What we do
What is the Centre for Digital Humanities?
The Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) is an interdisciplinary centre supporting research and education in computational and data-driven methods in the humanities.
What does that look like in practice?
The CDH consists of four groups: Research Software Lab, Data School, Institute for Language Sciences Labs and Humanities IT. The Humanities IT unit itself also comprises four teams: Data Management & Privacy, Back office, PortalDev and Website Development. The CDH collaborates closely with the Digital Humanities Support Team at the Utrecht University Library.
Why was the CDH established?
As digitalization and datafication advance, the humanities undergo a profound transformation. This computational turn is marked by an expansion of digital archives, new requirements for data management plans, and the introduction of innovative technologies in research and education. These technologies – like generative AI, automatic speech and handwriting recognition, text mining software, and network visualizations – are significantly reshaping the landscape of knowledge production.
To assist in this evolving landscape, the CDH was established in 2020. We aim to empower all staff and students within the Faculty of Humanities by enriching their digital competencies and by promoting an ethical and critical approach to the field of digital humanities.
How is the CDH meeting that objective?
Firstly, the CDH organizes a wide range of tailored courses, workshops, and lectures to enhance the computational skills, knowledge, and confidence of staff members and students while expanding their DH support network. Secondly, the CDH encourages collaboration between humanities researchers and DH specialists, such as data experts, privacy officers, and statistics advisors. For instance, the CDH provides regular support in areas such as data ethics, network analysis, statistical research designs, GDPR, and data management. Thirdly, the Faculty of Humanities benefits from an exceptional in-house team of research software engineers who can modify existing software or design and develop new advanced tools for humanities research and education.
What are some examples showcasing the ongoing development and expansion of the digital humanities field?
In the cultural heritage domain, a growing number of archival materials are being digitized to facilitate searching through vast amounts of data, including historical newspapers, images, books, films, and audio fragments. Text mining tools support quick searches and the discovery of new connections through visualizations. AI-powered automatic handwriting recognition tools, for example, enable historians to access and analyze handwritten texts on an unprecedented scale. Linguistic researchers use computer programs to transcribe and analyze spoken language, while media researchers computationally explore radio and television recordings and link them to textual sources for interdisciplinary research.
What can be achieved if computational and data-driven methods are well integrated in the humanities?
When humanities researchers, teachers, and students are well-versed in current digital methods, they can efficiently search digital platforms and possess a fundamental understanding of underlying algorithms. Researchers can quickly gain insights from vast amounts of data and apply computational methods to search, analyze, visualize, interpret, and even enrich various data collections. Moreover, they can critically and ethically reflect on digital humanities in all its dimensions.