Digital humanities, also known as “humanities computing,” uses digital methods to delve deeper into humanities subjects like history, literature or arts. It’s an interdisciplinary field, suitable if you have a background in humanities and the arts, as well as if you have an interest in computing or IT.
A degree in Digital Humanities trains you to collect, analyse and visualise humanities data and to process digital information. As a result, graduates will be able to study humanities topics in a new way. It could be particularly useful if you want to apply to research-based roles and other data focused job opportunities.
Digital humanities is an academic discipline that explores the intersection between digital technologies and culture. It emerged from the humanities, which study aspects of human society, and include well-known popular subjects, like history, philosophy, literature and modern languages.
As a new and emerging field, digital humanities aims to open up new areas for research in these subjects and to explore traditional questions in a different way.
For students, this could mean looking at culture, language or history through a digital lense; or using computer skills to better analyse and understand humanities data.
Digital humanities has grown in popularity in recent years, and while not every academic is convinced it is worth the hype - or that digital tools actually provide the best insight into humanities topics -, it is only likely to become a more relevant field in an increasingly digital world.
A Digital Humanities degree combines aspects from humanities and computing in one interdisciplinary course. While some universities offer Bachelors in Digital Humanities, they are not widely available in Europe, and even fewer are taught in English.
More typically, Digital Humanities is taught as a Master’s degree, following a Bachelor’s in another, related subject. Being interdisciplinary by definition, Digital Humanities Masters are commonly open to applicants who have a Bachelor’s in an Arts or Humanities subject, as well as those with Bachelors in Computer Science or related areas.
Although not yet the norm, a 100% online or blended delivery is becoming more common as well - which makes sense, given that the subject focuses on the use of digital tools.
Every Digital Humanities programme is of course unique, but some common modules will likely be covered. These generally include:
Depending on your own background, you will usually be able to pick suitable elective courses. With a previous degree in Computer Science, for example, an introduction to art history might be more relevant than an introduction to programming.
Digital Humanities is still not a widely available subject, but more and more universities in Europe are offering it. Among them are, for example:
Digital Humanities is an extension of traditional humanities. While certainly all humanities courses use digital technologies in one way or another, Digital Humanities goes a step further than this. With Digital Humanities courses, information technology is a central part of the methodology for creating and processing data. The course makes more systemic use of specialised digital technologies, or may even focus specifically on digital aspects of human culture.
Digital Humanities is also made up of a broad community of practitioners, which includes both humanities academics and technology specialists. Offered mostly at Master’s level, you might find Digital Humanities courses are more geared towards learning practical skills that help you to gain access to specific careers than traditional humanities courses are.
Many Digital Humanities Masters are targeted at applicants with previous degrees in either a traditional humanities subject, or in a technology subject like computing or data science. Digital skills, such as coding and collecting data, will be taught on the course. You don’t need to be an expert in specific technology topics, and you don’t need to know programming before you start the Master’s programme.
However, if you’re not a fan of technology and the thought of analysing data archives gives you a headache, then it might not be the course for you. Digital Humanities students look at humanities subjects, such as languages, literature or history, through a digital lense. This could mean working with professional databases, programming scripts, and statistical tools. It could mean collecting and visualising humanities data. So an enthusiasm for technology and data and an ability to work with and learn about it is essential.
Stereotypically, graduates from “traditional” humanities programmes sometimes struggle to find work after university. This isn’t because a humanities degree isn’t valuable, or that you don’t gain desirable skills by studying a humanities course. But these skills are not always applicable in a wide range of jobs. Gaining additional “hard skills” can be useful and can help to boost your employability.
This can make a Digital Humanities degree a more attractive option for many students. Digital Humanities courses train students with a humanities background for the growing number of research and other job opportunities that require processing of digital information. In other words, a Digital Humanities degree teaches the “hard skills” that are often highly desirable in the job market.
For example, many courses include modules on programming or data analysis. They might help you get up-to-date with new trends in information technology and help you get familiar with software tools.
But on the other hand, it’s worth bearing in mind that Digital Humanities degrees are still relatively new. Not everyone knows exactly what they are and what skills you learn. Not that many employers know what to expect from graduates of this field, so when you apply for jobs you might need to explain what you learned.
With a degree in Digital Humanities you can look at traditional subjects from a new perspective. It’s an exciting choice, but it also isn’t the right degree for everyone, so you’ll want to carefully consider what you’ll gain from it. Here are three good reasons to study the subject:
If a degree in Digital Humanities with its special blend of subjects isn’t quite what you’re looking for, then perhaps one of these degrees would be a better fit: