a definition demands specification. What kinds of computational methods? What kinds of applications? What insights are you offering? Why should anyone outside your discipline care about what you’re doing?
A group of digital humanities scholars gathered in Lincoln, Neb., this February to discuss some of these important issues. “Hacking at Books,” a Nebraska Forum on Digital Humanities, was the 2013 edition of an annual, thematic exploration of DH issues hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Previously called Nebraska Digital Workshop, it has been held since 2006.