I went to what amounts to a digital humanities pub meeting on Tuesday. It was called Decoding Digital Humanities, held at a pub near UCL, and organised by the new Centre for Digital Humanities at UCL. There must have been about 30 participants, though mainly from UCL.

They set some reading: Walter Benjamin Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and the Wikipedia article on Digital Humanities. The Benjamin evoked discussions on aspects of digital humanities which I've never really considered seriously; the whole area of new media art, digital literature, interactive narrative. It seems I've always considered digital humanities (like its non-digital parent) an analytic discipline rather than a synthetic one.

The Wikipedia article, owing to its broadly expository nature, seeded a discussion on the definition of digital humanities. Like many of these discussions, I was left with the impression that DH has more to do with creating digitised versions of the kinds of artifacts that are of interest to humanist scholars, although there was also discussion of the changes that digital humanities may bring about not only to the traditional humanities, but also to computer science. It was suggested that computer scientists find working with humanist data sets interesting and challenging because of their fuzziness. This point also lead to an interesting question: what is the correct/a good technical term for describing this kind of qualitative data?

But the discussion never quite got to considering what the valid questions of digital humanities might be. What are the techniques that make digital humanities digital? Is digital humanities just computer-assisted humanities, easy and interactive access to publications, manuscripts and other artifacts? Or is there a new programme of scholarship which computational methods may make possible?